Duke completes 17 MW solar farm in Indiana for Navy (with additional charts)

Indiana’s solar industry continues to move along separate but parallel tracks.

On the one hand, rooftop solar installers in the state are still trying to sort the ramifications of a utility-backed bill passed earlier this year that slashes compensation for solar under net metering.

On the other hand, utility-scale projects – like Duke Energy’s new 17 MW solar power plant completed late last week at the Naval Support Activity (NSA) base in Crane, Indiana – continue unabated.

The Naval Support Activity base in Crane, Indiana, is now home to a 17 MW solar array, courtesy of Duke Energy.

Located 40 miles south of Bloomington, Duke’s new solar farm is comprised of 76,000 solar panels on 145 acres. Duke Energy built, and will own, operate and maintain the solar facility on NSA Crane.

To accommodate the new project and to compensate the base for use of its secure land, Duke will upgrade NSA Crane’s electrical infrastructure (adding a motor-operated disconnect switch, for example) and a microgrid feasibility study to see if such an arrangement could enhance base security in the future.

“The solar project at Naval Support Activity Crane will serve as a catalyst for future energy infrastructure projects for the Navy, as well as bringing greater energy management to our state, spurring innovation and growth,” said Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.

For Duke’s part, the plant represents another attempt to bring its customers more of the renewable energy they say they want.

“This solar power plant helps provide our customers with a more balanced energy mix using both traditional fuel sources and renewable energy sources,” said Melody Birmingham-Byrd, president of Duke Energy Indiana. “We are pleased to partner with the Navy on a project that will deliver clean energy to Indiana customers, and improved energy security for the Navy.”

The installation at Crane adds to the already impressive solar portfolio the Navy has assembled. According to the most recent data, the Navy has maintained a significant lead over the other branches of the Armed Services, with more than 55 MW installed by 2013.

The Navy, Army and Air Force have committed to aggressive renewable energy plans, as documented by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in 2013.*

2017-01-19 09_39_07-MightyText

As of SEIA’s report, the planned installations were expected to drive 3 GW of renewable energy installations by 2025 – part of a wider DOD mandate, title 10 USC 2911, that requires 25% of total facility energy consumption to come from renewable energy sources by 2025.

SEIA also showed solar energy’s growing role in powering military installations and military homes across the country. The report’s executive summary notes:

As of early 2013, there are more than 130 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems powering Navy, Army and Air Force bases in at least 31 states and the District of Columbia. Combined, these installations provide enough clean energy to power 22,000 American homes.

2017-01-19 09_38_37-Enlisting the Sun_ Powering the U.S. Military with Solar Energy 2013 _ SEIA and

* The numbers used in these graphics are from the 2013 report, the last available data.