The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on June 26 granted an approval for Lake County Solar LLC for a project that will be located on two sites in Griffith and East Chicago, Ind.
On April 26, Lake County Solar applied with the commission for certain determinations, declinations of jurisdiction and approvals relating to the proposed construction, operation and maintenance of the two proposed electric generating facilities. Testimony was submitted from William Lee, President of Bright Plain Renewable Energy LLC (BPRE).
Petitioner will be a wholesale provider of electricity generated from solar resources for sale in the wholesale power market. The power output from the facilities will be sold exclusively to Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO) under NIPSCO’s feed in tariff and a purchase power agreement (PPA). Lee testified that BPRE acts as the manager of LCS under a Management Services Agreement.
Lee explained that Lake County Solar must operate within the parameters of NIPSCO’s Electric Renewable Feed In Rate approved as Experimental Rate 850 in a July 2011 commission order. He noted that this rate established an experimental program under which NIPSCO can purchase energy from renewable resources. The July 2011 order approved a price of 30 cents/kWh for solar energy generated through facilities with capacities less than or equal to 10 kW and 26 cents/kWh for solar energy generated through facilities with capacities between 10 kW and 2 MW, which is subject to a 2% escalator per year. Lee stated that LCS is also required to enter into an interconnection agreement and a PPA with NIPSCO.
The two facilities will each occupy an 11-acre site. Each facility will consist of 8,976 separate solar panels, with a nameplate capacity of 2,692.8 kWp per facility. Lee noted that in total, the project will consist of 17,952 separate solar panels with a total nameplate capacity of 5,385.6 kWp. He stated that the combined projected first year output is 6,921 mWh and the anticipated output per panel is 385 kWh per year. Both solar arrays are to be located in Lake County, approximately 10 miles apart.
The Griffith facility’s utility interconnection point of common coupling will be at the NIPSCO-owned utility pole located adjacent to the facility, and will tie into NIPSCO’s 34.5-kV Hartsdale Transmission Substation Circuit 3451. The East Chicago facility’s utility interconnection point of common coupling will be at the NIPSCO-owned utility pole adjacent to the facility, and will tie into NIPSCO’s 34-kV Tod Ave Transmission Substation Circuit 34-126.
Lee testified that LCS selected the sites because of their close proximity to NIPSCO’s 34.5-kV transmission system. LCS also selected sites with minimal impacts on surrounding communities that were available immediately without significant site preparation.
Lee stated that the structures, totaling 8,976 photovoltaic solar panels for each facility, will be constructed on industrial lands leased by LCS from subsidiaries of Buckeye Partners LP. LCS’s engineering, procurement, and construction contractor is Global Resource Options d/b/a groSolar.
LCS expects the total project to cost approximately $21m, including equipment and development costs. Lee stated that the project is being funded by an affiliate of D.E. Shaw Renewable Energy Investments LLC, in partnership with an affiliate of US Bancorp Community Development Corp. According to Lee, all funds required to construct the projects have been secured.
The commission in its June 26 decision found that the project company is a public utility and that it owns “alternate energy production facilities” that comply with the limitations contained in Indiana code.