Solar panel project planned

By Jacob Tellers

A solar panel field and energy storage system planned at Camp Atterbury will provide energy for Indiana customers while also serving as a backup system for the military base near Edinburgh.

Duke Energy is building a microgrid facility, which is a self-contained power system that has the ability to both create and store energy, a Duke Energy news release said.

The goal is to locate battery systems near places that could make the best use of the energy during a power outage, which is why Duke is working with the Indiana National Guard for the microgrid to be built on a military base, said Zak Kuznar, director of business development for Duke Energy.

The storage system, and another proposed in Clark County, would be the first two major ones that Duke Energy will have in Indiana, he said. Duke Energy has spent the past six years researching energy storage, and has now begun building these systems across the Midwest, Kuznar said.

The facility, on about 50 acres of land near the Camp Atterbury entrance between County Road 800S and Edinburgh Road, would include a solar panel field capable of generating 2 megawatts of power, which could power about 2,000 homes, and a battery system capable of storing 5 megawatt hours of power, the release said.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will need to approve the project, a process which could take as long as nine months, he said. Should the project be approved, construction of the microgrid would begin toward the end of 2018 and be complete in 2019, Kuznar said.

The energy generated and stored at the microgrid will be used to help power homes and businesses served by Duke Energy all over the state, just like energy generated by the company’s coal and natural gas power plants, Kuznar said.

The benefit of the battery storage systems is that they allow Duke Energy to better manage electric output and generation between periods of heavy and light usage, making the overall system more efficient, he said. Research and development of battery storage is an essential part of making renewable energy, such as solar, more viable, as solar power is only available for portions of the day, Kuznar said.

In the case of a power outage, the energy stored in the battery system will be used solely by Camp Atterbury, he said.

“Camp Atterbury, the Indiana National Guard and Duke Energy have worked together on several mutually beneficial projects over the years,” Col. John Silva, Camp Atterbury’s commanding officer, said in a news release. “This proposed project will increase our strategic value and give us the ability to continue our mission-critical operations in the unlikely event of a large grid outage.”

The cost of the project hasn’t been finalized yet, but will be in the next several weeks, Kuznar said. The Indiana National Guard will be leasing the land to Duke Energy in exchange for getting the backup electricity.