Mike Grant, Times Herald, Sep 14, 2018
For years one of the key catch-phrases in the energy business has been all-of-the-above. Even in coal country in southwestern Indiana that has also become the attitude for power generators. Recently the administration of Donald Trump announced a new policy toward pollution generated by power plants. That policy, which leaves the decisions mostly up to state regulators, replaced one from the Obama Administration called the Clean Power Plan that put heavy regulations on the use of coal.
The Trump policy may slow down the number of coal-fired generating stations that are closed, but it most likely will not lead to any of the old ones reopening. At least two plants have been shut down in southwestern Indiana in recent years. Duke Energy closed the Wabash River Station near West Terre Haute. "It was an aging coal plant," said Lew Middleton with Duke Energy. "That decision was based on the EPA regulations at the time. It was going to require more pollution mitigation equipment and given the age of the plant and the length of time it would take to pay off that equipment the decision was made to close the plant."
Even with a change of regulations the Wabash River Plant is gone. "We are already dismantling the station," said Middleton. "I think it would take some incredibly extraordinary circumstances for that to re-open as a coal fired station."
Another plant to close down in the area was the Frank E. Ratts Station in Petersburg. The plant that opened in 1970 ran for 45 years before being shut down in 2015. "Given the regulatory requirements and the age of the plant at the time the company decided it had run its course and closed it down," said Claire Gregory with Hoosier Energy. "It has now been demolished and is a "greenfield."
Officials with both firms say they know of no plans to add any new coal-fired plants. Instead they are looking to use many different forms of energy to produce electricity. "We know environmental regulations are going to intensify," said Gregory. "Hoosier Energy is trying to strike a balance between energy sources that produce little pollution and those that are reliable."
"Our decisions on fuels are market driven, as much as they are by regulation," added Middleton. "Natural gas, given its price, has become very attractive. It also produces much less carbon dioxide."
Duke still uses coal in its power operations in Indiana. The Gibson Generating Station is one of the major energy producers for the state. The Edwardsport Power Plant can use either coal or gas.
Meanwhile, the Merom Generating Station is the final coal-fired plant in the Hoosier Energy portfolio. "We really are embracing the all-the-above approach," said Gregory. "We are using natural gas, landfill gas, and a lot of other sources."
That includes a solar farm just off I-69 in Greene County, which is one of 10 solar generating sites for Hoosier Energy in Southern Indiana. "We are very excited because we just signed an agreement to tap into a 200 megawatt solar array in eastern Indiana that will be the largest solar plant east of the Mississippi," said Gregory.
The agreement with EDP Renewables for the Riverstart Solar Park in Randolph County will give Hoosier Energy access to a power operation that is capable of using solar power to operate 37,000 homes.
At Duke the same attitude is becoming more prevalent. "We are going through a period of change," said Middleton. "We are adding natural gas, solar, wind, hydro and moving away from coal."
That move includes a newly opened solar operation just put in place in cooperation with the Navy. The Crane Solar Farm is a 17 megawatt operation that is now fully in service.