Duke plans 145-acre solar farm at Crane base

 Duke Energy Corp. plans to build a solar energy farm covering 145 acres at southwestern Indiana's Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center.

The project's plans call for 76,000 solar panels, with groundbreaking set for this spring so that power generation can start by the end of 2016, The Herald-Times of Bloomington reported.

The company is seeking approvals from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. If granted, Duke Energy would own and operate the facility on land leased from the Navy. Energy generated by the facility would be available to Indiana customers and to the Crane base in a rural area southwest of Bloomington.

The facility would be Duke Energy's second solar energy project with the Navy. A solar facility was announced at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 2015 and is now operating. The Crane facility would be larger at 17 megawatts.

Crane commanding officer Cmdr. Timothy Craddock said that the Crane project exhibits the Navy's commitment to renewable energy.

"Likewise, it helps solidify Crane's longevity as a community partner, providing local and regional energy security through diversified energy sources," Craddock said.

Construction of the facility would take out the front nine holes of the base's Eagle View Golf Course. Base spokesman Jeff Nagan said the loss of the front nine is unfortunate and some golfers are upset, but that the course will stay open.

"The upkeep will continue, and the golf course will remain," he said. "I think that ultimately, that land was being underutilized and is suitable for this alternative energy project."

The golf course is mostly used by employees and visiting officials.

Duke Energy says it has also signed agreements to buy solar power at four Indiana locations. Two of those facilities in Vigo and Clay counties are now in service, and the two others are expected to be in service early this year, the company said.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is Indiana's largest electric utility with some 810,000 customers across the state.

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