It's been months since Kent Utt, president of the Knox County Development Corp., announced that at least two companies were interested in building solar farms here.
It's a slow-moving process, he told his board of directors Friday during their regular meeting at Vincennes University's Isaac K. Beckes Student Union, but Utt is growing more and more confident that Knox County will get not just one, but two.
“From the get-go, they've done their due diligence, figuring out the most appropriate place to locate, negotiating with farmers, signing letters of intent, getting everyone in agreement,” Utt said. “Everything has been a milestone just to get to this point.”
Each of these solar companies, Utt said, is looking for upwards of 1,000 acres on which to build their solar farms, representing more than $150 million in capital investment.
Individually, Utt said the farms would generate 100-150 megawatts of energy — roughly enough electricity to power over 20,000 homes.
And while solar farms, once up and running, only require a handful of employees, each will take upwards of 700 laborers to build.
Representatives from these companies began hunting nearly a year ago, and Utt said both have found suitable locations and signed letters of intent to either purchase or lease from area farmers.
The names of these companies and those specific locations, however, KCDC is keeping under wraps for now.
One of these solar companies, Utt said, is even coming back next week to begin scouting for a second location, meaning Knox County could end up with three solar farms before it's all said and done.
But for as long as the process has taken, it's likely to take even longer, Utt said, perhaps as much as a year before actual solar farm construction begins.
While the two companies have found appropriate pieces of ground and signed letters of intent to buy or lease, there is still a feasibility study to follow, one that often takes upwards of nine months to a year to complete.
“But I'm definitely getting vibes from them that this will happen,” Utt said.
According to the state, Indiana ranks 23rd among the 50 states in solar power with almost 300 MW of generation. That equals almost $475 million in investment providing almost 2,800 jobs.
Over the next five years, again according to the state, another 525 MW of solar power is expected to be added.
The Associated Press reported about a year ago that Vectren Corp. was planning to develop two solar farms in the Evansville area, one is adjacent to Evansville's Oak Cemetery and another near North Junior-Senior High School. Together they would produce 4 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 600 homes.
Vectren, too, announced plans last spring for a 50-megawatt solar farm to be built in Spencer County. Situated near Troy, it will consist of about 150,000 solar panels, according to a report in the Evansville Courier & Press.