By Clay Winowiecki - firstname.lastname@example.org
Gas City — A purchase agreement is being finalized to bring a solar park to the city.
The 17-acre, 2.5 megawatt, solar park will potentially power more than 200 homes in Gas City, according to Dick Justice, the Electric Department superintendent. The solar park is being developed by the Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA).
“(IMPA) has entered a purchase agreement with the owner of the property, which is contingent on all the details being worked out,” Justice said.
The purchase agreement is expected to be completed by the middle of the month, with construction starting as early as May. The property being purchased is on Ind. 22, near the Indiana Department of Transportation building.
While Justice does not know the full cost of building the park, IMPA will be paying for all of the construction and maintenance. Gas City residents, however, will reap the rewards.
According to Justice, customer’s energy bills are not going to be impacted in a negative way.
During peak power usage, the park will be able to help prevent against rate increases.
“What we’re trying to do is hedge against rising utility rates,” Justice said. “For us this is a more economical way to produce energy (compared to coal fired plants).”
According to Justice, a concern among Gas City residents is how much this will cost taxpayers.
“The city is not taking on any financial liability,” he said.
Once the solar park is completed, potentially as early as February 2020, the company will then sell the power to Gas City.
According to Justice, the park will help Gas City prepare for the future.
“If we invest in renewables, we help ward ourselves off from future impacts,” Justice said. “If in the next (federal) administration we’re going to have to drop off all coal fire units (because) we can’t containmate the atmosphere anymore what happens then? Do we start having brownouts? We wouldn’t have anything to back us up. With solar we have a chance of maintaining some sort of civility.”
Justice said while he knows there are a lot of residents skeptical about the park, he expects it to have a positive impact on the city.
“We’re very fortunate to be in a long-term contract with a power provider that is solely invested in trying to maintain rates, stability, and reliability,” he added.
According to Mayor Larry Leach, the solar park is fantastic for the city.
“IMPA is footing the bill,” Leach said. “It won’t cost the city a dime to put this in.”
According to Leach, it’s going to be a peak type plant, so when the electricity is made, it won’t go out on the grid for resale, but will stay right in Gas City.
The park will help alleviate issues when it comes to high energy demands during heavy cooling and heating months too.
“I’m proud of our Electric (Department) in Gas City,” Leach added. “During the last go around we had no outages in the city.”
According to IMPA’s website, the energy company has developed 20 solar parks throughout Indiana, including Peru, Greenfield and Richmond. The company aims to eventually have 61, Justice said, one for each area it covers.
Across the country renewable energy is on the rise.
According to Fortune Magazine, 18 percent of all electricity in the United States was produced from renewable energy sources in 2017. This is a three percent increase from the previous year, thanks to solar and wind projects.
Part of this is because it’s become much cheaper to harness renewable energy.
According to a 2017 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, electricity from renewables will soon be consistently cheaper than most fossil fuels.