VALPARAISO | Forget tax breaks, available land and an eager workforce.
Sunshine has become the latest draw for industry in Porter County.
The county's Development Review Committee on Wednesday approved construction of a solar generating facility at 495 W. County Road 450 North in Union Township.
The county already has cleared the way for the company to build a similar facility on Robbins Road, just west of Bay Road in Portage Township.
The sites will feature a series of dark-colored solar panels, ranging from about 3 to 8 feet off the ground, said Minnesota-based petitioner Brad Wilson.
Members of the development review committee made sure Wednesday the petitioner would have proper landscaping in place after the facilities were up and running. Wilson also assured the group the solar panels would not cause any reflective problems for passing motorists.
The Union Township site will generate one megawatt of power, with 1 1/2 mega watts in Portage Township, Wilson said. The power will be sold to NIPSCO, whose incentives are the reason the facilities were located here, he said.
Similar projects were approved recently in Merrillville and Hobart, said Porter County Plan Commission Director Bob Thompson.
This approach at "green" energy is new enough to the county that there was a learning curve and lawsuit in the handling of the requests by Wilson.
Both projects were presented in December, after which time the Plan Commission determined there was no proper zoning on the books and referred the Portage Township proposal to board of zoning appeals for a variance, Thompson said.
When the BZA turned down the Union Township plan, the company sued and the county was later presented with a state law ordering local officials welcome "green energy" projects, he said.