Solar Farm

Workers place panels Nov. 10, 2016, at a new solar park at the old Continental Steel site at the corner of Park and Markland avenues.

The Indiana Municipal Power Agency is set to build a new $19 million solar park near Peru that will supply more than 8% of the city’s electricity.

Jack Alvey, IMPA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the utility company has a land purchase agreement in place for 73 acres of farm ground along West Blair Pike Road near Blair Ridge Health Campus, just outside city limits.

He said IMPA will build around 40,000 solar modules on the property that will produce up to 12 megawatts of energy, which is enough to fully supply electricity to around 1,800 homes.

The power produced by the solar modules will be piped directly to Peru Utilities, which is a member of IMPA, and will be exclusively used within the city.

The project marks the second solar park the utility company has built in Peru.

The first one went on the grid in August 2015, producing 3 megawatts. That solar array contains 11,850 panels and is located on 30 acres of land at the end of Jackson Avenue, just outside city limits on the east side.

Alvey said once the new park is finished, around 10% of Peru’s electricity will come from solar power.

Construction on the solar array should begin sometime in late 2020 or early 2021, he said. Construction will take eight to 10 months and the park is expected to go on the grid in late 2021.

The Miami County Council is set to vote on a tax abatement on the project during this month’s meeting that would require IMPA to pay just 40% of its taxes for 10 years. Alvey said even with the abatement, the utility will still pay $657,000 over 10 years to the city.

The new solar array is part of a major push by IMPA to beef up its renewable energy portfolio.

Alvey said the utility provides wholesale electricity to 61 communities in Indiana and Ohio, and aims to build a solar park in each of those cities. The company also aims to have half of all its energy produced by renewable sources by 2030. Renewables make up just 6% of the company’s current energy output, he said.

“You can see where the trend in the industry and country has been moving toward renewable,” Alvey said. “We can’t really afford to wait to see what happens at the end. You can see today that more renewable energy is being built.”

He said the solar parks are also a way to ensure the utility stays in front on any new state or federal regulations that may require more clean energy from companies.

“There are more coal plants that are aging and closing, and those have to be replaced with something,” Alvey said. “On the political and legal side, it’s going to be harder to have fossil fuels as a huge part of a power supply.”

He said IMPA now has 21 solar parks online, including a 5.25 megawatt array in Tipton that went on the grid in July. Nine more parks are currently under construction in cities such as Anderson, Crawfordsville and Richmond, and eight other solar arrays are in the planning phase, including the one in Peru.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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