Republican lawmakers — along with Democrats and clean energy advocates — want Indiana to figure out solar and wind energy equipment decommissioning and disposal before the hazardous waste involved becomes a large-scale problem. Senate Bill 33, authored by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, would task the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission with conducting a joint study of how to phase out old solar panels and wind turbines. “We often react after the fact — [after] we have concerns about the environment, we have concerns about industrial waste — and we don’t attempt to deal with those concerns until we already have a significant problem handling the volume of material,” Walker told the Senate Utilities Committee Thursday.
Hundreds of thousands of aging steel underground storage tanks around the United States are leaking petroleum and other hazardous substances, Walker said. Tank contents can leak into soil and contaminate groundwater — which nearly half the country’s population relies on for drinking water, according to the EPA. Many of those tanks were abandoned over the decades, Walker said, adding, “We’re still dealing with the mess today, of sites that haven’t pumped fuel in 25, 30, 35 years.”
Walker’s bill would have IDEM and the IURC’s study consider a new state program to manage solar and wind decommissioning and disposal, which agency could run that program and how to fund the task. It would also direct the study to consider financial assistance for decommissioning and disposal, who’s financially liable and several other legal nuances, best practices for disposal or recycling, and criteria for the equipment’s expected life span and classification as “inoperable” or “irreparable.”