Solar farm grows near Indianapolis airport

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Sixty acres on the city's southwest side are catching the eyes of a lot of people driving by and flying into the Indianapolis International Airport.

That's because the farm land is being transformed into a solar farm.

For years it's been a buffer zone. Farmland the airport could not develop under FAA rules. But almost overnight, what's taken root is pretty unusual.

"A field full of solar panels for energy," said cyclist Larry Fine.

Fine has watched the dramatic change just five miles from his home.

"I think it's a great idea. Too bad they didn't do it sooner, but it's a good time for it. Anything for clean energy. It doesn't hurt," added Fine.

What is seen now along I-70 represents about 40 percent of a $35 million solar farm. By September 41,000 solar panels will help the 10 megawatt AC development convert enough sun rays to produce energy for 1,200 homes. It's expected to cost IPL customers less than a dollar, but no city tax dollars are on the hook.

Kurt Schneider is the Vice President of Johnson Melloh Solutions, the company that made the deal happen.

"Wow, what an impact this is going to be for the city. Right when you fly in, it's the gateway to the city and will be the largest solar farm in North America after we get done with our second piece," said Schneider.

Developers say the solar farm will have little impact on the environment and passed the FAA's reflectivity tests for approaching planes.

"The interesting part about that," said Schneider, "there actually is a lot less glare than you see on these cars."

Already, developers are planning an even bigger second farm just across the highway.

"We're actually seeing results of a win-win situation with the airport, Indianapolis Power and Light, Johnson Melloh Solutions and the tax base," Schneider added.

"I think it's pretty cool and right here on the west side," said Fine. "More power to us and in more ways than one."

A San Diego company secured the funding for the project. The Indianapolis airport will make $4.3 million from the lease of the land over 15 years.