When state officials flipped the switch on a 12.5-megawatt solar array at the Indianapolis International Airport on Oct. 18, it became the largest operating airport solar farm in the country.
The project has been generating press for the airport and the city for more than a year and is now finally generating electricity.
The 44,000 solar panels are expected to produce enough energy to power 1,800 average homes.
General Energy Solutions, Telamon Corporation, Johnson Melloh Solutions, the Indianapolis International Airport Authority and Indianapolis Power and Light Company worked together to build the solar farm.
The array is visible to drivers passing the airport, as well as visitors and residents flying into the facility, which is drawing a lot of attention to Indianapolis’ new green initiatives, Mayor Greg Ballard said at the Solar Commissioning Ceremony last week.
“This project sends a powerful message to business leaders and visitors that Indy is forward looking and innovative,” Ballard stated. “When you couple this solar farm with our electric car share program, world renowned bike amenities and SustainIndy improvements, you can clearly see that Indianapolis is taking a national leadership role in promoting alternative energy technology.”
The total cost of the project fell somewhere between $35 and $40 million. The array sits on 75 acres of airport property and is privately owned. The airport expects to collect more than $315,000 of land rent per year. Even more impressive is the fact that developers have already expressed interest in doubling the solar farm’s size in coming years.
Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL) encouraged large-scale commercial solar developments like this one by offering a feed-in-tariff in 2011 when the project was first announced. A feed-in-tariff is a tool that was used to jumpstart the solar industry in Europe.
IPL will pay 20 cents per kilowatt-hour for the solar electricity for at least 10 years before reevaluating the rate. That’s about twice the retail rate of the power and more than three times what it costs IPL to buy or generate electricity from other sources.
But the utility offered the incentive to encourage solar development and investment in a Midwestern state where solar was still in its infancy.
While a good source of clean, renewable energy, state officials reiterated at the commissioning ceremony that the airport solar farm isn’t just about the energy it will produce, but also about the symbolic advancement of the state toward a brighter economic future.
“As a state that works for innovation, Indiana is charting new territory in technology and creating endless possibilities for the future,” added Victor Smith, Indiana Secretary of Commerce. “Companies across the globe select Indiana because Hoosiers aren’t afraid to reach for new heights, like building North America’s largest airport-based solar farm. When flying into Indiana, remember to keep an eye out for the next Hoosier success story.”