Rosewater Wind Farm in White County is part of NIPSCO's transition off coal-powered electricity. (provided by NIPSCO / HANDOUT)
Rosewater Wind Farm in White County is part of NIPSCO's transition off coal-powered electricity. (provided by NIPSCO / HANDOUT)
Despite an Indiana law signed last year to slow its move off long-dominant coal, several electric utilities, including NIPSCO, are moving forward with those plans anyway.

NIPSCO recently said two wind farms, both joint ventures, are part of a string of renewable projects slated for completion by 2023.

The projects are part of its plan to shift off coal by 2028. Announced in 2018, the company later estimated the move would save up to $4 billion. It said it’s looking at wind, solar and battery storage technology as likely replacements as part of its electric generation strategy.

In White County, the Rosewater Wind Farm, a 102-megawatt site can generate electricity for more than 25,000 homes with average usage. While just south between Benton and White counties, the Jordan Creek Wind farm is now also online with a 400-megawatt capacity, a spokesperson said.

While NIPSCO is involved in the legislature’s 21st Century Taskforce, spearheaded by Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, it’s unlikely that lawmakers will delay its plans to shift off coal-fired plants, it said.

“We do not expect the pieces of legislation that came out of the task force, which are currently being considered, to impede or slow the progress of our generation transition plan,” NIPSCO spokeswoman Tara McElmurry said.

Soliday was not immediately available for comment.

In recent years, several other Indiana utilities including Indianapolis Power & Light Co., Duke Energy, Hoosier Energy and Vectern Corp. have announced plans to retire some aging coal plants, which often have expensive upkeep.

“There’s no question in the environmental and public health benefits,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, an Indianapolis-based consumer advocacy group. “In the long term, rate payers are going to be saving money.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill sponsored by Soliday to slow coal plant closures last year. In 2019, Soliday also sponsored an unsuccessful bill to temporarily stop the construction of new power plants.

“What’s going on here, Indiana has always had a very charismatic relationship with coal,” Olson said. “The idea of change in Indiana has always been a difficult concept to grasp at the statehouse.

“There are very, very real consequences (for coal towns) losing tax bases when these facilities are retired,” he said. “I certainly understand the consequences of some legislation around this transition. I don’t think the legislature has done anything meaningful to prevent NIPSCO’s transition.”

An environmental group said NIPSCO’s plans were a step in the right direction, but the utility has to do more to protect surrounding ecosystems.

“As NIPSCO continues down its path towards being a national leader in carbon-free and air pollution-free electric power, we and our colleagues want to help them be a national model in natural resources protection,” said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.

“First, we’d like to see NIPSCO be at the vanguard of wildlife protection; we have real concern about a planned NIPSCO solar farm in Jasper County and the risks that it could pose to sandhill and whooping cranes, bald eagles, bats, and other wildlife,” he said.

“Second, we’d like to see NIPSCO be the preeminent utility when it comes to pollinator-friendly solar farms, which will help communities with stormwater management, soil and water conservation, and reversing the astonishing decline in America’s birds and bee populations.

“Third, we’d like NIPSCO to lead the way on lake, creek, and groundwater protection by ensuring that all of its coal ash is placed in lined landfills or reused for strictly encapsulated purposes” like concrete, roofing materials and bricks.

NIPSCO announced in 2018 that it would shut coal plants including the R.M. Schahfer Generating Station (Units 14, 15, 17 and 18) in Wheatfield by 2023 and its Michigan City Generating Station (Unit 12) by 2028. It also plans to retire all coal by 2028.


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