Indiana Municipal Power Agency’s Frankton Solar Plant

By Paul Gipe

You know solar photovoltaics (PV) has become mainstream when you can find a solar power plant in Frankton, Indiana.

Yes, that Indiana. Mike Pence’s old stomping grounds. The state where 90% of the electricity is generated by burning coal and the remainder comes from nuclear power.

It was a shock a few years ago when I found a 100 MW wind farm visible from my mom’s place. See Hometown Wind Farm A Wildcat. I didn’t expect to see any solar projects in central Indiana for quite some time.

Still, there it was, just a few miles down the road from my hometown of Alexandria, Indiana–the gas boom town “not on the Nile but just as worthwhile.”

The Indiana Municipal Power Agency has been operating the 1 MW project in the small rural town for several years. The plant serves the local municipal utility.

On a visit over the holidays in 2016 I’d seen an article in the local paper about a much larger project serving the municipal utility of Anderson, Indiana. The 5 MW project was well into construction when I visited it.

Though the project, large by Hoosier standards, pales in comparison to the mammoth projects near where I now live in Bakersfield, California, it’s significant that it was being built in Indiana where the state has no renewable energy policy to speak of and a visceral aversion to any proposal to do so.

Nevertheless, the Indiana Municipal Power Agency generates more than six million kWh per year from solar or 5.4% of its electricity from several power plants in its service area. The remainder is from nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Will wonders never cease?