Indiana regulators have approved a deal by AES Indiana to build a massive solar farm in Clinton County that could provide enough electricity to power more than 30,000 homes.
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved the project, which will stretch across nearly 1,800 acres in Union and Owen townships, according to plans. It will include 581,594 solar panels and generate 195 megawatts of electricity, making it one of the largest solar farms in the state.
The project, called Hardy Hills, is the latest big move into solar power by an Indiana utility. In recent years, utilities have begun developing thousands of acres of farmland for massive solar farms as they shift away from coal-fired plants and into renewable and other cleaner forms of energy.
In all, at least 15 Indiana solar farms of 1,000 acres or more are slated to go online by 2024, with several more in various stages of development.
AES Indiana, formerly known as Indianapolis Power & Light Co., said it will pass along costs of the project to customers “through timely cost recovery” in existing riders and future rates set in its next base rate case before Indiana regulators.
It said residential customers will see a “slight increase” in rates but did not give details. It added that in the long run, solar investments could mean savings because solar power does not require fuel.
AES Indiana said the move is the next step in its transformation to deliver “greener, smarter energy solutions.” The utility said in 2019 it would retire two of the four coal-burning units at its massive Petersburg Generating Station by 2023.
It has also stopped using coal at two other plants—Harding Street in Indianapolis and Eagle Valley in Martinsville.
“The Hardy Hills solar project is an example of how AES Indiana’s investments in new technologies can help our customers achieve their most important objectives, including reliability, affordability and sustainability,” Kristina Lund, president and CEO of AES Indiana, said in written statement.
Under the deal, AES Indiana is buying the project, about 50 miles northwest of Indianapolis, from Chicago-based Invenergy for an undisclosed price. Invenergy will develop the project and manage construction.
The utility said construction is expected to begin this fall and reach commercial operation in 2023.
AES Indiana provides electricity to more than 500,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in central Indiana.