Solar powers C’ville future

Published on 9/18/2015


Crawfordsville Electric Light and Power’s new solar field is only beginning of a new generation of renewable energy for Crawfordsville and the Indiana Municipal Power Agency. CEL&P Plant Manager Phil Goode said solar will help the environment while keeping prices stable.

“We are going to be adding more solar energy over the next 10 years,” he said. “This is because we have found a price point that doesn’t affect the customer’s rates.”

CEL&P’s first solar field went online earlier this month, on Sept. 4, after three months of construction. Goode said Crawfordsville’s solar field is one of the largest in the IMPA network at three megawatts of output. He said most other IMPA fields are one megawatt or less, but Peru’s solar field is the same size.

There are IMPA funded and locally run solar fields all over the state in places like Richmond, Frankton, Peru, Tell City, Bainbridge and Argos.

“This solar energy goes to Crawfordsville, but it helps the entire energy portfolio we are doing in the state,” Goode said. “By the end of the year we are going to have 13 megawatts of solar.” 

Solar is the best renewable energy solution for Crawfordsville, according to Goode. He said when the sun is highest, so is the energy load.  The most energy demand comes in the afternoon and consequently the price per kilowatt hour is most expensive then.

“What we have discovered is that solar provides us with tremendous benefits,” he said. “We’ve got this behind the meter solar power that helps shave those peaks so we aren’t paying high prices at three o'clock in the afternoon.”

He said other renewable energy resources like wind energy are not as reliable or helpful for Crawfordsville. He said the main problem with wind is that it most windy at night, but not that many people are up and using power in the wee hours of the morning. So wind does not help with the peaks like solar can. 

Goode said the solar field is funded and owned by IMPA and it was constructed and will be monitored in house to keep costs down. Goode said CEL&P and IMPA are focused on solar because a solar field lasts for 40 years, requires little maintenance and is cheap, at less seven cents per kilowatt hour.

“We try to keep the rates as low as possible because we are a nonprofit and we focus on the customer,” he said. “We went into solar, finally, because we found a niche that we could do it without hurting our customer’s rates.”

He said money earned from the still pending CEL&P rate increase will not be paying for solar panels, since the money for the panels comes from IMPA. He said the IMPA just delivers the power to Crawfordsville, but CEL&P must enable the power to get to customers by upgrading and maintaining its substations. As reported from past Utility Service Board meetings, the money from the rate increase will go to capital improvement projects so CEL&P can keep the power flowing to customers. 

“The solar fields and the solar projects have nothing to do with our local rates, those are two separate issues,” he said. “What the rate increase is for is to make capital improvements in our local system, it will just affect CEL&P.”

CEL&P has several events coming up. The solar field will officially open with a ribbon cutting on Monday, Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. Goode said the time set at 2 p.m. because that is when the sun is most high and the panels will be in their peak performance. The event will feature food, drink and words from IMPA CEO Raj Rao and Mayor Todd Barton. 

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11610 North College Avenue
Carmel, Indiana 46032
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