Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2015

By: KEVIN L. GREEN, Courier-Times Newspaper

Solar Farm dedication

Solar Farm dedication

Officials from Hoosier Energy, Henry County REMC, RushShelby Energy and Whitewater Valley Rural Electric Membership Corporation are pictured cutting the ribbon as part of the dedication ceremony for a new solar farm just south of Henry County Road 500 South, near the intersection of Interstate 70 and Indiana 3.

Local elected officials and representatives from three electric cooperatives dedicated a new solar farm Wednesday near the intersection of Interstate 70 and Ind. 3.

Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc. in conjunction with Henry County REMC, RushShelby Energy and Whitewater Valley Rural Electric Membership Corporation invested approximately $2.7 million to place the high-tech solar energy conversion system on 11 acres in Franklin Township, Henry County.

“Interstate 70 brings about 40,000 vehicles through Henry County every day, traveling past the new solar farm. The high visibility of the farm highlights Henry County’s and Hoosier Energy’s commitment to progress,” Henry County Commissioner Ed Yanos said prior to a ribbon cutting that officially dedicated the opening of the solar array.

The solar farm will not only produce electricity, it will also act as a working learning lab for the energy company.

“Such an opportunity 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,” Terry Jobe, CEO of RushShelby Energy, said.

“We are used to bringing power to our members through transmission and distribution lines,” Shannon Thom, CEO of Henry County REMC, said. “Bringing this solar generation directly into the communities we serve is a bit different for us. This project will benefit the members of the REMCs and the communities of east-central Indiana.”

Indiana Representative Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) from District 54 was among the elected officials on hand and shared his thoughts about the significance of the solar farm.

“I think this is a good thing for Henry County. Indiana doesn’t have a very good track record as far as pollution goes and this is a green way to produce energy. We’re on the forefront of that with this facility and I’m very proud of this community and thankful for Hoosier Energy’s investment,” Saunders said.

“I think this is a tremendous opportunity. Obviously, power is changing and this represents very progressive thinking. … I think it will be a benefit to area residents and to the economic development of Henry County,” Henry County Council member Clay Morgan said.

“We’re thankful to Hoosier Energy and REMC for investing here and we’re happy to be the first to have a facility like this in their service territory,” New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Corey Murphy said.

The project is part of 10 solar farms Hoosier Energy plans to build throughout the state, although the solar array in Henry County is the first the company plans to build in Indiana.

Henry County’s solar farm is comprised of 4,320 solar panels, each producing 300 watts of electricity. Hoosier Energy estimates the solar farm will generate enough electricity to power 150 homes per year.

While local officials were dedicating Henry County’s new solar farm, the renewable energy source was also being touted at the White House. A news release received by The C-T states that President Obama and Vice President Biden are committed to promoting smart, simple, low-cost technologies to help America transition to cleaner and more distributed energy sources, help households save on their energy bills, and to address climate change. That is why the Administration is announcing more than $120 million to scale up clean energy in 15 states across the country.

Those efforts include the Department of Energy’s SunShot program, which is awarding $32 million for 14 projects to advance all technical systems of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants, including solar collectors, receivers and heat transfer fluids, thermal energy storage, power cycles, and operations and maintenance. These research and development projects will improve the performance and increase the efficiency of every component within a CSP plant to lower the cost of CSP electricity, including at night when these systems continue to deliver electricity through energy storage. Purdue University is among the recipients of these funds.

Benefits of the solar farm

1) Sunshine is abundant.

2) Builds on community partnerships.

3) Balances consumer desire for solar energy with the opportunity to learn how this resource can power homes, farms and businesses.

4) Creates a “learning laboratory” for co-ops to share their experience with member consumers, other co-ops and the industry.

5) Balances the need for affordable electricity through an “all of the above” fuel portfolio.

— Source, Hoosier Energy