view from the states
Strong Wind, Weak Policy in Indiana
Utility-scale wind booms in the Hoosier state, and PV grows despite weak state policies.
By ERIC COTTOn
Eric Cotton (eric@eci
windandsolar.com) is a
partner with ECIWind
and Solar (eciwind
andsolar.com) in Fairmount, Ind. He serves
as a founding member
and vice president of
the Indiana Renewable
Energy Association. He
is a Ph.d. candidate in
physical chemistry at
In a very short time, Indiana has gone from relative obscurity to one of the brightest spots in the nation for new wind development. Indiana’s wind corridors
are ample, with 40 gigawatts (GW) of potential, and have
very good access to transmission lines. Thus, despite the
absence of substantial renewable energy policy at the
state level, the industry has brought nearly 1 GW of wind
capacity online in just the past five years, with 5 GW on
The state has received millions in stimulus funding.
Other states have spent stimulus funding on a variety of
projects, but Indiana has suffered massive losses in the RV,
automotive, steel and other heavy manufacturing industries, so the state has chosen to funnel most of its stimulus
money to factories.
The state administration has generally overlooked distributed generation, and the legislature can’t agree on an
energy policy. The result is that distributed
generation in Indiana is limited to a handful
of early adopters, mostly rural homes and
some grant recipients. Several factors have
limited distributed generation development
in Indiana, but there are some bright spots
here as well.
As recently as 2004, renewable energy
policy in Indiana was on par with the rest of
the Midwest. With a new, albeit weak, net-metering policy
(the same one in effect today), the few distributed generation companies in the state saw some potential for growth.
From a small-business perspective, the market was wide
open, and Hoosiers were starting to talk about progressive policies such as a renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
Despite the Bush administration’s claim that the science
of climate change was still not clear on the cause of global
warming, more Americans began to adopt environmentally
friendly practices. Businesses began selling to an emerging
green-conscious consumer market. In 2005, Midwestern
states began to adopt more aggressive renewable energy
policies. But while our neighbors in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois
and Kentucky embraced new energy policies and cleaner
air for their citizens, Indiana wound up hanging with its
coal lobby chums.
Wisconsin enacted an RPS calling for 10 percent by
2015. Ohio and Illinois each require 25 percent by 2025
with a solar set-aside. In 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, the
Indiana State Senate passed a weak RPS that included
both nuclear power and clean coal technologies as eligible
renewables — and the definition of clean coal didn’t even
Copyright © 2010 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
call for carbon sequestration. Renewable energy advocates
and progressive legislators rejected the policy as absurd. In
2009, an RPS passed both the Indiana House and the Senate but died in the conference committee.
Now, all of Indiana’s neighboring states have improved
their net-metering laws. In 2009, Indiana legislators introduced at least three different net-metering bills, but they
all died in committee. According to the Network of New
Now the good news. The small businesses
were right back in 2004 when they forecast
growth. Since then, there has been an explosion of new business in distributed energy services. Today, one can find a renewable energy
expert in nearly every population center, and
there are at least three full-service distributors of renewable
energy products in the state. Indiana had just one North
American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners-certified
photovoltaic installer in 2005. That number had grown to
seven by the close of 2009. Installations have grown from
a few dozen kilowatts (k W) to about 250 k W at the end of
2008, and roughly 100 k W came online in 2009.
Both Duke Energy ( duke-energy.com) and Tipmont
Rural Electric Membership Corp. ( tipmont.org) have voluntarily launched distributed energy programs in excess of
their statutory requirements. Their leadership has helped
dozens of customers install new systems.
Advocates recently organized the Indiana Renewable
Energy Association ( indianarenew.org) and affiliated as
an American Solar Energy Society chapter. The association
brings together more than 50 renewable energy businesses (including four utilities) and more than 40 individual
members to advocate for renewable energy education. As
Hoosiers start to place more value on a clean environment,
renewable energy in Indiana will continue to thrive. Being
at the bottom of the policy curve only means we have fabulous potential for improvement. ST
Where You Live
24 March 2010 SOLAR TODA Y solartoday.org