Decatur County Board of Zoning Appeals Special Meeting

The Decatur County Board of Zoning Appeals held a special meeting.

Open Road Renewable LLC/ Ice Miller LLP requested a special exception in an A-1 zoning classification for the construction of a Battery Energy Storage System facility. This system stores electricity in banks of batteries to help the system of the electrical grid. This special meeting was for information and public feedback, not for a decision. There was a statement from the technical review committee who gave an unfavorable recommendation to the board as the project does not follow the comprehensive plan. They were also in contact with Hoosier Energy who state that they are losing no energy and a project like this would require their expansion. The board made it clear that the BESS project and the solar project down the road are in no correlation to each other.

The board asked their questions. They wanted to know what they based the landscaping design on that they plan to use to shield the facility. This has had shared input from the closest neighbors and they plan to double the amount of trees and make them evergreen at their request. The board made it known that their landscaping plan does not fit in with their current landscaping ordinances that are the same for both B and I zonings. Another question was why they were so concerned about Fire and EMS training, considering they have all been told that if one unit caught on fire it would be of no danger and burn itself out. Each unit is rated to not propagate to the next unit, however they engaged with EMS and Fire to ensure that it is up to their standards as well. They plan for the absolute worst and hope they will never use the plans. The board also questioned why that specific spot they chose. The spot was selected because of the technical nature of the power grid itself and how it fits into it. There was a discussion on the deactivation of the facility in the event of inactivity. The standards for the company is 24 months, however the board would like it to be 12 months which is the standard for the county.

The public then made their comments and asked their questions. There were concerns that these facilities are often used for solar farms which is something the residents of Decatur county have decided is not a desirable renewable energy source. The way the system works to hook into the grid requires a certain capacity. By this facility hooking into the grid it would actually make it harder for these solar farms to hook into. A neighbor was present that stated they were never contacted about this project. They wanted to know the water source being used as the coolant and whether or not their wells would run dry because of the project. The water supply runs on an HVAC system that utilizes the 25,000 gallons of water in tanks that they plan to bring to the facility. There was another concern on the pollutants to the water supply that would come if the facility were to catch on fire and be put out. The chemical makeup up of the fire should it ever occur is similar to that of a house fire. There are no toxins released from the batteries and they also have no solid waste, liquid waste, or emissions.

Bryan Robbins with the EDC addressed the BESS project. The EDC goal is to bring new developments to the community following the comprehensive plan. This project is one that opened the door of discussion for alternative energy projects. Those in charge of this project have been open with their plans which he believes fit the comprehensive plan as it would be next to existing facilities. Robbins said that this facility is no more a solar farm than a grain elevator is a farm.

This will be reviewed at the next BZA meeting.

Morgan Schofield


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