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Here are five things to know after the St. Joseph County Council passed new restrictions and requirements for commercial solar farms on Tuesday.

Final vote: While more solar parks are quietly being built, the Council decides on restrictions but no moratorium

How big are the solar parks planned in North Liberty?

Virginia-based Hexagon Energy plans to install solar panels on 2,300 to 2,500 acres of farmland that it will lease from local property owners, said Scott Remer, Hexagon’s senior director of development. The parcels are scattered around the North Liberty area. Together, they could generate 300 megawatts — enough to power 50,000 homes — and would supply electricity to the nearby Dumont substation, considered one of the most powerful substations in the U.S.

But Remer also said it will take two years for the solar panels to be installed. Before that can happen, the PJM organization, which coordinates electricity transmission in a grid stretching from New Jersey and Washington, D.C., through North Carolina to South Bend and Chicago, must review the project’s feasibility. Remer said he is one of two Hexagon employees working on the North Liberty project. He said they are committed to talking to neighbors to address their concerns.

Will Hexagon’s project be across the street from Potato Creek State Park?

Neighbors originally claimed the company was planning solar fields just south of Potato Creek State Park along Indiana 4. However, a more recent map from Hexagon shows nothing along Indiana 4. All of Hexagon’s scattered leased parcels are south of it.

Where else are there solar farms in St. Joseph County?

St. Joseph County already has two large solar power plants: the Honeysuckle Solar Farm on about 1,000 acres near New Carlisle and Indiana Michigan Power’s 210-acre solar farm in Granger.

But county officials said Tuesday that other companies are also making plans for solar farms. On Monday, four of those companies, including Hexagon, filed applications with the county for building permits and review of commercial plans.

Which counties in Indiana have a moratorium on solar farms?

In central Indiana, Boone County authorities passed a similar moratorium on solar farms this year. LaPorte County authorities are working on a similar draft, and Marshall County authorities are considering one.

A motion for a one-year moratorium failed in the St. Joseph County Council on Tuesday by a vote of 4 to 5. Supporters such as Council Member Amy Drake said the moratorium would have given the county more time to study the potential impacts of solar projects.

What additional restrictions is the Council calling for and which are still pending?

The Council voted unanimously to ask the County Area Plan Commission to prepare the following. If the APC does so, the Council must approve it:

∎ An additional requirement would be that solar panels would have to be at least 150 meters from a “non-participating” neighbor’s home. The 75-meter distance the council approved on Tuesday is higher than the 75-meter distance. The panels would also have to be at least 45 meters from the neighbor’s property line.

∎ The panels would also have to be installed at least 45 metres from any property that is designated or used as agricultural land.

∎ The panels would also have to be at least 150 metres away from public or private parks or nature reserves.

∎ A fully greened buffer area would be required along the property boundaries of residential properties, parks and nature reserves.

∎ The solar project manager would be responsible for repairing any damage the solar plant might cause to waterways, ditches and drainage pipes. Solar farms would also be subject to the supervision of the county drainage department.

South Bend Tribune reporter Joseph Dits can be reached at 574-235-6158 or [email protected].