Indiana Continues Upward Trend in Solar Energy

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In all, the company is planning 10 solar farms. In all, the company is planning 10 solar farms.

Indiana is holding steady and trending upward in several categories in terms of solar energy generation. A report released this week by a global solar promotion group finds that jobs in Indiana’s solar industry increased by 72 percent in 2016 over 2015.

The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit solar research and advocacy group based in Washington DC, released its annual National Solar Jobs Census this week, including information that Indiana increased the number of solar-related jobs from 1,567 in 2015 to 2,700 in 2016. According to the foundation’s survey, that ranks Indiana 30th in the nation in solar jobs per capita.

Indiana ranks in the middle of the pack in several areas. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) numbers show Indiana is up to 22nd in the cumulative solar rankings through 2016 and ranks 24th in 2016.

“Indiana is a small solar market, but it’s growing,” says SEIA Vice President of State Affairs Sean Gallagher. “There are 2,700 solar jobs in Indiana, there are nearly 100 companies and there were several hundred million dollars in investment in Indiana in 2016 alone.”

GRAPHIC CREDIT: Solar Energy Industries Association

Indiana’s director of the Office of Energy Development says Indianapolis is performing particularly well in terms of solar growth.

“Indianapolis, as recently as last year, was number two in the nation in solar per capita and number four in total installed solar, behind only Los Angeles, Honolulu and Phoenix,” offers Tristan Vance. “We don’t have the solar resources that the South or Southwest has. We’ve done a pretty good job of maximizing our potential, but we do have solar opportunity we continue to look at, ways to create more opportunities for economic development.”Gallagher points out that proactive policy can drive solar energy investment regardless of the amount of sunshine a state receives. He says Indiana currently ranks well in the policy areas of net metering and interconnection standards, but lacks renewable portfolio standards. He adds that raising the limit on net metering installations would allow larger buildings such as retail stores to move positively toward solar investment as would the implementation of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. Indiana is currently one of about 20 states that does not have PACE legislation. Other Midwestern states are taking advantage of programs that promote third party ownership and so-called community solar, which allows those in multi-family buildings or with poor credit to support solar generation. A net metering bill making its way through the Indiana legislature would change the credit homeowners with rooftop solar receive for sending energy back to the grid from the current retail rate to a near-wholesale rate. Read more here: Vance believes there’s still plenty of room for upward movement by Indiana in the rankings.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth as the price of panels has come down,” notes Vance. “A lot of the growth in central Indiana is due to some of the investment decisions of businesses and utilities. There’s a bit of uncertainty long-term in what’s going to happen with solar credits that may sunset in 2019, but because of that there are a lot of investment decisions being made on projects to be completed by then.”

Vance says much of the new investment has come from Indianapolis Power & Light.
OED director Tristan Vance discusses contributions to Indiana's solar rankings.
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