WHEATFIELD — The countdown is on for two coal-fired units at NIPSCO’s R.M. Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield.
The company announced recently that it plans to retire the two units by the end of 2021. The retirements are part of NIPSCO’s broader, long-term electric generation stategy and customer-centric plan known as “Your Energy, Your Future.”
NIPSCO plans to become 100% coal-free by 2028, while transitioning to reliable, lower-cost and more sustainable energy options such as solar and wind. It projects the transition will result in an estimated $4 billion in cost savings over the long term.
Jasper County Economic Development Organization Executive Director Stephen Eastridge said his office has been in constant contact with NIPSCO officials to stay up to date on decisions that affect the county.
“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,” Eastridge said. “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.”
The two units set for retirement are among the oldest in NIPSCO’s fleet, according to company officials. They have been in service since 1976 and 1979, respectively.
NIPSCO’s remaining coal-fired units at Schahfer are on track to be retired by May 2023. Units at the Michigan City station will be fully retired by 2028.
These timelines are consistent with the previous Integrated Resource Plan conducted in 2018. The plan is a regulatory process used in Indiana to thoroughly analyze and outline how electric utilities plan to meet the future electric needs of its customers. Workforce planning is also underway with the goal to minimize impacts to positions and employees at NIPSCO.
“Our ‘Your Energy, Your Future’ transition plan is dynamic,” said Mike Hooper, NIPSCO president, “and based on the simple premise of delivering reliable energy and cost savings to our customers over the long term. We continue to evaluate the economics of our generating fleet, including recently commissioned renewable projects and secured capacity in the greater energy market alongside the ongoing fuel costs and investments required to operate our coal-fired units. On that basis, it was determined that retiring units 14 and 15 (at Schahfer) this year was the best decision for customers.”
To deliver on its promise of service reliability for its customers, NIPSCO has secured the needed lower-cost capacity from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) market, the regional entity responsible for ensuring reliability across the broader electric grid. Additional upgrades to the transmission system will also be put in place to reliably retire the two units at Schahfer.
NIPSCO is also bringing online new lower-cost generating resources from solar, wind and battery technology to meet future energy needs. Two wind projects — Rosewater in White County and Jordan Creek in Benton and Warren counties — became operational in late 2020, adding 500 megawatts of installed capacity to NIPSCO’s fleet.
The Indiana Crossroads wind project in White County is expected to provide an additional 300 megawatts by the end of 2021.
The company will also be coordinating a pair of solar projects in Jasper County, with the Dunns Bridge Solar 1 project, which will provide 265 megawatts of solar energy, to be completed in 2022 in the northeast corner of the county. The Dunns Bridge Solar II project, which will provide 435 megawatts of solar and 75 megawatts of battery storage, is scheduled to be completed in 2023.
Eastridge said JCDEO has been working since NIPSCO announced its intention to retire the Schahfer station to secure new capital investments in Jasper County designed to offset the potential loss in the tax base. This work through the Dunns Bridge Solar Project Phase I and II has resulted in approximately $343.23 million in new capital investment, the commitment to create 265 new full-time jobs and retain 10 full-time jobs during that time.
JCEDO has also worked with county officlals and NextEra, the developer of the Dunns Bridge project, to bring the total scale of the Dunns project to a $1 billion investment, 700 megawatts of solar power and 75 megawatts of battery storage.
“Because of the joint effort of Jasper County’s elected officials and JCEDO,” Eastridge said, “Jasper County has prepared itself and a path forward once the Shahfer station retires all coal-fired generating capacity by 2023.”NIPSCO kicks off its 2021 Integrated Resource Plan in March. It will involve participation and input from customers, customer representatives, environmental organizations and other stakeholders that will extend through November, when the last plan will be submitted to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.