Three of the facilities will be in the Michiana area, including two in St. Joseph County and one near Watervliet, Mich. A fourth will be in Marion, Indiana, and a fifth location has not yet been determined.
"Our Clean Energy Solar Pilot Project is a significant step forward for Indiana Michigan Power," said Paul Chodak III, I&M's president and chief operating officer. "This historic utility-scale solar project will further diversify I&M's generation sources, creating flexibility to economically and reliably provide energy under a multitude of potential circumstances."
"Most importantly, I&M will own and operate these facilities and gain firsthand experience in the design and construction of utility-scale solar projects as well as integrating solar energy reliably into the grid," Chodak added. "This knowledge will be of great value to I&M and its customers as I&M moves toward adding more solar resources in coming years."
"It is important for I&M to lead this change toward solar energy in a logical, progressive and disciplined manner," Chodak said.
Approval of I&M's Clean Energy Solar Pilot Project plans comes at a time when solar technology is becoming increasingly efficient. The costs of solar resources are declining, and utility-scale solar is more cost-effective than rooftop systems. The addition of zero-carbon solar also meets the increasing interest of customers who want to use more renewable energy to meet their needs.
The four facilities where locations are final will be on property owned by I&M near existing and future I&M substations, which helps minimize the cost of delivering the energy to the transmission grid.
The estimated cost of the project is $38 million. The overall impact on customer rates is expected to be about three-tenths of one percent, but the specific effect on individual rate classes such as residential or commercial will be determined once the actual costs are known.
I&M will also offer customers the opportunity to increase the amount of solar energy attributable to their energy consumption by subscribing to Solar Renewable Energy Certificates related to the new solar facilities. The revenues from subscribers to the certificates will go directly toward offsetting the cost of the solar project.