Indiana’s second-largest utility has its first solar installations

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Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), the second-largest electrical utility in Indiana, serving roughly 400,000 people, now has its first solar installations.

The three projects were developed in collaboration with Inovateus Solar and total just over 420 kilowatts.

The largest of the three installations is a 120 kWac array with 432 solar panels, installed at NIPSCO’s Merrillville headquarters. The other two projects were also installed at NIPSCO locations: a 100 kWac system with 360 panels installed at the company’s LaPorte local operating office and a similarly-sized system at the Valparaiso local operating office.

What’s more is that all three projects were “zero waste” installations — as Inovateus collected all packaging, metal and plastic bands, wooden pallets and any other waste from the installations and transported the materials to regional recycling centers.

While 420 kW in 2020 may seem like a humble start for a utility that serves approximately 476,000 electric customers, NIPSCO has one of the largest renewable pipelines over the next three years of any utility known to pv magazine.

In fall 2018, the company announced plans to close the majority of its coal facilities by 2023, with the remaining facilities on the way out by 2028. The utility also committed to replacing the plants with solar, solar-plus-wind, wind, demand-side response and the spot market. By doing so, NIPSCO plans to save customers $4.3 billion.

To meet this new and drastic demand, the company issued three large requests for proposals (RFP): one seeking 2.3 GW of solar plants coupled with energy storage, a second for 300 MW of wind power and a third for thermal/other resources. The results of these RFPs came out in late February.

That 2.3 GW in the RFP is more than five times the amount of solar that has been installed in the state thus far (428 MW). SEIA estimates that 2,300 MW is enough capacity to meet the total electricity needs of more than 400,000 customers.

Over the next five years, SEIA projects the state to add 1,628 MW of solar, good for 38th in the nation during that time. This figure, however, doesn’t take into account the results of the solar RFP.