Saturday, July 05, 2014

Did State Taxpayers Pay For A New Solar Farm For The Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

On a quiet news day before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, officials of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a 68-acre solar farm on land adjacent to the track featuring nearly 40,000 solar panels. IMS officials say the solar farm will generate enough electricity to power 2,700 homes. According to the Indianapolis Stat, the project was "spurred by state tax credits and incentives from utilities like Indianapolis Power & Light, which partnered with the speedway on its farm." IMS officials wouldn't say how much the solar farm cost, but the Star suggested projects of similar size cost about $20 million. Really?

Not long ago, the Indianapolis International Airport allowed a joint venture called ET Energy Solutions comprised of Telamon, Johnson-Melloh Solution and Schmidt Associates to build a solar farm on 60 acres adjacent to the airport that featured about 41,000 solar panels. That project was supposed to cost between $35 and $45 million and generate 15 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, or enough to power 1,200 homes. It's unclear why the IMS' project, which is being managed by Sunwize and Blue Renewable Energy, would cost 50% less and generate more than double the amount of electricity as the airport's solar farm. If it works like the airport's deal, IPL pays 8 times as much to purchase electricity generated from the solar farm than its published cost for acquiring electricity, a cost that is absorbed by ratepayers, not IPL's shareholders.

None of the numerous news articles mentioned whether the IMS was tapping the $100 million the state agreed to contribute to the IMS under a deal worked out by our legislature and Gov. Mike Pence to make improvements at the track. IMS officials complained that the multi-millionaire Hulman-George family members couldn't afford to make improvements to keep the track up to the standards expected of race fans without a handout from state taxpayers. The state justified taking out a $100 million bond issue to finance improvements at the track based on the claim that tax revenues generated by the IMS would be sufficient to pay debt service on the bonds. To the extent the solar farm increases the value of the land, it is eligible for a state-authorized property tax deduction. The federal government also provides a business energy investment tax credit equal to 30% of expenditures.


Anonymous said...

Wow, the whole thing just smells dirty. And the part that seems criminal is the secrecy. Who knew what when about this solar farm. IPL? The legislature? The guys putting the bond issue together? The Hulmans and Mark Miles? Because the public didn’t know. Information has been doled out a little at a time, and suddenly the whole Hulman poverty, bond necessity, upgrades to the motor speedway looks like a way to make money off a solar farm that they never could have financed through conventional bank financing. So what gives? Is this a criminal enterprise?

Anonymous said...

just another under the table deal for the airport and the board member businesses and family members profit from while IND continues to be one of the higher places to fly from with less non stops

But just check the salaries of the upper management Why does the police chief at the airport make more than the city chief???

Anonymous said...

Taxpayers didn't pay for the solar farm. The Speedway doesn't own the solar farm, is just the landlord, and doesn't get the power. The Speedway collects rent from the solar farm, just like any other landlord. They had an unoccupied piece of property right next to the IP&L transmission line that runs next to the railroad tracks, and it was ideal for solar panels.