KNOX, Ind. (AP) — An Israeli company has started work to build a solar energy farm that’s planned to cover some 13,000 acres across two northern Indiana counties when completed.
Executives of Doral Renewables took part in a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and local officials for the project that is estimated to cost $1.5 billion to build over the next few years.
The project, dubbed Mammoth Solar, will see solar panels erected in Starke and Pulaski counties, generating electricity that Doral will sell under a long-term agreement to American Electric Power for the Columbus, Ohio-based utility company to increase its renewable energy capacity.
The solar farm’s first phase is expected become operational by mid-2023 and will produce 400 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 75,000 households, according to the company. Construction is planned to start next year on other phases of the farm, which will ultimately generate 1.65 gigawatts of electricity as they begin operating in 2024.
Proposals for large solar farms have faced opposition in some places over loss of farmland.
But Starke County Commissioner Mark Gourley said he was excited about the project coming to the rural area about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of South Bend.
“I’ve never in my life seen anything like this project here,” Gourley said. “This energy that we harvest here in Starke County is going to enrich lives throughout the county.”
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan joined in the groundbreaking ceremony after Holcomb traveled to Israel in May to show support for the country after the 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.
“We stand together when our economies are attached,” Erdan said. “We are now building the future here on Indiana’s soil.”