Solar energy is growing fast in Indiana, which bodes well for clean energy as a whole in the state. Indiana ranks third among states in terms of solar power in development, with more than 6,000 megawatts set to come online, according to the American Clean Power Association.
But Jeff Danielson, vice president of advocacy with the Clean Grid Alliance, said solar is just one part of the story. He said the state also has been a leader in wind power, and has the potential attract investment in battery storage.
“You’ve got all the ingredients for Indiana to be a leader in the country in clean energy,” said Danielson, “and that’s why I think it’s apropos to describe Indiana as the ‘crossroads of clean energy’ in America right now.”
Indiana also ranks third in the nation for coal consumption, but Danielson said state leaders have made a purposeful turn toward clean energy and deserve credit for its leading status in solar development.
He also noted that the Midwest energy economy overall is poised to get a boost from a number of measures passed in Congress, including the Inflation Reduction Act and last year’s infrastructure bill.
Danielson said solar has advantages for farmers who host projects as well. He noted that runs counter to the way coal plants have operated, where they’re often sited on the edge of town.
“Our companies have a business-to-business, value-added agriculture relationship with the landowners for the length of the leases,” said Danielson, “20 to 30 years.”
Danielson said the biggest challenge is that the electric grid in the Midwest is fragmented. However, he said the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which is headquartered in Indiana, will play an important role in meeting this challenge going forward.
“We’re going to have to connect our Midwest clean energy economies through the grid transmission,” said Danielson, “just like we connected Midwest economies with the interstate highway system under Eisenhower’s leadership.”
He added that connecting the grid could create economic opportunities for the region in a similar fashion to highways.