Ribbon Cut on New Duke Solar Plant at Crane

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Duke Energy Indiana's solar farm at NSA Crane covers 145 acres. Duke Energy Indiana's solar farm at NSA Crane covers 145 acres.

A massive new solar array at Crane in southwest Indiana cements an important partnership between the U.S. Navy and Duke Energy Indiana. The operation is a major step in the diversification of energy portfolios for both parties.

The new solar plant began operation in February, but celebration took place in the warmer and often sunnier month of May, with the sun making its appearance opportunely just as the ribbon was being cut. It’s located at Naval Support Activity Crane, home to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, south of Bloomington.

The installation features 76,000 solar panels over 145 acres and can generate 17 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply the daily energy needs of 2,700 average residential homes. At that size, it’s Duke’s largest solar plant in its Indiana system, and the second-largest in the state. The facility was built at a cost of $41 million and is completely owned by Duke, on land leased from the Department of the Navy (DON). Duke currently supplies power to 69 Indiana counties and says the energy from the solar array goes out to that grid, including Crane.

Angeline Protogere of Duke Energy Indiana says the facility makes for a very good partnership, one that actually started on the East Coast.

“We both have a goal to add more renewable energy sources to our systems and operations, and we had collaborated before with the Navy in North Carolina on a similar project. So this was a natural partnership.” North Carolina is Duke’s top solar state with about 35 solar facilities, including one at Camp Lejeune.

Information from Duke indicates that, as part of the arrangement, Crane will receive electrical infrastructure upgrades and a microgrid feasibility study to increase future base resiliency. The project comes under the DON’s Resilient Energy Program Office, which says such energy innovations increase both efficiency and security.

Duke Energy is the largest electrical provider in Indiana and says it’s working to provide a more balanced energy mix of both traditional and renewable resources. According to Protogere, that means expanding the power plant portfolio across solar, wind and hydroelectricity, whether through direct ownership or partnerships.

“We are right now upgrading our Markland hydroelectric plant in southern Indiana. We also purchased up to 100 megawatts of wind for our customers, and we’re also purchasing solar power for our customers, but this is our first solar plant that we own on our Indiana system.”

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