Posted: Thursday, February 26, 2015 4:18 pm
By Kevin L. Green The Courier-Times
In what seems to be a perpetual stream of New Castle and Henry County economic development news of late, a planned solar farm could locate near New Castle’s industrial park, and a Knightstown company announced multi-million dollar expansion plans.
Economic Development Corporation Director Corey Murphy said Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc. is proposing to invest $2.7 million in a solar farm on 11 acres in Franklin Township on West County Road 500 South.
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The solar farm is possible because of the roughly $1 million electrical upgrades Hoosier Energy and Henry County REMC are making to the substation on Commerce Drive, and circuits serving the industrial park to accommodate Boar’s Head Meats. The solar project will provide additional stability to Henry County REMC’s electric grid, Murphy said.
The solar farm, if built, will be seen by about 40,000 I-70 travelers daily, according to Murphy, who said he believes it will portray our community in a “positive, progressive light.”
Earlier this week, Murphy asked the Henry County Council to approve a 10-year tax abatement plan for this project and to designate the proposed site an Economic Revitalization Area. The council agreed to the ERA request and gave preliminary approval to the tax abatement plan.
“The tax abatement is important because the solar project is competing against other sites across the service territory of Hoosier Energy,” Murphy said.
Chuck Martindale, Hoosier Energy’s Manager of Key Accounts and Economic Development, said his organization is looking at placing 4,000 to 4,400 solar panels to convert sunlight to electricity and that the site being considered in Henry County would generate enough energy to power 800 to 1,200 homes. He also said that while final site selection has not been determined, Henry County’s prospects look good.
“There are a number of sites around our service territory that we’re looking at and getting options on, but we know Henry County REMC would like (a solar farm) and Henry County itself — the EDC, the county council and officials there — have been very good to work with. I think there’s a high probability that we’ll be able to build there,” Martindale said.
A second upcoming, but unrelated, project involves expansion of an existing business on Knightstown’s north side.
“Hy-Flex Corporation is proposing to invest $1.7 million in new equipment at their facility on Ind. 109 just north of Knightstown in Wayne Township. This represents a retention of 34 jobs and they are conservatively estimating eight new jobs in the next three years. This is an established, existing company with growth prospects,” Murphy said.
Hy-Flex president Allen Mills was unavailable for comment.
Last year, Hy-Flex purchased the former vacant Spectra Premium/American Designer building.