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Local safety ordinances proposed to regulate solar, wind turbine farms

PRINCETON – Proposed safety ordinances regulating wind and solar energy in Gibson County would replace the countywide zoning ordinance if it is rescinded by Gibson County Commissioners.

Commissioners voted 2-1 to rescind the zoning ordinance in January and referred the matter to the Gibson County Advisory Plan Commission two weeks ago for a recommendation, but the APC voted 6-2 to reject the plan to rescind zoning.

When commissioners meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Toyota Events Center, they’ll consider whether to adopt, reject or amend ordinance rescinding zoning and adopting safety ordinances.

A nine-page draft of a proposed local ordinance would regulate licensing of ground-mounted solar farms in the county, detailing the type of systems which may be installed, outlining steps for applying for a permit, including filing fees. The draft of the ordinance also addresses financial responsibility for road use, a safety/security plan, decommissioning, construction standards, setback and height requirements, waste removal, modifications, drainage liability and other issues.

The 18-page draft of the wind energy licensing ordinance addresses the application and permitting process, tower location requirements for turbines, setbacks, color of the tower, waste disposal, shadow flicker and sound limits, operation plans, topography information, construction and installation regulations, and required curtailment agreements entitling the National Weather Service to request curtailment when turbine operations affect or are expected to affect a severe weather warning decision.

The turbine ordinance also provides for inspection and sets forth penalties if operations are in violation of the ordinance.

Both ordinances would be in effect 30 days from the date of they are adopted.

Both proposed ordinances provide the condition that none of the provisions are intended to supersede state or federal laws, except that when permitted, the ordinance can impose more strict requirements than may be imposed by county, state or federal authority.

House Bill 1381, which proposes uniform statewide solar and wind regulation, passed by a 58-38 vote of the Indiana House of Representatives Feb. 17, and has been referred to the Indiana Senate.

That 63-page bill contains provisions that entities cannot adopt more stringent regulations than are set forth in the legislation. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, it would take effect July 1.