AEP utility brings online 4-MW solar facility in Michigan

The 4-MW-plus Watervliet Solar Power plant is now generating energy for Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) customers, becoming the fourth solar plant to go online in the past year for the American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) utility.

The solar plant, just east of Watervliet, Michigan, has more than 50,000 solar panels that generate up to 4.6 MW of electricity, enough to power 650 homes annually. Combined with the three solar plants already online, I&M’s four plants have the capacity to generate nearly 15 MW – enough to power more than 2,000 homes annually.

Indiana Michigan Power outlined its solar development plans to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) in a filing made in early 2015.

The plants were built as part of an I&M pilot project to add company-owned-and-operated solar plants to its diverse generation mix, the utility, which operates the Cook nuclear plant, said in a Nov. 10 news release.

In addition to generating renewable green energy for customers, the four plants offer I&M the opportunity to evaluate the performance of different types of panels located in different geographic areas of its service territory. I&M is partnering with Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to measure the solar plants’ performance as well as studying how the power is connected to the electric grid. I&M will use the information as it expands its solar generation in the future.

“I&M is dedicated to serving customers in the ways they want to be served, and many customers have told us they want more renewable energy,” said Paul Chodak III, I&M President and COO. “Solar power is good for our customers, it’s good for our company and it’s good for the environment.”

“The addition of these solar plants comes as I&M advances in its transition toward less use of coal,” Chodak added. “In fact, even before these plants came online, I&Ms’ generation last year was 60-percent emission-free.”

I&M’s first solar plant – Deer Creek, just south of Marion, Indiana– went online late last year. Two South Bend-area plants – Olive, just east of New Carlisle, and Twin Branch, just outside of Mishawaka – went online this past summer.

In addition to the solar power plants, I&M buys power from three Indiana wind projects. I&M expects to continue adding more large-scale solar power plants and wind energy in the future. System-wide AEP plans to spend $1bn on renewable energy generation over the next three years.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.