Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Taxpayers and Ratepayers Pay Dearly for Foreign-Owned Solar Farm at Airport

USA Today reports on the solar farm built at the Indianapolis Airport:
A 44,000-panel solar farm at Indianapolis International Airport has started soaking up sun rays and delivering usable electricity.

Airport and business officials Friday commissioned the $35 million to $40 million installation, which ranks as the largest airport-based solar farm in the country.

The airport expects to collect land rent of about $315,000 a year from the privately developed solar farm, which sits on 75 acres at the main airport exit off I-70. It will generate 12.5 megawatts of DCpower, enough to supply the electrical needs of about 1,800 average-sized houses.

The solar farm took more than a year to build. Developers have outlined plans to double its size.

Indianapolis Power & Light will buy the solar farm's power. The sun-generated power will cost three to four times more than IPL can sell it for, so the utility will subsidize the difference by raising rates to its customers, a utility official said. The increase in electric bills to subsidize the solar farm amounts to several cents a month on the average customer bill, the utility has said.

Solar farms also benefit from federal tax credits.

The solar farm takes 12 employees to operate and is owned and run by a Taiwanese company, General Energy Solutions, which has U.S. offices in California. Developers were Telamon Corp. and Johnson Melloh Solutions of Indianapolis.
According to a report by WRTV's Norman Cox:
Ballard said arriving travelers flying over the farm will see immediately that Indianapolis is an innovative, energetic city. He said the 75-acre project will benefit the airport and taxpayers by making land that couldn't be used for anything else and making it productive.
It is unclear how this benefits taxpayers or ratepayers. The electricity produced costs 3-4 times higher than electricity produced by other sources.  It is also heavily subsidized with federal tax dollars.  I also believe because of the lease arrangement with the Airport, the solar company can avoid paying property taxes.  Finally, the venture is being run by a foreign company with offices in California.  While it is good for the Airport, it is unclear how Ballard can possibly claim this project is good for taxpayers.

In a letter to the editor, retired Indianapolis Airport meteorologist John Curran puts a little sunlight on this bad deal:
Indianapolis Power & Light customers can be thankful that the 44,000 panel solar farm at Indianapolis International Airport generates only enough electricity to run 1,800 homes. If the electricity went directly to those 1,800 homes, the residents’ electricity bill would be three to four times higher than everyone else’s because solar energy is so expensive to produce. IPL is passing on the expensive solar electricity to all of its customers in the form of higher rates for everyone. This is progress?

Why does it take 12 employees of a foreign company to keep the solar panels working? Wouldn’t we rather have the employees working in Indiana coal mines, which are owned by Americans? IPL’s costs for electricity would be lower, electric bills would be lower, and not so many people threatened with power shutoffs would have to have their bill payments subsidized by taxpayers.
In this win-lose venture, the Indy airport, a winner, collects $315,000 rent annually and the foreign company sells its solar power at outlandish rates. The homeowners, the losers, pay higher rates and fork over more tax dollars to subsidize the foreign company’s solar tax credits. And they have plans to double the size of the solar farm. Perish the thought!

John T. Curran


Unigov said...

The sole purpose of the solar installation is PR for the city, as best expressed by Mayor Lunatic:

"Ballard said arriving travelers flying over the farm will see immediately that Indianapolis is an innovative, energetic city."

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