Vectren Planning Nearly $1B in Natural Gas, Solar Projects

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(photo courtesy The Times of Northwest Indiana) (photo courtesy The Times of Northwest Indiana)

Evansville-based Vectren Corp. (VVC) has announced plans for two major projects in southwest Indiana. The utility says the efforts, which include a $900 million natural gas-fired generation plant, will reduce its carbon emissions by 60 percent over 2005 levels.

Vectren is also planning to install a 50-megawatt solar array that will include more than 150,000 solar panels covering nearly 300 acres. A specific location for the array was not announced. The plans are part of Vectren's Smart Energy Future strategy to create a more balanced energy mix for customers.

Vectren has filed an application with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission seeking approval to construct the natural gas plant, which would be build at the current site of the A.B. Brown power plant in Posey County. The utility would also retire three coal-fired units, including two at the A.B. Brown plant and one at the F.B. Culley plant in Warrick County. It would also relinquish its ownership of one of the Warrick units, which is currently co-owned by Alcoa.

"Through energy efficiency programs, retirement of a smaller inefficient coal-fired unit, expiration of municipal sales contracts, and efforts to improve the efficiency of our generation turbines, we have already reduced carbon emissions by more than 30%," said Carl Chapman, chief executive officer of Vectren. "Today’s announcements double those reductions by 2024, and ensure we remain focused on our environment while continuing to provide our customers safe, reliable and reasonably priced energy."

Vectren says the natural gas plant is expected to be operational by 2023 and will create up to 700 construction jobs and 35 full-time positions once online. The solar farm, which will cost up to $75 million, is expected to be operational by 2020 and create up to 250 construction jobs.

Additionally, Vectren plans to request approval to retrofit its largest coal-fired generation unit at the Culley power plant to ensure compliance with EPA regulations related to coal ash and waste water handling.

"As we operate our coal-fired generation units at our A.B. Brown and F.B. Culley power plants while our new facilities are constructed, we expect to use the same level of southwestern Indiana coal to help meet our customers’ energy demand," said Chapman. "Likewise, local coal will continue to be used to fuel Culley Unit 3 even after the new natural gas plant is operational in 2023."

The utility says the announcement of the projects will not have an impact on residential bills in 2018, though it will begin requesting approval for cost recovery in 2019 for the solar facility and other projects, if possible. Vectren says the natural gas plant must be operational before it can request a rate increase to cover the cost of the project, which is not expected to come until 2024.

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