Steve Eberly, a former county commissioner of Warren County, has traveled Indiana presenting information to counties, such as Boone County, regarding what he believes are the numerous benefits of renewable energy for farmers in rural America.
Eberly, a Warren County resident who is the executive director of Hoosiers for Renewables, recently presented to the Boone County Commissioners. He said farmers in Boone County could successfully diversify their acreage’s crop mix by pursuing wind and solar projects. He said more solar projects are coming to Indiana and that rural counties should embrace them, citing a recent Ball State study that shows electricity generation costs for renewables now rival natural gas and coal.
“The true value for a rural county is strengthening the tax base and the taxes that will be paid over the life of these projects,” Eberly said.
Eberly said he has been engaged with the renewable sector since 2008, after being inspired by former Sen. Richard Lugar at a talk Luger gave at Purdue University outlining how national security relates to ethanol. Shortly after, Eberly attempted to start an ethanol project in Warren County, but his efforts were not successful.
Concurrent to the project’s failure, an energy company solicited the county, granting an opportunity for the county to pursue a wind project, Eberly said. But again, the project was not pursued. In 2013, however, the county was again solicited, this time for the creation of a wind-turbine project.
The long process led Eberly to realize more could be done in rural counties as he exited his role as the county’s commissioner. He said wind and solar projects present economic opportunity for farmers to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in possible capital investment.
“(And) with no significant new load on schools, with no significant new load on water/sewer. So basically, it’s just the chance to bring new wealth,” he said. “For example, typically, a 100-megawatt project will bring approximately $100 million in new capital investment.”
Eberly’s advocacy comes after Boone County announced the Brickyard Solar Project, a utility-scale renewable energy project headed by NextEra Energy Resources’ subsidiaries that is planned to encompass approximately 238 acres north of Zionsville, subject to local and state approvals, that is scheduled to begin operations by the end of 2022. The project is expected to provide approximately $27 million in additional revenue, according to estimates, to Boone County during its duration.
“As these evolve, I think the public will develop a greater understanding of both the value and the logic of looking to renewables as a logical part of the energy mix for Indiana,” Eberly said.