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Solar farm possible at Fort Wayne International Airport

Similar project costing $40 million opened in Indianapolis last year

Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 9:15 am

A solar-energy farm could be coming to Fort Wayne International Airport.

According to Executive Director Scott Hinderman, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority and Carmel-based Telamon Corp. are exploring the possibility of developing a park of up to 75 acres on two airport-owned sites along Coverdale Road and Airport Expressway.

No deal has been signed, and Telamon must determine the viability of the project before negotiations on a lease can begin. But the authority has pledged to negotiate in good faith should the company decide to move forward, Hinderman said.

Although solar farms on airport grounds are relatively rare – there are about 30 installations in 15 states -- they are becoming more common. In 2011, in fact, Telamon announced it would be a partner on what was billed as one of the largest airport-based solar farms in North America. That $40 million, 75-acre project at Indianapolis International Airport, which was commissioned last October, was projected to include more than 41,000 solar panels capable of producing enough energy to power more than 1,800 homes for a year. The company says the renewable energy created is the equivalent of 450,384 gallons of gasoline per year.

The company will determine whether Allen County receives enough sun light to make a similar project feasible here, Hinderman said. It would also require approve from the Federal Aviation Administration, which must ensure the facility would not endanger safety. Concerns about glare have limited airport-based solar farms in the past, but new panels have been developed to minimize that concern, Hinderman said.

“We've been talking to (Telamon) for about a year,” he added.

Although some airports tap directly into power generated by nearby solar farms – Chicago's O'Hare International is planning to get up to 10 percent of its electricity from a farm slated for completion in 2016 -- a Fort Wayne facility would feed electricity into the existing power grid, company spokeswoman Alexa Amatulli said. In Indianapolis, the power is fed to Indianapolis Power and Light Co. No public funds were used in the project, she added. The Indianapolis project was a joint venture between Telamon and Johnson-Melloh Solutions.