Christina M. Seiler
ROCHESTER – A solar array with storage installed in Talma may be the first of its kind in Indiana.
Storage will come by way of two, 56,000-pound Tesla batteries. The setup is east of Alumi Tech Products in Talma on a 5-acre plot of leased land.
The solar array is collecting energy. Batteries are hooked up and energized. Meters are to be installed this week, then the project will be fully operational, said Ag Technologies’ Jim Straeter.
“The project will pay for itself and save the cooperative an additional $2 to $4 million dollars over 20 years,” said Joe Koch, chief executive officer of the REMC.
The storage capability is what makes the project different, and new to Indiana, Straeter said. He holds a patent on the solar collection technology, Solar Cam adjustable arrays.
The solar array is connected to the REMC’s Richland substation, where any electricity produced will be distributed and used, Koch said.
Solar power generated will be distributed through the power lines. During off-peak hours, the giant batteries will store power. During peak times, they will discharge power. That will save the cooperative money in that it won’t have to purchase power during higher-cost peak usage times. It will also increase the reliability of the grid.
It’s the first alternative energy project for the local REMC, Koch said. The cooperative is under no mandate to produce alternative power.
But doing so benefits the cooperative in several ways, the first of which is cost savings.
First Federal Savings Bank financed the project. Loan payments will be made with an estimated $3.8 million of savings the project is estimated to generate, Koch said.
The project also will help lower the cooperative’s overall cost of power, provide small wildlife and pollinator habitat, provide alternative energy to some members of the cooperative and be a place for students to learn about alternative energy, Koch said.
Straeter noted the project was completed with all local help, from site prep to financing, technology and wiring.
The Solar Energy Industries Association estimated U.S. energy produced by solar systems was 4.1 percent in 2019. By 2022 that percentage is estimated to reach 13.9 percent; by 2025, 23.9 percent.
Talma solar project facts
- There are 2,856 solar panels in the grid. Each panel is a Tier I panel rated at 430 watts. They can generate 1,228,082 watts of DC power and with 918 inverters convert that to 1,037,340 watts of AC power. AC and DC are types of current flow.
- The 2.5 Megapack batteries for storage are made by Tesla and weigh 28 tons apiece. Each one can store enough electricity to power 2,200 homes for a month.
- The energy the site can produce annually is enough to support the electric consumption of 107 homes. The average home in the U.S. used approximately 877 KwH or kilowatt-hours per month, according to the U.S. Energy Administration. A kilowatt-hour is a measurement of energy usage. One kilowatt is 1,000 watts.
- The carbon that the project will keep out of the atmosphere is the equivalent of the carbon that 612 acres of forest would consume through photosynthesis.
This article is made available through Hoosier State Press Association.