Paul Rich III, left, and Damian High assemble solar panel post in a field along U.S. 231 in Purdue's Discovery Park district between State st. and Airport road, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 in West Lafayette. The 10-acre plot owned by Purdue Research Foundation will become a 1.6 megawatt solar power plant for Duke Energy. (Photo: Nikos Frazier | Journal & Courier)
Paul Rich III, left, and Damian High assemble solar panel post in a field along U.S. 231 in Purdue's Discovery Park district between State st. and Airport road, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 in West Lafayette. The 10-acre plot owned by Purdue Research Foundation will become a 1.6 megawatt solar power plant for Duke Energy. (Photo: Nikos Frazier | Journal & Courier)
WEST LAFAYETTE – Months after banning large wind farms – and taking on the scorn of sustainable energy fans and a rebuke from the West Lafayette City Council – Tippecanoe County planners are in early talks about how to deal with large solar farms.

Land use regulations for solar energy, if they happen, could be six months or more away, said Sallie Fahey, executive director of the Tippecanoe County Area Plan Commission.

And there are no pending solar field projects – other than a few relatively small ones tied to Purdue – pressing Tippecanoe County to rush into anything, she said.

“But we’re in a position to get ahead of this and ask: What do want to do as a county?” Fahey said. “Our motive is to make sure – especially for the individual owner or business or even a developer who wants to do a smaller solar farm to help power a subdivision – that there are clear paths to allowing that to happen.”

As for solar farms that could take up not only acres but square miles, a concern that helped drive home the ban on large, commercial wind turbines in Tippecanoe County?

“That I don’t have an answer for, yet,” Fahey said. “That’s something we’re here to figure out.”

The conversation, started this spring by the Area Plan Commission’s ordinance committee, comes as crews are assembling the standards and other pieces of a 10-acre solar project Duke Energy will open in the fall along U.S. 231, just northwest of the Purdue Airport in Purdue’s Discovery Park District.

For Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, a solar farm worked on a wedge of ground that had no access to U.S. 231, was landlocked by the Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern Railroad tracks and Todd’s Creek, and wasn’t going to have much use in a larger plan for a “live-work-play” development Purdue figures will be worth $1 billion over the next 30 years.
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