What better way to check out the progress of the Indiana 75 Bridge at Cutler and the progress of the Hardy Hills Solar Farm construction in Clinton County near Kilmore but from 600 feet above ground level relaxed and listening to music on an Ipod in a Powered Parachute!
Wednesday evening from the beautiful Flora Airport one mile west of Flora, Indiana (5I2), a red, white and blue powered parachute departed the 800 foot by 1200 foot field and took to the air at 28 miles per hour.
We soon came to the Indiana 75 bridge near Cutler that spans the Northern Fork of the Wildcat. This bridge is now closed and has been out of commission all summer and slated to return to service about September 30. In the meantime, Indiana 75 is closed at Cutler and northbound traffic must go to Prince William Road to the west or Carroll County 350 East to the East to cross the Wildcat Creek.
After checking out the white Cutler covered bridge (also closed) and Adam’s Mill at Cutler, we flew the Powered Parachute south to the Hardy Hills Solar Project to check things out. Solar panels are finally being installed in the far northeast part of the project and infrastructure continues to make noise and make progress in the Kilmore area.
The very fine flying adventure ended at sunset in Flora to cap off a beautiful evening of flying.
Put on your calendar for Saturday, September 16th from 10 to 2. The Flora Airport will hold the Free “Touch a Truck, Touch a Plane Flora Airport Fly-in” complete with Terris Ayres’ Ice Cream truck with sandwiches, Static Airplane and truck displays and free Balsa Airplanes for the kids! Pilots and families alike are encouraged to check out the beautiful airport and celebrate flying.
Flora airport is located on 150 West in Carroll County. Just take Indiana 18 west of Flora for one mile and turn South on 150 West. The GPS address is “1601 N 150 West, Flora, Indiana”
Hardy Hills Solar Project near Kilmore north of Frankfort is in full construction mode. The 195 Megawatt project at peak capacity will contribute enough electricity to serve almost 37,000 homes when completed. The building of the solar array will be a 14 month process that started July 2022.
The site is buzzing with activity as two substations, 1400 acres of solar panels, access roads and street cleaners operate around the site. One substation will be operated by the Hardy Hills project and the other substation will be operated by Duke Energy.
Many mornings, the rapid “rat..tat…tat” of driving 800 posts or “Piles” into the ground can be heard for miles around. One advantage of the pile system is no concrete is used to construct most parts of the solar array, insuring much less disruption of the soil and easier removal to restore the land to agricultural uses after 25 or 50 years if desired. The current contract is for 25 years renewable for a second 25 year period.
Liz Stitzel, Clinton County Area Plan Commission director, spoke at Frankfort Rotary last year and laid out the history of the project from conception to approval to current progress. WILO AM-FM and Hoosierland TV played a role in the approval process during the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions for one meeting were taken from drive-by cars at the Edward Jones Building at the fairgrounds. “Attendees” were listening to the proceedings on their car radios while the entire public meeting was also broadcast on Hoosierland TV, which never has a paywall, so anyone who wanted to watch or listen on the radio could “attend” the meeting and text questions to the panel. These two meetings are still viewable on Hoosierland TV. Just enter “Solar” in the search bar to view.
The land use for the project totals 1800 acres surrounding the small town of Kilmore 5.4 miles north of Frankfort just off Indiana 75. The actual array will consume 1400 acres and each solar field will be surrounded by a buffer area comprised of a 10 foot tall deer fence, trees, bushes, evergreen and pollinator friendly plants. The view of the solar arrays from the road will be limited by the plant growth in the buffer zone surrounding the array. The demand for these buffer zone trees is so great that orders are exhausting supplies of hardwood trees, bushes and evergreen plants for well over a 100 mile radius.