Solar energy will soon light up southwest Indiana 

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By Max Bomber

Duke Energy and the U.S. Navy will partner to make Indiana’s power supply more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Leaders from both organizations announced plans Wednesday for 70,000 solar panels to be built on a 145-acre plot of land at the southwest Indiana base, Naval Support Activity Crane. The panels will be maintained and operated by Duke Energy. The energy will be placed into its main power grid and provided to Duke’s southwest customers in an effort to keep costs down.

“It makes sense, based on what they are working towards from a renewable perspective and based on the work we do in renewables,” President of Duke Energy Indiana Melody Birmingham-Byrd said at the Statehouse during the announcement Wednesday. “It’s just a likely partnership.”

In the changing electric utility market, Birmingham-Byrd said it is necessary to have partnerships that focus on the trend of renewable resources. As a company, about 10 percent of the power Duke Energy produces comes from renewable resources and that number is expected to grow. However, Birmingham-Byrd said coal and gas fired plants will be a major provider for years to come because there are times when the renewable energy can be intermittent.

She said some preliminary work has been completed, but the construction on the solar panels will not begin until they receive regulatory approval. Once the solar panel field is up and running, it is expected to produce enough energy for about a thousand homes a day.

Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary of the Navy for Energy, Instillations and Environment, said he was excited as he looks toward the future.

“In that future is a future of exciting technology, exciting partnerships, exciting cultural change relating to energy that is manifested in this project,” said McGinn.

In exchange for the land, Duke will invest in the infrastructure of the naval base.

The goal is to have the panels running by the end of the year, according to Birmigham-Byrd. She said a similar project has already been completed at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Onslow County, North Carolina where Duke partnered to build 54,000 solar panels.

“This solar panel project is just one more example of all that can come from innovative partnerships between the public and the private sectors,” said Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Max Bomber is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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