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Porter County Commissioners question proposed solar farm's impact on rising energy costs

Lauren Chapman
IPB News

Porter County residents will have a chance to learn more about a proposed solar farm later this month. NextEra Energy is scheduled to give a presentation about its proposed Malden Solar Farm at the February 27 county commissioners meeting.

So far, Commissioner Jim Biggs says he isn't a big fan of the idea. "I think one of the benefits of this particular county is that it still holds onto a rural flavor to it, and eating up thousands of acres for either wind or solar . . . it's losing that attractive part of us, that identity," Biggs said during Tuesday's commissioners meeting.

But NIPSCO says moving to renewable energy could bring benefits. While NIPSCO doesn't have a purchase agreement for the proposed Malden farm, it has partnered with NextEra for other projects.

"Sun, wind, there's no cost. There's no fuel. It's free still, right? Hopefully forever," Rick Calinski, director of public affairs and economic development at NIPSCO, told the commissioners.

That means energy costs should eventually stabilize.

But it may take a while for customers to see that benefit. Commissioner Barb Regnitz estimates NIPSCO's proposed three-phase rate increase will raise the county government's bill by almost $213,000.

The commissioners are looking into having ABM Building Solutions conduct a free preliminary study to look for potential savings in lighting, heating and cooling costs.