Deb VanDeMark, a Burr Oak resident concerned with the proposed industrial solar field and utility battery storage facility appeared before the Marshall County Plan Commission last week asking them to consider a short-term moratorium or amendments to the county’s current large-scale solar ordinance and the creation of an energy storage ordinance, also known as battery storage.

Deb told the Plan Commission, “It has been reported that solar companies are allowed to go unchecked, unregulated, and without solar land county caps. Among other concerns, the lease and easement agreement states the owner grants the grantee an exclusive easement for electromagnetic, audio, visual, glare, electrical, or radio interference attributable to the solar facilities or site activities.   We are asking for your consideration for the time needed to make responsible, smart decisions and policies based on knowledge that comes from studies about the solar industry and its impacts on other communities so that amendments to the ordinance can be made that protect the economy and desirability of living in Marshall County.”   She told the council these are some of the side effects of solar that aren’t addressed in the current ordinance.  

During her presentation, VanDeMark offered the County Plan Commission a list of suggestions to consider in modifying the current zoning ordinance.  

#1) Remove A-1 agricultural land from solar farms that have been signed up with the USDA for the past 3 years. 

#2) Create an ordinance for energy storage systems, also known as battery storage which would include permits, BZA approval, and setbacks.

#3) Amend the ordinance for large-scale solar farms to include further setbacks of 1000 to 1500 feet.

#4) Implement a fire/emergency plan and environmental/safety plan for the Solar Ordinance and Energy Storage Ordinance.

#5) Require material data sheets.

#6) Require water and land testing annually by solar and energy storage companies to check for contamination.

#7) Change the zoning to industrial.

#8) Add fines and consequences for ordinance violations.

#9) Include the installation of a 72” minimum galvanized chain link fence surrounding the proposed project and

#10) Add decommissioning guarantees to the current ordinance.

The meeting room was full of citizens and President Dave Hostetler told those in attendance that the Plan Commission had opened the floor for comments during the June meeting and wouldn’t take comments in the July meeting.  Instead, he asked those with technical information, for or against, that hasn’t been presented to the commission to send it to County Plan Director Ty Adley and he will determine if it is pertinent to our discussions and review and bring it to the board. 

Deb VanDeMark had invited Keramida from Indianapolis to attend the meeting, not knowing they weren’t going to have an opportunity to speak.  Deb was on the agenda and not her guest. 

The County Plan Commission is interested in hearing from Keramida and spoke with them before the meeting explaining how they can present information to the board.

The County Plan Commission is interested in reviewing the current solar ordinance and looking at ordinances from other counties to find the best requirements to be included or modified in Marshall County’s ordinance.  The Plan Commission is also going to investigate new state legislation on battery storage facilities and what local requirements they can implement.