Members of the Knox County Council on Wednesday approved an Economic Development Agreement with a solar team looking to construct a 1,200-acre farm in Harrison Township.

The deal struck allows for a tax abatement, one that essentially forgives 100% of the personal and property taxes owed for a full ten years. In return, $2.5 million will be paid to the county in “economic development payments,” ones made by Tenaska and Capital Dynamics, the partnership taking on the solar project, over a six-year period.

The county, too, is expected to see additional tax benefits totaling some $16 million over the expected 35-year life of the project.

The $110 million solar farm, one dubbed the RATTS 2 solar project, should bring 8-10 additional jobs to Knox County as well.

It’s expected to produce enough energy to power some 28,000 homes — or “all of Knox County on its peak, hottest day,” according to Aaron Branam, vice-president of development and construction for Capital Dynamics.

Tenaska, a Nebraska-based solar company, and Capital Dynamics, the company that will oversee construction and management, hope to begin engineering on the solar farm yet this year, secure final approvals from county officials early in 2021 and begin construction soon thereafter.

They expect it to be fully operational by 2022.

The abatement, however, does not ensure construction as the solar duo is still in talks with county officials on how the property will be assessed.

The county council held a public hearing prior to approving the agreement, and a handful of people spoke only in favor of moving forward.

Chris Pfaff, new president and CEO of the Knox County Development Corp., said the solar farm would ensure that Knox County “continues to be a regional and statewide leader in new power generation” all while “diversifying its own portfolio of energy.”

He believes, he told the council, that local leaders “will have the distinction of leading the state” in the development of renewable energies.

Connie Neininger, the assistant director for Hoosiers for Renewables, a grassroots organization that looks to promote and educate about renewable energy, also commended the council for entering into the EDA with Capital Dynamics and Tenaska.

“These are the types of projects we need here in Indiana,” she said, adding that such projects are key to the survival of rural communities.

Land owners, ones that will directly benefit from lease agreements with Tenaska and Capital Dynamics, also gathered at the public hearing to show their support.

Mark Anson, representing himself and his brothers, Mike and Doug Anson, who have all struck lease deals with the solar development duo, said the EDA was a “significant part of this project” being able to move forward.

“As a land owner, it’s economical for us,” he said, later adding that the rent he receives from Tenaska and Capital Dynamics far exceeds what he can get for it as farm ground.

“It’s profitable,” he continued. “And it will increase the county tax base as well.”

Anson, too, said the economic development payments made to the county over the next six years could serve as a “great resource for things not planned for.”

One of his only regrets, he told the council, is the loss of Knox County farm ground.

“It hits you down in your heart,” he said. “It affects your spirit, seeing the loss of that.

“But we are in a world where we are trying to improve our environment, and this will significantly do that.”

Council president Bob Lechner, too, said he believed “Knox County will become known for two things: its energy and its agriculture.”

The economic development payments made to the county will range from $250,000 paid the first and last year of the 6-year agreement with $500,000 paid the other four years in between.

Council members have not discussed publicly what they plan to do with the funds.

Per the EDA with Tenaska and Capital Dynamics, the county, too, will be reimbursed for the legal fees incurred by the development of a solar ordinance over the last few months. The new county legislation directly addresses the zoning requirements for a solar project.

The county didn’t previously have one, so it was an endeavor taken on by the county commissioners in partnership with the Area Plan Commission.