Consumer advocates reached an agreement with Vectren to make the company’s proposed solar farm more affordable for its customers. The company wants to build a $76 million solar array in Spencer County that would power about 12,000 homes.
Director of Corporate Communications Natalie Hedde says it will also be able to follow the sun as it moves throughout the day.
“The latest and greatest in terms of solar technology and we’re excited to get the project underway,” she says.
Originally the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor recommended the state deny the project saying the cost would outweigh the benefit to consumers. But in this week’s agreement, Vectren has lowered the rate structure, made more use of tax incentives, and spread the costs out over 35 years.
In a press release, the OUCC said the new plan addresses its concerns:
"The agreement would also offer protection from potential increases in construction, operating, and maintenance costs, capping the capital costs Vectren can recover through future rates. In addition, Vectren would seek the OUCC’s agreement before selling any renewable energy credits on the wholesale market, and would then pass the benefits through to customers through rate credits."
The Citizens Action Coalition is in support of the solar farm. But its executive director, Kerwin Olson, says the group agreed with some of the OUCC’s criticisms and is glad to see Vectren made a change.
“Any relief that we can bring customers with respect to paying for these large investments from utility companies is a good thing,” he says.
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission still has to approve the project. Vectren’s coal supplier Alliance Coal LLC worries the solar farm would impact it’s business and did not agree to the settlement.
Vectren hopes to complete the solar farm by the fall of 2020.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.