BUTLER, Ind. (WANE) — According to a Butler resident behind the Stop Solar Farms DeKalb County Facebook page, a private company called 7X Energy is looking to install more than a thousand acres of solar panels in the area.
Colben Steury, who started the page, said he chose to speak out because conversations are happening between the company and the owners of the land it is interested in, leaving many people who live on smaller properties in the area still unaware of the potential renewable energy farm.
“It’s pretty much to not necessarily stop, but create awareness towards the solar panels that are coming to DeKalb County,” Steury said. “Just to kind of I know, get people in the know, before it’s too late.”
Steury first learned of the possible solar farm after one of his relatives was approached by 7X Energy. 7X Energy has not announced any projects in the county, however, WANE 15 has reached out to the company for comment and is awaiting a response.
Steury said he was able to sit in on meetings where lease options were discussed and claims the company wants to put solar panels on 1,600 acres around Butler, specifically in the area of Steel Dynamics.
His main concern is that the farms could have a negative impact on property values in the area.
“They have their fences and the big barbed wire fences, six to ten feet that they were talking about at the wraps meeting,” said Steury. “That will make all this pretty much-untouched nature of DeKalb County into an industrial park.”
Light pollution from the reflection of the panels and the long-term environmental impact on the soil after panels have been decommissioned are also concerns of his.
“There’s glares on their house, from the solar panels, and that the aesthetic of having big barbed wire fences around all of your houses,” Steury said. “We also made some advances to the commissioners to maybe get the Department of Natural Resources involved in maybe doing some more tests on the soil. If it’s covered by solar panels for the next 50 years, will it be usable for another 50 years? And that just adds and adds and adds on to the unknown of these solar panels.”
They are concerns that he would like to see addressed in an ordinance before any solar farm projects move forward. DeKalb County Commissioner President Bill Hartman said the commissioners are working on to address public concerns. They have implemented a 60-day moratorium on new solar farm proposals in order to do that.
According to Hartman, this is the first time a solar energy company has expressed interest in building a farm in DeKalb County.
“We are working on the ordinances when solar farm work is included mainly setbacks, setbacks from property lines and setbacks from residents,” Hartman said. “It will also include language to regulate and to make sure that deregulation or decommissioning of these solar fields, that that is done properly, the land is returned to what it was originally meant to function as.”
This ordinance would only apply to commercial solar projects, and not ones privately owned by DeKalb County residents.
Before a project like a solar farm can get approved, they must submit a proposal to the county planning commission and then the final approval lies with the county commissioners.
Hartman said the commissioners hope to have the details of the ordinance hammered out by the time their 60-day moratorium is up, however they do not have a hard deadline. Meanwhile, Steury said he is planning on attending the commissioners meeting once the moratorium has passed.