CEL&P just keeps shining brighter and brighter. Whether that’s because of stellar planning and people or because it is adding more solar parks and more electric capacity, is open for interpretation.
The solar farm off Memorial Drive has been growing. It currently produces 3 megawatts of power on what are called stationary solar panels. One megawatt is equal to a million watts of electricity.
Currently, the panels face south and are rigid. The expansion will include new solar panels that actually follow the path of the sun, facing east in the morning and tracking west through the day. This expansion will increase the production capability by almost eight megawatts.
“Before 2000, we were 100 percent coal,” Phillip Goode, general manager for CEL&P and Indiana Municipal Power Agency chairman of the board, explained. “Now we’re near 60 percent coal and we’re going to follow that trend until we’re entirely reliant on renewable energy . . . to reduce our carbon footprint.”
On top of the expansion of the solar park on Memorial Drive near the sheriff’s office, IMPA will also work to add additional solar parks to the Crawfordsville area. Currently there is one operational solar park in Crawfordsville, Crawfordsville 1 on the south side of Memorial Drive. Crawfordsville 2, on the north side of the road, should be operational around November and will have a capacity of 7.93 megawatts.
After that will come Crawfordsville 3, 4 and 5. Crawfordsville 3 will be located in the Commerce Park near Interstate 74, and will be capable of producing 4.73 megawatts, Good said. It’s expected to be operational by December. Crawfordsville 4 will be just west of Crawford Industries and will have a 2.5 megawatt capacity. Construction will begin in October and is expected to finish in May of 2020. The final solar park, Crawfordsville 5, will go in at 150 S and 250 E. This park will be the single largest, capable of producing almost 10 megawatts. Construction plans are not yet set in stone for this, but it is expected that all five solar farms will be operational by early 2021, according to Goode.
Altogether, the five solar parks will produce a little less than 30 megawatts.
One concern residents may have is whether installation of solar panels will cause costs to rise on their end. Goode addressed this point as well, saying, “We have found a market niche, and I have to thank the city government and the county government for that, because they’ve helped us find the property to install these and it’s locally installed. It’s going to cost less than shipping in power.”
Goode explained that because the energy stays right here on the CEL&P system, behind the national grid, CEL&P’s costs are lower.
“We are very aggressive on solar,” Goode said. “We feel we’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint and we’re also installing these parks with no increased costs to customers because it’s all local, so we’ve really found a win-win way to do this.”
IMPA serves 61 cities and towns and more than 300,000 people across Indiana and Ohio. IMPA provides a way for communities to lower the cost of purchasing power, meaning customers get better rates and local municipalities, by being IMPA members, get to take advantage of these economies of scale.
“IMPA has done a great job of building these solar parks,” Goode said. “More impressively, IMPA has lowered the CEL&P wholesale power rates the past three years.”
Just in Montgomery County, Darlington and Waynetown have also hopped on the solar express with IMPA. In Waynetown, a 250 kilowatt solar park is already in place, providing 1,178 kilowatt hours for 37 homes. The solar park in Darlington is expected to be a 1 megawatt-capable facility and is currently being installed.
“Solar panels are great for us because peak demand is around 2 to 3 p.m., which is when we generate the most solar power,” Goode explained. “Accounting for business and all individual customers, solar will provide 40 percent of the power needs during the week when these are all done. On weekends, when businesses don’t run as much or at all, that number could go up to 65 percent.”