Ranger Power’s $175 million solar project that will be built in northeastern Shelby County will get a tax abatement.

On Tuesday, the Shelby County Council voted 5-1 with one abstention to grant the tax abatement to Ranger Power, who recently received a special variance to construct a solar energy farm on 1,800 acres of farmland in Hanover and Union Townships near Morristown.

The Speedway Solar project operated by Ranger Power will construct solar panels on 1,015 acres of prime farmland that it is leased from area land owners. The goal is to generate 199 megawatts for the Gwynneville Substation that will go into the electric grid and dispersed by Wabash Valley Power.

“The project represents a minimal investment of $175 million, which will likely employ four or more full-time local staff during the operations period of the project,” said Pete Endres, developmental manager for Ranger Power, in his opening statements to the seven-member Shelby County Council. “In addition to those full-time jobs, there will be hundreds of jobs created during the construction phase of the project which we estimate to be about 8-10 months in length.”

The project is slated to be operational in 2023.

Despite a remonstrance filed to keep Ranger Power from receiving a tax abatement, attorney Mary Solada, representing Ranger Power, spelled out Tuesday to the council that utilities are indeed allowed to seek a tax abatement and cited past examples of solar and wind farms that have received tax abatements in Indiana.

“The state of Indiana puts out a form that energy projects ... solar, wind, even Duke Energy itself has received several tax abatements ... utilities just like any other taxpayer can receive a tax abatement,” said Solada. “At least three jurisdictions I’m aware of, there may be others, but I personally know of Henry County, Sullivan County and the city of Anderson has approved tax abatements for solar projects. There have not been any issue with state authority.”

Ranger Power is not seeking infrastructure assistance with the project. And it estimates it will contribute $15.7 million in tax revenues over the span of the project. In addition, Ranger Power has signed an Economic Development Agreement to pay the county $1.6 million at the beginning of the operating period of the project – with $600,000 of that amount earmarked for the Shelby Eastern Schools system which includes Morristown and Waldron.

“The tax abatement we are seeking here tonight is a tool used by government to attract investment,” said Endres. “It is commonly used for projects like Speedway that are capital intensive and can bring substantial tax revenue or employment opportunities to a local area. It’s been done numerous times not only for solar farms in the state but also for wind farms throughout the state. It has also been used before in Shelby County to promote investments in various industries. And in our case, it allows us to provide the most competitive rate possible to ultimately the electric rate payers and ensures the economic benefits I’ve laid out here flow to Shelby County and not other places.”

Prior to the discussion Tuesday, county councilman Terry Smith announced he would abstain from the voting process citing family members that are in land deals with Ranger Power. 

Councilwoman Linda Sanders was the lone dissenting voice to the abatement being granted. 

Copyright © 2019 The Shelbyville News