Saturday, February 19, 2011

Indianapolis International Airport wants a Solar Farm

From the

"Landing a power deal"

Indy airport's planned solar farm would be the largest in the state

The warm rays of the sun may be the next big thing to make money for Indianapolis International Airport.

The airport is looking for a developer to build what would be the largest solar energy farm in the state on 30 acres of airport-owned land near the end of a runway.

It would generate 10 megawatts of electricity an hour -- enough to power up to 6,000 homes -- and that electricity would be sold to Indianapolis Power & Light. The airport would make money by leasing the property to a company that would build and operate the array of thousands of solar panels.

Other airports, including Denver and Fresno, Calif., have put money-making solar farms near runways on property not suitable for other types of developments.

It was not known how much revenue the solar farm would generate for the airport. The move is part of a larger plan approved by the airport Friday to generate more than $190 million over the next 30 years from hundreds of acres of its undeveloped land.

Industry experts estimate that a developer would have to spend $30 million to build the solar farm and that the equipment could generate electricity for at least 30 years.

"Solar power isn't just a hippie dream anymore," said Travis Murphy, who worked in the state's renewable energy agency and now sells solar systems for Johnson Melloh Solutions. "Solar energy is not just something that environmentalists will do anymore, but it has become an opportunity for businesses and homes."

The airport's solar farm would send a highly visible message of public support for renewable energy, said Mark Hedegard, the airport's senior business development director.

Thousands of solar panels -- tinted black so the glare doesn't blind airplane pilots -- would be planted next to the airport's front door. Millions of airplane passengers going to the Col. H. Weir Cook terminal building each year and millions more motorists on I-70 would pass the solar farm.

The site is tucked next to a long, circular ramp that is used by vehicles getting off the interstate and heading onto the road to the new terminal.

By far, it would be the biggest single solar power site in the state, according to Murphy. He said a survey last year conservatively estimated about 750 kilowatts of solar power had been built in Indiana.

An additional 1.76 megawatt array of 5,700 solar panels is being built on the roof of the Emmett J. Bean Federal Center, the military's finance facility in Lawrence.

Andrew Crocox, project manger for electric contractor Ermco, said the Bean array should be making electricity for the IPL grid by April.

Several industry insiders said federal tax credits and accelerated depreciation on the equipment have sparked a national rush to invest in solar power, along with methane gas, wind turbines and other renewable sources of energy...

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