Originally projected for completion last December, now slated to be finished at the end of this year
In August 2015, a solar farm, slated for construction at the former Continental Steel site, was projected for a completion date of December that same year. With the deadline passed, developer Inovateus Solar is projecting that the solar farm will be completed December of this year.
“Duke approved an extension to the commercial operation of the project, and we expect to be online at the end of this year,” said Inovateus Senior Account Executive Austin Williams. “Anyone familiar with construction realizes that it is best to be thorough in the development phase. This project is a first in many categories, and we recognized last year the need to reevaluate our timeline.”
Among the firsts for the project is its construction on a superfund site. Per the Environmental Protection Agency, from 1914 to 1986 Continental Steel once used the location to manufacture nails, wire, and wire fencing from scrap metal. Hazardous chemicals were used in the process.
According to the EPA, Continental Steel’s operations involved reheating, casting, rolling, drawing, pickling, galvanizing, tinning, and tempering metals. As a result the area’s soil, sediments, surface water, and groundwater were contaminated with volatile organic compounds, metals including lead, and polychlorinated biphenyls.
Cleanup efforts for the manufacturer’s former location were completed in 2011, after the EPA received almost $6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to decontaminate the area.
Because of the site’s nature, care must be taken to not disturb the area’s soil during construction, which according to prior reporting is the reason the solar farm is possible in the area. By its nature, a solar farm’s installation wouldn’t impact the area’s soil. The planned project is not expected to remove the 18-inch soil cap that currently prevents exposure to contamination from the side. Also, the planned construction isn’t anticipated to require digging, grading, or the use of cement footers.
According to Williams, the site’s plans remain unchanged from the plans presented in 2015.
“We are still planning on installing the approximately 21,000 panels for this system, which should produce enough energy for 1,000 homes,” said Williams.
The final regulatory roadblock for the project was approval from the Indiana Regulatory Commission (IURC); however, it was reported in August the approval had been obtained.
The entire project is the result of the collaboration between multiple entities. The city of Kokomo leased the land to Inovateus Solar in the beginning of 2015, and in addition to collecting leasing fees also requires the solar company to maintain the site’s grounds.
The expected five megawatts of power that will be produced annually will be sold to Duke Energy as part of a purchase power agreement. The energy produced at the solar farm will be directed into Duke Energy’s grid and is intended to reduce the amount of energy produced by burning fossil fuels. In 2013, a legal settlement regarding Duke’s Edwardsport coal gasification power plant air permits lead to an agreement to investment in renewable energy.
The agreement between Duke Energy and Inovateus Solar involves costs that will be recovered via customer rates. Customers of Duke Energy will be given an opportunity to participate in the company’s “Go Green” tariff, which allows them to purchase renewable energy credits.