• Steve Eberly

From Peat to Solar Panels, Notre Dame Continues a Hoosier Tradition

The story of Indiana has always been a tale of taming the land. Of finding homegrown ways to sustain and grow our Hoosier communities.


Just the other day I was reading about the history of Notre Dame and their reliance on Indiana land for power: in 1867 the university purchased a 1,300-acre farm and made use of the peat grown there as a fuel for heat, while bringing crops from its fields to campus tables.

Fast forward to today, and Notre Dame is continuing to use Hoosier land, but with something more modern than peat: solar energy. On a 210-acre tract of land adjacent to the original St. Joseph Farm, Indiana-Michigan Power is building a solar farm. Once again, the university will benefit, with plans to purchase 40% of the total energy produced, accounting for 10% of Notre Dame’s electrical demand.


...in Randolph County, a proposed solar farm there – touted as the largest solar array in the state -- will use just .6% of total farmland in the county – less than one-percent. From that tiny fraction of land the county will benefit from millions in tax revenue to local governments, millions in lease payments to local landowners and a capital investment of $242 million.

The 210-acre solar farm that is enabling Notre Dame’s shift to cleaner energy, and power 2,700 homes to boot, is just another recent example of Hoosiers finding new ways to extract value from the land. And these small investments in land have big returns. For example, in Randolph County, a proposed solar farm there – touted as the largest solar array in the state -- will use just .6% of total farmland in the county – less than one-percent. From that tiny fraction of land the county will benefit from millions in tax revenue to local governments, millions in lease payments to local landowners and a capital investment of $242 million.


Notre Dame has gone from peat to solar panels – but while the fuel may have changed, the source is the same – Indiana homegrown resources. They, along with the counties who have so far welcomed renewable development, are showing Indiana the big rewards that can come from renewable energy.


How amazing that the land continues to be central to the Indiana story. We Hoosiers continue to be blessed with abundant resources to provide our energy generation. Increasingly, that’s the wind and sun! Now more than ever, keeping abreast of technological changes, specifically regarding renewables, is vital for the public to understand the facts. As the lowest cost energy generation source and a massive economic development driver, renewable energy must be part of the mix for Indiana’s future.


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