PERU — A renewable-energy company considering building a 400-megawatt solar farm in Miami County has agreed to reimburse the county’s expenses to complete a fiscal and legal analysis of the project.

Commissioners entered into the agreement with Huckleberry Line Solar Project LLC, which will cover the county’s costs up to $90,000 to complete an economic impact study and pay for legal fees.

Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, said the money could also go toward covering any extra costs that might be incurred by the county’s planning department or attorney to research or permit the project.

Tidd said the company has already signed off on a draft proposal of the agreement but must now sign the document approved by commissioners before it is fully executed.

The agreement comes as the company has leased around 2,300 acres from property owners to construct the solar farm in the northern part of the county, Tidd said.

The project is part of the renewable energy company called Savion, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. The company said it has completed solar projects in 27 states, and it has over 160 projects in various stages of development, according to its website.

Tidd said the reimbursement agreement is common practice for renewable energy companies to get the ball rolling on projects.

“This is pretty consistent with every renewable energy project,” he said. “This is not out of the ordinary. Every other solar project is like this one.”

However, the company hasn’t yet submitted an application for the project, and the county and the company aren’t in any negotiations at this time, Tidd said.

The county is waiting on more details about the cost and size of the project, he said, which will allow a consulting firm hired by the county to determine how much tax revenue the solar farm will generate.

“We need to know their costs because that’s going to have an impact on the assessed value and the tax impact,” Tidd said. “That’s a number that we’re waiting on right now before we really start any negotiations.”

Tidd said during a meeting last year that the company was considering a $375 million investment to build the solar farm, but that number has likely now changed due to inflation and other economic factors. Once project details are provided, negotiations between the county and the company will include nailing down details on agreements for road repairs and maintenance, economic development and decommissioning the project.

The reimbursement agreement comes after a months-long process last year to change the county’s solar ordinance in preparation for the potential solar project.

Commissioners ended up approving a recommendation from the Miami County Plan Commission requiring a solar farm have a minimum setback of 150 feet from any adjoining property line that is 10 acres or smaller. Lots that are larger than 10 acres only require a 25-foot setback.

Regardless of the size of the lot, the new ordinance says all solar farms must be at least 200 feet from any primary structure located on the property.

The first solar ordinance approved in 2020 by the county only required a 25-foot setback from any property line.
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