Op-ed: You’re building a solar field in coal country?

In November 2020, the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, or “IMPA” for short, purchased a 49 acre-plus parcel on the northeastern border of Linton from the Winters’ family trust for $319,000 — or almost $6,500 per acre.

If unfamiliar with IMPA, it provides 61 Hoosier communities with wholesale power, and it includes the City of Linton as one of its member communities. The power it provides includes a mixture of coal, natural gas, renewable, and purchased power, according to the group, and it is a joint owner of the Joint Transmission System, too, which provides transmission access to approximately two-thirds of Indiana.

Additionally, on its website, IMPA states that it “has developed 31 solar parks throughout the state of Indiana, ranging in size from 0.25 MW to 8 MW” and uses the map below to illustrate the locations of those throughout the state:

Enter the City of Linton into this state-wide solar foray.

In December 2020’s Linton City Council meeting, IMPA approached the City Council about a proposed solar field that it planned to place on the 49 acres it had just completed the purchase on in November. The property is currently in Stockton Township, not within the city limits, and taxed as such. The group asked the Council to annex the parcel into the City, and the request passed the council unanimously with all five representative City Council members voting “aye”.

After all, when someone voluntarily asks to be taxed more, it’s kind of a no-brainer for government. Then again, it’s really not IMPA that will ultimately pay for it, but you, the electric user, through future rate increases will. And that’s just where the irony begins.

So, they are building a solar field in the middle of coal country? If the irony of that question didn’t just hit you like a ton of bricks as a Lintonian, you probably should go back and re-read it again.

And that is probably the easiest of all of the questions this situation begs to be asked. There are so many forward-thinking questions, which will impact our community’s tomorrow in a good or bad way, for sure. For example, are we simply evolving with technology and innovation, or are we blaspheming all that is right, holy, and wholesome in our small portion of the world — including our roots, our heritage, and our coal mining forefathers?

Linton was built on coal. There’s no denying that point.

About one-hundred ten years ago, there were, within a radius of three miles of the City of Linton, sixteen coal mining properties in operation, representing an investment of one and one-half million dollars, a sizeable sum at that point in time. More impressively, the mines employed twenty-five-hundred men with a tonnage capacity of twenty-thousand tons per day and an average semi-monthly payroll of seventy-thousand dollars. Again, a sizeable amount coming into and being spent and re-spent in the local economy. A rolling mill employed another one-hundred-sixty men. There were even three weekly newspapers and two daily papers, employing twenty-five men, as well.

But Linton’s planned solar field is miniscule by comparison to what is planned state-wide in the coming years. In a recent article by Greg Weaver in the Indianapolis Business Journal, “at least 15 Indiana solar farms of 1,000 acres or more are slated to go online by 2024, with several more encompassing hundreds of acres also in the works.” The article goes on to point out that, “At least four Indiana electric utilities have announced plans to close coal-fired plants soon and are looking for renewable-energy sources to replace that capacity.”

And those ‘renewable verses fossil fuel use’ debates are not the only squeeze on the coal industry. For example, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, “To date, over 100 and counting globally significant banks and insurers have announced their divestment from coal mining and/or coal-fired power plants.” So, the financing of coal mines, plants, and infrastructure, as well as the insurance and associated financial transactions needed to keep the industry running are becoming more difficult, as well.

So, sure, Linton was built on coal. But what will the future say Linton was built on in another one-hundred ten years from today?

Featured photo by Pixabay from Pexels

1 comment

  1. If Linton is going to do this then why not put up city owned solar panels. Lower Electric bills for everyone.

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