• Steve Eberly

Renewable Energy - Continuing a Hoosier Legacy

Updated: Sep 20

I wake every morning in a farmhouse that has been in my family for generations. My great-grandfather built it, then passed it to my grandfather then to my Dad and then to me. Living a Hoosier legacy is as natural as getting out of bed each day. As Father’s Day approaches legacy is on my mind even more. What have we inherited from our fathers? As fathers, what will we leave our children? Thinking broadly, how can we leave an Indiana that will be a prosperous home for the next generation?

Hoosiers have long carved out a living from the land. I don’t think that will change. Indiana will continue to be an agricultural state, and it can also become a renewable energy state. Just as farmers diversify crops, we can add solar and wind farms to the options offered Hoosiers – not just farm families but communities as well. This doesn’t mean giving up our agricultural heritage – that legacy continues – but we can add options for using some of our land for renewable energy.

When my farmhouse was built it was constructed with the best technology of the day. It was heated by coal. Electricity came later. If my grandfather wanted to talk to the neighbors, he had to go see them. Today the farmhouse is heated and cooled by a geo-thermal system. I’m writing this using wireless broadband Internet that connects my home to the world from my kitchen table. My home’s foundation is the same, but it has been adapted to the times, and rightly so.

Indiana will continue to build and adapt on its foundation. Here’s why renewable energy should be a part of our future, and why it’s an important legacy we must offer our children.

Photos: Steve Eberly's great-grandparents stand in front of the Hoosier farmhouse they built, in 1907; the Eberly farmhouse today.

Access to renewable energy attracts large employers – and that means access to an economic future for our kids. If they want to work for tech, for manufacturing, or another trade, one of the ways to ensure they will have options in Indiana is through renewable energy. Right now, major Indiana employers like Cummins, Toyota, Eli Lilly, Google, Facebook, Amazon, General Motors, Walmart, have all either expressed a desire to access low-cost renewable energy or are siting in states or communities where it is available (we’ve written about that here: Renewable Energy – If We Build It and also here: Renewables Attract Toyota and More).

States that compete with Indiana understand this – Iowa, for example, now generates most of its electricity from wind. Indiana either needs to get on the renewable energy bandwagon, or we risk getting left behind.

Then there’s the economic support renewable energy projects give to local Hoosier communities. These projects pump millions of investment dollars into local economies and the coffers of county governments. This is money that can be used for services like equipping first responders, providing funding for schools, or building better roads – all at no extra expense to local taxpayers.

And finally, renewable projects can help keep families on the farm. Through lease payments, renewable energy projects can be a vital new crop to keep things going. Additionally, I think it’s significant that these substantial payments will be continually added to both the asset base for families and converted to local spending in our rural communities. This supports rural vitality. And critically, after those 30 or so years, the land is returned as quality farmland, allowing a new generation to take over.

I wake up every day surrounded by the legacy of my farmhouse. I work every day for renewable energy because the legacy I want to pass on to my grandchildren is a prosperous Indiana that can continue be a home for their families and grandkids. I’m not alone in this, as I was reminded by the story Steve Burton tells about his family’s legacy, which includes renewable energy. I invite you to listen to Steve’s story.

Here’s to Father’s Day – and to all of us working to leave a better Indiana for generations to come.