St. Joseph County commences $7 million solar farm project

Monday marked the ceremonial start of a $7 million solar farm project in eastern St. Joseph County.

Right now, Indiana Michigan power does not use solar panels to produce any of its electricity.

That's about to change.

The St. Joseph County solar farm, on a 20 acre site just north of the AM General plant, is one of three such farms the utility plans to build in its service territory.

When completed, the St. Joe County facility will have nearly 29,000 solar panels and a capacity of 2.6 megawatts; enough to power 350 homes.

“It’s not going to have the same energy intensity that, say, Arizona might, but that doesn't mean it’s not cost effective,” said Indiana Michigan Power CEO Paul Chodak III. “We think there's absolutely a niche for solar.

“It’s cost competitive. We're taking advantage of the fact that there's a federal program now for investment tax credit that expires at the end of 2016. We'll get these panels installed, be able to give access to our customers.

“We also anticipate the cost of solar to continue to come down so that in the future we'd expect to be able to build more of these facilities.”

The single largest source of power production for I&M is still coal, but with its nuclear facility in Bridgman, along with wind and hydro, over 50 percent of its generation is already emission free.

The other local solar farms will be located near Watervliet with another near New Carlisle.