Town hall held for new solar farm project in Olive Township

NOW: Town hall held for new solar farm project in Olive Township


NEW CARLISLE, Ind. --  A new solar farm may be coming to New Carlisle. St. Joseph County's Economic Development Division held a town hall to gauge how neighbors feel about this new project.

If approved, the Project Honeysuckle Solar Farm would bring in hundreds of jobs during its construction, and new tax revenues once it's built.

But some locals had concerns.

Dozens of them gathered in the New Carlisle United Methodist Church, to learn about the proposed solar farm planned to be built on local farmland.

“We wanted to introduce the idea of a solar farm out here," Christian Brown, with St. Joe County, said of the town hall.

Project Honeysuckle has been in the works for more than two years. If approved, it would cost $164 million, be built on 1,100 acres of leased farmland, and provide 150 megawatts of solar energy to the county as early as 2024.

Brown, an economic development specialist, said New Carlisle is ideal for a project like this. 

“The farmland out here is relatively flat," he explained. "When you’re trying to put solar panels on things that have gradient, it’s very difficult to do that. The topology of the area is to its benefit.”

He also pointed out it would be close to electrical towers, making it easier for the farm to plug in its power into the local grid. 

But the project wasn't met with unanimous approval-- several residents wanted assurance that the construction of the solar farm wouldn't be outsourced.

“I’m not looking for ‘maybe, we’re trying our best--’ I’m looking for a hard commitment," one man demanded. “We want to use local people here, and we want a hard commitment that you’re going to use local people if you’re gonna ask for our money!”

Others believed the land set aside for the project would be better kept as farmland. 

Brown understood their concerns, and said “It’s quite a bit of farmland to take out of production. I like to say we’re farming something else-- we’re farming energy.”

He said the projects developers are working to hire local labor for the construction, though so far no agreements have been finalized.

Despite any hesitations, Brown is optimistic about the project's future.

“We think it’s a really solid project for the area," he said. "Those financial impacts are going to be huge and would be felt from this local community— so we’re excited this type of project can come into the area.”

The project will be presented to the County Council on March 22; they are expected to vote on it on April 12. 

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