Indiana Has Record Solar Installation Year in 2018

By Rebecca Thiele

Posted January 2019

(IPB News file)

Indiana installed the most megawatts of solar in the state’s history last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. 

Though the numbers for last year are still rolling in, Indiana is projected to have installed more than 140 megawatts — mostly as a result of large, utility-scale projects.

SEIA’s Vice President of State Affairs Sean Gallagher says Indiana is likely to see more of these big projects. Ranger Power and Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative have both proposed roughly 200 megawatt solar farms.

Gallagher says the price of solar in the U.S. has dropped by about 70 percent over the last six years — making it more attractive to conservative states like Indiana.

California is the leader in solar by far and has been for a long time, but the number two and three states are I believe Arizona and North Carolina,” he says.

Laura Ann Arnold is the president of the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance. She says solar is becoming more affordable for Indiana utilities like NIPSCO — which recently announced plans to retire its coal plants and become mostly wind and solar powered.

“Let the marketplace tell us what is the least cost and most affordable option for our customers," Arnold says.

Indiana also saw an increase in non-residential solar — like panels on local government and school buildings.

Residential solar didn’t change much in 2018. Arnold says that’s likely because few Hoosiers know they can install solar panels before July 2022 and still get the retail rate for net metering.

Indiana has installed more megawatts of solar than its neighboring states.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change

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Indoor farm will tap solar microgrid to keep plants growing year round

Indoor farm will tap solar microgrid to keep plants growing year round

Written By Bill Opalka By U.S. Department of Agriculture Creative Commons

Bowery Farming’s New Jersey factory will include energy storage, solar panels, and on-site gas generation.

A solar-powered microgrid will soon help an urban agriculture startup grow vegetable greens inside a converted New Jersey warehouse.

Bowery Farming’s Kearny, New Jersey, facility will grow lettuce, kale and up to 100 varieties of plants, all indoors in a carefully controlled climate backed up by batteries, solar panels, on-site gas generators and technology that allows it to operate independently from the electric grid in the event of an outage or other disruptions.

“It’s really a manufacturing center with a high cost of energy in a very controlled environment,” said Don Wingate, vice president for utility and microgrid solutions with Schneider Electric, a Chicago-based company providing much of the infrastructure, controls and software for the high-tech food factory.

The microgrid will be built, owned and operated by Scale Microgrid Solutions, whose CEO Ryan Goodman said the platform is similar to what is offered in its standardized product, but it’s a first for this type of use.

“I believe no one has ever done microgrids in the indoor agricultural space like we’re doing here,” Goodman said. “There are some differences, but primarily they’re related to the load profile and how we’re using the assets.”

Microgrids are becoming increasingly popular to support uninterrupted operation of critical infrastructure like emergency and public safety buildings, hospitals, and sites that need a guaranteed power supply like data centers. In an agricultural setting, especially in the Northeast with hot summers and colder winters with shorter days, a stable, climate-controlled environment is required for plants that thrive in moderate temperatures.

The farm will run on grid power for part of its needs. Solar will provide about 15 percent of the energy required. The natural gas generator and batteries will provide the rest.

“Our assets can do a bunch of things, but in this case our natural gas product and the battery help primarily to manage peak loads,” Goodman said.

‘I believe no one has ever done microgrids in the indoor agricultural space like we’re doing here.’

The load profile is advantageous, as solar energy production peaks as overall grid demand rises and energy costs increase. Power stored in the on-site batteries could then be released to lower demand from the grid.

Goodman said the system will use the three assets in an optimal way, based on the load profile and the value proposition presented by opportunities for peak shaving and demand response.

“Generically, a solution like this would provide a 20 or 30 percent savings in energy consumption from the normal cost structure of a similar facility,” Goodman said.

Technically, the Scale system is capable of dispatching power back to the grid, but there are no plans to do that now.

The system includes Schneider Electric’s lithium-ion battery energy storage system interconnected in a behind-the-meter configuration.

“This new industry of indoor agriculture is really meaningful to society and us being able to partner in a project like this, to make repeatable solutions to make energy use much more efficient and more affordable, makes this much more exciting,” Wingate said. Schneider says it has a stable of more than 300 microgrid projects in the U.S.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Microgrid Advisor is a cloud-connected, demand-side energy management software platform that will be integrated to optimize the system’s performance. Its top layer includes cloud-connected demand side energy software that looks at current electric rate tariffs as part of its process to optimize energy use and make informed suggestions to the system. That advanced microgrid solution operates seamlessly and faster than any human being could to intervene.

The infrastructure can be built to scale and added to as necessary, Wingate said.

“As microgrids have become more cost-efficient and simpler, it’s more affordable to phase in additional pieces without having to re-engineer the entire system from the beginning,” he added.

Bowery said the indoor farm will be in production all year in a hydroponic system that uses 95 percent less water than plants grown by traditional methods out of doors. It claims crop cycles are twice as fast as traditional farming and its land footprint is 100 times less than outdoor agriculture.

The company hopes to expand to other metropolitan regions so crops can be delivered promptly to its markets. Bowery would not say how many new farms it plans or their locations.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to provide consumers with access to local, high-quality produce and drive a more sustainable future,” said Brian Donato, senior vice president for operations at Bowery Farming.

Commissioning of the Bowery microgrid project is scheduled for the first quarter of 2019.

Solar Cheaper Than Coal

Even in Indiana, new renewables are cheaper than existing coal plants

Author

Gavin Bade @GavinBade

Updated

Oct. 25 2018, 3:24 p.m. EDT

Published

Oct. 22, 2018

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Dive Brief:

  • Building renewable energy resources in Indiana is cheaper than keeping existing coal plants open, according to new plans from one utility in the state.

  • Last week, Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO) presented analysis for its 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), finding it can save customers more than $4 billion over 30 years by moving from 65% coal today to 15% coal in 2023 and eliminating the resource by 2028.

  • To replace retiring coal, NIPSCO found that a portfolio of solar, storage, wind and demand management is the most cost effective, along with a small amount of market purchases from the Midcontinent ISO. The utility will file its IRP on Oct. 31.

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Dive Insight:

NIPSCO's upcoming IRP is more evidence that coal generation is steadily declining in the U.S. despite efforts from the Trump administration to save it.

In Indiana, as elsewhere, the issue is economics. The youngest generating units at NIPSCO's 1900 MW Schahfer plant were built in the mid 1980s, and the utility's analysis found that keeping them on the system would be more expensive than replacing them with new wind, solar and batteries.

NIPSCO's current preferred resource plan — Scenario 6 below — would see it retire all four units of the Schahfer plant in 2023 and the last coal unit at its Michigan City plant in 2028.

Credit: NIPSCO presentation

Eliminating coal from its portfolio would actually be the cheapest option, NIPSCO reported. Taking all the Schahfer and Michigan City units offline by 2023 — Scenario 8 above — was the lowest cost resource plan, but it presented "unacceptable" reliability risks to the utility.

Coal's inability to compete persisted even when NIPSCO modeled scenarios friendly to the resource. At the request of the Indiana Coal Council, a trade group, the utility analyzed a situation with high natural gas prices, no price on carbon, and a flat fee for delivered coal.

In that scenario, retiring coal faster was still cheaper than keeping it around, and the least cost plan was still more expensive to consumers than NIPSCO's preferred scenario.

Credit: NIPSCO presentation

To replace the retiring coal, NIPSCO plans to propose a mix of 1,500 MW of solar and storage, 150 MW of wind, 125 MW of efficiency and demand-side management and 50 MW of market purchases by 2028, shown in Scenario F below. The plans are based on renewable energy prices NIPSCO received in response to a request for proposals (RFP) earlier this year.

Credit: NIPSCO presentation

Adding those renewables was also cheaper than building natural gas plants or converting coal facilities to gas, NIPSCO found.

"Across all scenarios, converting both Unit 17 and 18 [of Schahfer] would cost NIPSCO customers between $540 [million] to $1.04 [billion] more than retirement and replacement with economically optimized resource selections from the RFP results," the utility reported.

NIPSCO's upcoming IRP represents an acceleration in its move away from coal and toward renewables. In 2016, the utility announced it would retire two units at the Schahfer plant by 2023, but planned to keep the other units open years into the future.

The utility's plan would also significantly reduce its carbon emissions. The Schahfer plant emitted more than 8.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide in 2014, making it one of the nation's worst polluters, but NIPSCO says its replacement plan would reduce the utility's total emissions to less than 1 million pounds annually.

The utility will submit its IRP to Indiana regulators at the end of the month. State regulators do not issue comments or approve the final IRP, but the plan will be subject to public comment.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that Indiana regulators do not approve IRP plans in the state.