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The Journal Gazette

  • Chodak

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 1:57 am

Renewables reinforce resiliency, reliability

Paul Chodak III

When a storm like the one that struck Fort Wayne on June 27 disrupts service to our customers, Indiana Michigan Power’s work is quite visible. Bucket trucks were mobilized throughout the city as I&M marshaled internal and external crews to restore power to more than 30,000 customers within 72 hours.

Fortunately, I&M’s work often involves preparing for the future – and that work is visible, too.

For example, you may have noticed new unique, modern poles in southwest Allen County. That project is part of Powering Up Northeast Indiana, a series of key enhancements to the area’s transmission system, which moves higher voltage energy over long distances. (New lattice-type towers going up along Interstate 69 are part of the same project.)

As you can see, the new pole design is more compact and more aesthetically pleasing. What you cannot see is that these new structures allow us to deliver electricity more efficiently.

I&M is working to become not just more visible but more transparent. Before work ever began on erecting the towers, we reached out to potentially affected landowners, answering their questions and listening to their concerns. This and other projects have been the subject of public open houses.

Our work is also quite visible in the Winchester area, where the Headwaters Wind Farm produces up to 200 megawatts of energy that I&M purchases.

Your neighborhood energy provider’s embrace of renewable energy will become even more visible to Hoosiers later this month when I&M breaks ground on its solar facility in Marion, marking I&M’s first – but by no means last – move into solar generation. By the end of 2016, our solar facility in Marion and three in the Michiana area will generate a combined 15 MW of electricity for our customers.

Perhaps more importantly, because solar will clearly be part of the energy equation going forward, this pilot project will help I&M become skilled at integrating solar into its generation portfolio.

I&M is making these investments for you, our customers.

Much of our equipment has been in service for decades, dating to a time when energy needs, technology and standards were far different. New, state-of-the-art equipment will be more resilient, reliable and efficient. It will provide the strength of energy critical to our hometowns.

Renewable energy further diversifies our generation portfolio, which also includes wind, hydro, the Cook Nuclear Plant and coal – and diversity helps enhance reliability.

A diverse generation portfolio gives I&M more flexibility to adapt to changes in the economy, government regulations and a host of other potential circumstances.

We understand that renewable energy is and will be increasingly important, and many of our customers want more of their energy to come from renewable sources.

Renewables are an important part of the reason that more than 50 percent of I&M’s generation portfolio is from non-carbon-emitting sources.

Some of our work lies behind the scenes, in engineering and honing our processes to become even more efficient. But as I&M plans and build projects that affect you, we strive to inform you and hear your opinions.

I&M thanks you, our customers, for your patience when service is interrupted as it was in Fort Wayne the last weekend of June. We want you to know that we are working to make our system more resilient and reliable – at a cost well below state and national averages.

Paul Chodak III is president and chief operating officer of Indiana Michigan Power. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.