By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff WriterPublished: September 23rd, 2015
At one megawatt, it’s not very large. But being on the side of a freeway helps a new Indiana co-op solar array make quite a statement.
“Interstate 70 brings about 40,000 vehicles through Henry County every day, traveling past the new solar farm,” said Ed Yanos, president of the Henry County Board of Commissioners. “The high visibility of the farm highlights Henry County’s and Hoosier Energy’s commitment to progress.”
The array is the first of 10 being built across Hoosier Energy’s service territory to supply electricity to the Bloomington, Ind.-based G&T’s 18 member distribution co-ops in central Indiana and southeastern Illinois.
“Renewable energy projects, including landfill gas to energy, solar and biomass resources, are part of the Hoosier Energy’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy portfolio strategy,” said Mary Lynn Beaver, the G&T’s communications specialist.
The 4,320 panels, mounted on racks secured to 720 posts, are spread across 10 acres, easily seen from Interstate 70. Among those traveling the east-west route between Dayton, Ohio, and Indianapolis are commuters served by three of Hoosier Energy’s distribution co-ops.
“This project will benefit the members of the REMCs and the communities of east-central Indiana,” said Shannon Thom, CEO of Henry County Rural Electric Membership Corp., headquartered in New Castle.
The array, south of New Castle, will also help reinforce the image of electric co-ops as knowledgeable sources of information on the technology, said Terry Jobe, CEO of Manilla-based RushShelby Energy. “It puts us in a better position to give advice to our member-consumers on the operational issues, costs and benefits of solar as a renewable energy resource.”
Hoosier Energy is working with its member co-ops to develop nine other arrays with a goal of completing the projects by mid-2017. The G&T plans to site the projects throughout its service territory, providing renewable power to its member co-ops locally.
“Where electricity comes from is as important as how it gets to homes and businesses,” said Mary Jo Thomas, CEO of Whitewater Valley REMC, headquartered in Liberty.
Dispersing the arrays will provide more co-ops with opportunities to add solar facilities maintenance to the skills of their operations staffs, said Thomas. “The more we learn, the better we can take advantage of this important resource.”