Solar power from Duke Energy to help power new Kokomo battery plant

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In the latest sign that American manufacturers are pushing utilities to provide clean energy, automaker Stellantis NV said Tuesday that its new, $2.5 billion electric-vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Kokomo will be powered in part with solar energy provided by Duke Energy Indiana.

“I want to give a shout-out to Duke Energy today as well,” Mark Stewart, the automaker’s chief operating officer, said Tuesday in announcing the battery plant at news conference in Kokomo. “I just learned in the last couple weeks, 800 acres of solar to help power the new plant.”

Stewart did not say where the 800 acres of solar power would be located or reveal other details of the agreement. The automaker is building the battery plant in a joint venture with renewable battery company Samsung SDI.

It was unclear how much of the plant’s electricity would come from solar power or whether Duke Energy planned to build or contract with a brand-new farm.

Stellantis has set aggressive carbon-reduction proposals as part of its “Dare Forward 2030” fight against climate change. In March, the automaker committed to reach carbon net-zero emissions by 2038, with a 50% reduction by 2030.

Achieving net-zero emissions means that some greenhouse gases are still released, but they are offset by removing an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Stellantis officials said after the ceremony that the energy requirement was a critical part of the agreement to locate the operation in Indiana, although they did not get into details.

“From the Stellantis and Samsung side, that was a huge part of the deal,” said Niall Olling, manager of state relations at the automaker’s North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Duke Energy Indiana officials said they are committed to working with Stellantis on finding renewable energy to serve a portion of the company’s electricity needs. They said they were still determining where the solar farm would be located or how big it would be.

“In order to help the joint venture meet their sustainability goals, we’re going to procure solar to cover their energy needs,” Erin Schneider, the utility’s economic development director, told IBJ. “I think we’re still kind of exploring what exactly that’s going to look like, as far as where and how much.”

She added: “I think 800 [acres] is probably in the ballpark, but we still need to do a little bit more analysis there.”

Stan Pinegar, president of the Plainfield-based utility, said the solar operation likely would be built somewhere else, not near the battery factory. “We’re not going to build it right next door and serve the plant directly,” he said.

Kevin Neal, business development manager for Duke Energy said some of the power from the solar generation could go on the electric grid and be used by other customers as well, as directed by Carmel-based Midcontinent Independent System Operator, better known as MISO, the organization responsible for managing the power grid across Indiana, 14 other states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

“The way I describe it, we’re going to have renewable solar generation we will put somewhere in Indiana,” Neal said. “And those resources will be dedicated to serving this Stellantis facility, and we’ll move it across the energy market, the MISO market.”

The utility, a unit of North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp., currently has four solar farms in Indiana totaling about 22 megawatts, in Loogootee, Bloomington, West Lafayette and Edinburgh.

Last year, the utility told state regulators that over the next two decades, it hopes to add 4,525 megawatts of solar power and 2,800 megawatts of wind energy, although it did not provide details for where they would be located.

Stellantis, based in Amsterdam, is a company formed in 2021 by the merger of Italian-American conglomerate Fiat Chrysler and French automaker PSA Peugeot. The company makes 14 brands of cars and trucks, including Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Fiat, Peugeot and Alfa Romeo.

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