RENSSELAER – Last week, NIPSCO announced their plan to reduce generating capacity of the Schahfer Generating Station by 50% with the retirement of coal-fired units 14 & 15 at the end of 2021. This decision is consistent with NIPSCO’s 2018 announcement to retire all coal-fired generation capacity at the Schahfer Station by 2023, as outlined in their 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). In September 2018, NIPSCO announced through their IRP the decision to transition away from coal-fired electricity generation in favor of clean, more cost-effective renewable energy options, which ultimately led to this decision to retire all coal-fired electric generation at Schahfer by 2023.
“We continue to have a strong working relationship with NIPSCO and their team of decision-makers, as it relates to the Schahfer Station and Jasper County,” said JCEDO Executive Director, Stephen Eastridge. “It’s because of this that we as a County have been able to prepare for the upcoming retirements at Schahfer and secure investments that will aid in the stabilization of the County’s tax base.”
Since the September 2018 announcement by NIPSCO, the Jasper County Economic Development Organization (JCEDO) and Jasper County officials have been working to address the potential tax-revenue shortfalls that could result from the shutdown of Schahfer. In the first half of 2019, JCEDO hosted 6 Community Task Force meetings between January and July to craft a list of recommended actions for the County to prepare for the closures at Schahfer Station. The result of these meetings was the presentation of the Task Force’s recommended actions to the County via a joint meeting of the County Commissioners and Council. This list included:
- Updating of the Jasper County Comprehensive Plan
- Review of the permitting process
- Prioritization and targeting of grant and other opportunities available to the County
- Invest in and Support Quality of Life Projects
- Prepare for new business investment and job growth
Within this list, JCEDO has worked with community partners throughout Jasper County to complete the tasks recommended to County by the taskforce. This includes the establishment of a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) area to aid in the development of key infrastructure at the County’s I-65 interchanges, updating of the comprehensive plan and an overhaul of tax abatement policy throughout the County.
“Jasper County has been proactive in preparing for our County’s future beyond 2023.” Jasper County Commissioner, Kendell Culp had to say when asked about NIPSCO’s latest announcement. “This includes the Dunns Bridge Solar Project, which is anticipated to be the largest solar project in the Midwest upon completion. To have secured a $1 Billion investment in the same township as the Schahfer Station will have a significant impact on the stabilization of our tax base.”
In addition to the work of the Community Task Force, JCEDO has spent the time since the September 2018 announcement to secure new capital investment in Jasper County to offset the potential loss in the tax base resulting in the Schahfer Station retirement. This work has resulted in approximately $343,226,000 in new Capital Investment, the commitment to create 265 new full-time jobs and retain 10 full-time jobs during that time. This includes Dunns Bridge Solar Project Phase I, which will result in $300MM in new investment and construct a 265-MW solar project in the northeast corner of Jasper County. Finally, JCEDO has worked with the County Officials and NextEra, the developer of Dunns Bridge, to secure a Phase II of the project that will ultimately bring the total scale of Dunns Bridge to a $1B investment, 700-MW of solar power, and 75-MW of battery storage. Because of the joint effort of Jasper County’s elected officials and JCEDO, Jasper County has prepared itself and a path forward once the Schahfer Station retires all coal-fired generating capacity by 2023.