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Proposed Solar Ordinance Threatens Solar in Vanderburgh County

Updated: Jan 14

Backstory:


The future of solar in Vanderburgh County is threatened and at stake. A proposed solar ordinance, which imposes unnecessary installation regulations and costs, will be reviewed at the Vanderburgh County Area Planning Commission meeting this week. Morton Solar has fought extremely hard to help build a solar industry in Indiana and this ordinance is a step in the wrong direction. It makes switching to solar more difficult for our community. We ask you to join us in resisting these barriers to clean energy!


See our President's official statement to the Executive Director below:


Dear Mr. London,

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.


To give some background about myself, I graduated from U.S.I. in 1992 with a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology and in 1996 with an AS in Mechanical Engineering Technology. I spent most of my career working in the automated manufacturing industry and almost 10 years for Caterpillar’s Mining Truck division in Decatur, Illinois. It was a job I loved immensely and in 2003 I founded a company, Industrial Control Engineering, primarily to support equipment at this plant. However, as an engineer it was very easy to see with the simplest of mathematical formula, and common sense, that mankind’s emissions of CO2 have far surpassed the Earth’s ability to naturally process back into breathable O2. It would seem to be common sense that mankind would understand that we are currently sitting in the garage with the door closed and the car running, and that every ounce of mankind’s collective intelligence and resources would be fighting to facilitate this transition to clean energy. But, that was a calculation in which I was very wrong.


After spending formative years growing up in Gibson and Pike Counties, my brother and I founded Morton Energy in 2006 with the mission of building a new renewable energy economy in Indiana to help transition the inevitable loss of coal jobs to clean energy that we knew had to take place in order for life to survive on our planet. Never would we have imagined the negativity and resistance that we would encounter and within a couple of years Morton Energy, LLC was forced to cease operation due to financial difficulties. However, there were certainly some positive results sprinkled into our efforts. One such positive result was a small wind energy project for the Haubstadt Community School in Gibson County. When the local utility company denied our application to connect to the school, we had no choice but to file a complaint with the IURC to review the decision as a last resort. The IURC ruled in our favor and we were allowed to connect the very small wind generator to the school. The utility company was required to rewrite their tariff to allow schools to net-meter and remove language about 3-phase services. This had never been done before, and was a historical milestone and accomplishment. For this, we were presented with an award from Senator Richard Lugar’s office which was titled “Lugar Energy Patriot”. And, we were very honored and proud to receive from possibly the best Senator our state has ever seen.


This award gave us a considerable voice for renewable energy from inside the belly-of-the-beast of Indiana’s lucrative coal industry. And, this voice helped garner the attention of Sue Ellsperman while working at USI and she reached out to then Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman to bring attention to a new solar powered library in Spencer County which was only five miles from where a new Coal-to-Gas plant was to be built. At that time (2009), the general public consensus was that solar energy did not work in Indiana and was much too expensive. So, (future) Lt. Gov. Sue Ellsperman went to great lengths to get this library certified as ‘solar powered’, and in that process was discovered that it was the first net-zero library in the United States. With this official title of being a certified solar powered building here in Indiana, where solar wasn’t supposed to work, both future Lt. Gov. Sue Ellsperman and then Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman were able to bring this library to the attention of then Gov. Mitch Daniels. And, one year later in 2011, Gov. Daniels issued an executive order to expand Indiana’s net-metering law to allow ALL customer classes of Investor-Owned Utilities to be allowed to net-meter solar energy systems up to 1MW in size. This law was the foundation upon which the entire solar industry in Indiana was built, and has created over 3600 solar jobs in our state in the last ten years, saved utility customers thousands of dollars by getting a fair rate for energy fed back to the grid, and exerted downward pressure on the market price of electricity in our state for ALL consumers, AND most importantly (in my opinion) has reduced CO2 emissions by 1000’s of tons from one of the highest carbon emitting regions per capita in the U.S.


Gov. Daniels deserves major credit for all of the positive results of his executive order. Unfortunately, our state legislature has not been so kind to renewable energy, and recently voted to strip net-metering from its constituents by voting to pass SB309. This will unfortunately put many of the state’s 3600 solar jobs in jeopardy, and once again threaten our own renewable energy business that has survived here in coal country for so long. Additionally, this will ultimately allow the utility companies to monopolize the sun, and charge increasingly higher prices for electricity since there will be no free market competition, which is the most basic component of capitalism.


So, I wanted to share this history so that you know the struggle we have had to endure, not only for our business, but for an entire solar industry. Morton’s mission from inception has been to lower the cost of solar energy to make accessible to ALL, with the primary purpose to reduce CO2 emissions to give our planet and mankind as much chance for survival as possible.


Therefore, we are AGAINST this solar ordinance as written as it only INCREASES the cost of renewable energy. And, the only basis for this ordinance is that a small group of individuals have the opinion that a solar panel is an ‘ugly’ object, when in reality this opinion is simply the result of a massive fossil fuel propaganda campaign. It would be no different than if I, myself, a renewable energy business owner declared that oil pump jacks were ugly and spent millions of dollars advertising that “PUMP JACKS ARE UGLY” and repeating this over and over again. And, then lobbying politicians to create ordinances to outlaw and/or install fences and trees around them so I didn’t have to look at them.


And, why do fossil fuel companies think that solar panels are ugly? Because they disrupt their traditional streams of revenue. It’s very simple.


Furthermore, almost every claim made by the naysayers can be proved to be non-factual, and/or based upon false information. Even the claim of lower property values does not hold up to real statistics and data. Most in society want to live in areas of cleaner air quality and lower cancer rates, and more solar energy production definitely helps with this.


So, I think that an object that reduces the amount of CO2 being released into our atmosphere while giving a tiny chance for survival for our own children and grandchildren is a beautiful thing.


Therefore, we are against ANY ordinance that declares that a solar panel is an ‘ugly’ object, which is really all that this ordinance does, as it is written.


And, I would like to declare that all grain elevators are ugly as well, and demand that you paint all of them blue so they blend in with the sky.


Thank you,


Brad Morton

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