The Hoosier State is racing forward as a clean energy leader in the Midwest. Last month, officials announced Brooklyn-based solar firm Ranger Power plans to start construction on the 199 MW solar development in 2022.
The “Speedway Solar” project, named for the neighboring Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will be built on 1,200 acres in Shelby County. It’s set to come online in 2023, and the year-long construction should employ about 400 workers.
The $175 million price tag means Indiana’s ratepayers will gain just under 200 MW of solar capacity at well under $1 per watt, and the power generated from Speedway Solar project will be enough to provide electricity for roughly 35,000 homes in the area.
Although the solar farm is still a few years away, it has already secured a buyer for all the energy produced through 2057. Wabash Valley Power committed to purchasing 100 percent of the solar output at the end of last year. The Indianapolis-based power company acts as a wholesale electric supplier for 19 nonprofit electric co-operatives in Indiana.
“Opportunities like the Speedway project don’t come along every day,” said Lee Wilmes, executive vice president of risk and resource for Wabash Valley. “A 35-year, fixed price contract with no risk of fuel escalation is an impactful addition to our power supply mix and enables us to take one more step in reducing the carbon footprint of our total energy portfolio.”
There is currently 331 MW of solar capacity installed in Indiana. After Speedway Solar is up and running, the state’s capacity will be increased by 60 percent.
It will be a massive undertaking for Indiana, and the road toward approval has been a long one. Ranger Farm partnered with several local landowners in order to find the space for construction. Then, after Ranger Farm restructured their proposal, officials agreed to the terms of the project.
Ranger Farm has also pointed to the substantial economic benefit the project represents for the community. The $175 million investment and new jobs would undoubtedly bolster the local economy.
In December 2018, Ranger Farm conducted a phone survey in Shelby County to poll public opinion on the proposed solar development. The survey asked if voters supported landowner’s rights to use their property for the solar project in the area. Three quarters of the voters polled “agreed” with allowing landowners to lease their land, with 50 percent “strongly” supporting the proposal.
Indiana’s journey towards a clean energy leader shows increased state support for large-scale clean energy developments. As local and state energy players support the long-term benefits of clean energy sources, more of these grid-changing developments should be in store.