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World's largest solar farm now operating at Indy Airport

World's largest solar farm now operating at Indy Airport

by JUSTIN MACK, The Indianapolis Star

The world's largest airport solar farm is now up and running at Indianapolis International Airport.

With the second phase of an expansion now complete, the solar farm more than doubled in size and boasts 76,000 photovoltaic solar panels, according to a news release. The second phase of the project added 32,100 sun-tracking panels that will produce more than 15.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, the release states.

The 75-acre facility at the airport before the expansion already was the largest airport solar farm in the nation.

 Experts say wide open spaces around airports are ideal for collecting solar energy.  (Photo: Johnson Melloh Solutions)

 Experts say wide open spaces around airports are ideal for collecting solar energy.  (Photo: Johnson Melloh Solutions)

"The airport could not be more thrilled to have the largest airport-based solar farm right here in our growing city of Indianapolis," Mario Rodriguez, executive director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, said in prepared remarks. "The Solar Farm not only enhances our environmentally friendly and energy-efficient terminal campus, but also played a huge role in our recent recognition of being named one of America's greenest airports."

The expanded portion of the solar farm creates enough energy to power more than 1,410 average American homes for a year, the release states.

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. buys the solar farm's power, which costs three to four times the price for which IPL can sell it, officials have said. The utility has subsidized the difference by raising rates to its customers. The increase in electric bills to subsidize the solar farm amounts to several cents a month on the average customer bill. Solar farms also benefit from federal tax credits.

The solar farm has required about a dozen employees to operate. It is owned and operated by a Taiwanese company, General Energy Solutions, which has U.S. offices in California.

"It is an iconic structure that symbolizes how renewable energy in this country is affordable and reliable," Kurt Schneider, vice president of Johnson Melloh Solutions, said in a statement. "JMS is proud of the teamwork displayed by IND and IPL that made this green project such a great success.

"Our hope is that many visitors from other states and countries fly into IND and realize after passing the solar farm that Indiana is both a great place to live and a progressive community for thriving new businesses."

Call Star reporter Justin L. Mack at (317) 444-6138. Follow him on Twitter @justinlmack.

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