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Meet the New Farmers (of Energy)

Got questions about large-scale solar farms? Then dodge the loud voices and form your own opinion by visiting the Honeysuckle Solar Farm community engagement event on Thursday, April 13, 2023, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. The location is The Blue Heron at Blackthorn, 5440 Nimtz Pkwy, South Bend, IN 46628. The developer and event host LightSource BP invites the public to be informed about how the solar farm construction is progressing and seeks to meet its neighbors near New Carlisle, IN.

Aerial view of solar farm under construction

Several elements of the new crop sprouting in Indiana farmland are evident in the aerial view. In the distance, dark topsoil is being leveled in a few spots, with all of the topsoil remaining on-site. Stacks of steel pilings, pallets of parts, and bundles of piping are positioned across the acreage. In the foreground, neat rows of the pilings are distributed in long rows, while others have been pounded vertically into the ground and stand like an army of sentinels.

Pile drivers install metal posts in a field

A total of 85,000 posts will each be driven a whopping fifteen feet into the ground to accommodate both the frost level and the looseness of the soil here. When the 424,000 American-made solar panels are operational, the facility will yield around 150 megawatts of A/C electricity. How much is that? Ask a specialist at the April 13 event for a better description.

The Honeysuckle Solar Farm encompasses over 800 working acres across the nearly 1,800-acre Honeysuckle Economic Development Area shown in yellow. Development near New Carlisle is supported in part by St. Joseph County taxpayers, with more spending planned for the Indiana Enterprise Center (IEC), so residents across the county have a stake in emerging projects. Some elements of the IEC have earned opposition from voices like the Open Space and Agriculture Alliance (OSAA), with contentions compounded by the County's early communication missteps.

Map shows County's 1,800-acre econonic zone

The Indiana Statehouse has continuously impeded rooftop solar energy by citizens wanting energy independence and resilience of the grid, and the state shortcoming was affirmed by the 2023 Indiana 21st Century Energy Development Policy Task Force. With large scale projects, however, Indiana ranks fourth among US states for projected growth in solar energy over the next five years, behind only Texas, California, and Florida. Some Hoosiers have voiced opposition to other solar farms, often citing misinformation that could have been clarified with a simple conversation. The April 13 community engagement event is one opportunity to get the facts about solar energy in general and the Honeysuckle Solar Farm in particular.

Ask about any hazardous materials, or perimeter fencing, or the decommissioning process, or impact on the water table, or pollinators to be planted, or TIF tradeoffs, or solar energy safety, or keeping the roads clean, or jobs created, or dollars invested, or emissions reduced, or traffic increased. Ask a specialist what that big "spoil pile" is, and how "structural infill" serves the process of leveling the ground while maintaining a layer of high quality topsoil. Go ahead, what's on your mind?

Excavated pit surrounded by piled topsoil

I hope to see you April 13, 5-8 PM, at The Blue Heron at Blackthorn.

[Updated 2023 March 23: Added location and announcement graphic from LSBP, shown below.]


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