Indiana Michigan Power (I&M), an operating unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), broke ground July 24 on its first solar generation facility, which has a capacity of 2.5 MW (ac).
The facility will consist of about 10,000 solar panels on about 17 acres of ground just south of Marion, Indiana, adjacent to an I&M service center, said the utility in a July 24 statement. The 2.5-MW facility is expected to begin generating energy by the end of this year. The Deer Creek solar facility is the first to be owned and operated by I&M and its parent company, AEP. I&M contracted with an Indiana company, Inovateus Solar of South Bend, to design and build the facility. Construction is expected to begin within a few weeks.
“This is truly an historic day for I&M and for Marion,” said Paul Chodak III, President and Chief Operating Officer of Indiana Michigan Power. “Adding this clean, renewable energy further diversifies I&M’s generation portfolio, and it is an important step toward recognizing the increasing preferences of our customers, our company and our government for green energy.”
The Marion facility is one of four solar facilities that will generate up to about 15 MW for I&M by the end of 2016. Later this year, I&M expects to begin construction on a second facility in Mishawaka. Facilities are also planned west of South Bend and near Watervliet, Mich.
“Together, these facilities will provide I&M an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the design and construction of utility-scale solar projects,” Chodak said. “They will enable I&M to become proficient in operating solar generation and integrating it reliably into the energy delivery grid. This knowledge will be of use to I&M and its customers as we move toward adding utility-scale solar in the coming years.”
Inovateus Solar noted in its own July 27 statement that the project site is located next to the Deer Creek substation. The President of Inovateus Solar, T.J. Kanczuzewski, said: “Inovateus Solar is extremely happy to be working with I&M and AEP on this groundbreaking project for our region. We applaud I&M’s commitment to solar energy and we are dedicated to making this project a success for everyone involved.”
“The environmental offsets of the Deer Creek array are significant,” stated Senior Account Executive and Project Manager for Inovateus Solar, Nathan Vogel. “It’s equivalent to the energy of over 7,600 barrels of oil per year, 43 tankers of gasoline per year, or burning almost 18 rail cars of coal per year.”
Indiana Michigan Power is headquartered in Fort Wayne, and its 2,450 employees serve more than 589,000 customers. It operates 2,600 MW of coal-fired generation in Indiana, 2,160 MW of nuclear generation in Michigan and 22 MW of hydro generation in both states. The company also provides its customers 450 MW of purchased wind generation. Notable is that the 2,600 MW of coal capacity is solely at the Rockport plant in Indiana. The utility retired its Tanners Creek coal plant in Indiana earlier this year as part of a wave of AEP coal retirements caused by the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.