LOWELL — Eighteen months ago, the Town Council put the town's name into the NIPSCO lottery for a chance to produce solar energy and reduce energy costs; last week, council members set that in motion.
The council granted a special use variance to install a 756-panel solar array on land at the wastewater treatment plant, 7505 Belshaw Road, south of the town. The land is zoned agricultural.
NIPSCO guarantees to buy the energy generated for 15 years.
It's a win-win for the town, Councilman Chris Salatas, R-4th, said. The land is not being used at present. The town can save on mowing that area and will receive a lease payment for 15 years before possibly using the array to power the plant, he said. How that money will be spent has not been determined, he said.
Council President LeAnn Angerman, R-2nd, said the town has a draft contract with Telamon Corp., of Carmel, through which the town and NIPSCO will operate the program, but the leasing contract has not been finalized.
She and Salatas said they expect Telamon, which will lease the land from the town, will pay $10,000 to the town in the first year, then a sum to be established for each subsequent year on the contract.
Telamon also worked with the Tri-Creek School Corp. to install solar panel arrays at four school sites. For the town, the company will pay for the panels' installation and maintain them, and NIPSCO will get the energy generated.
Telamon's Bruce Breeden said at the end of the program, NIPSCO could offer another 15-year arrangement or the town could use the panels to defray energy costs at the plant. The solar panels will last 35 to 40 years.
Earlier, Town Manager Jeff Sheridan said the town could have purchased and installed the solar panel itself, then dealt with NIPSCO directly. The Telamon arrangement means there is no out-of-pocket expense for Lowell residents.