• Steve Eberly

"The Answer My Friend, is Blowin' in the Wind"

When I was an undergraduate at Purdue, we loved the rich harmonies of Peter, Paul and Mary and I’m reminded of their big hit “Blowin’ in the Wind” when I reflect on how much progress we’ve made in the Hoosier state – and also how much we still have to do.

While it’s true that the answer was “blowin’ in the wind” for the beginnings of renewable energy in Indiana, the big opportunities to make transformative change are in solar energy. The cost of building solar has dropped tremendously. It’s now cheaper to generate electricity with solar panels than by burning coal. Of course, we need a rich mix of all kinds of energy production to maintain a reliable and sustainable energy supply for homes and businesses throughout our state.

I am confident that we are now in the expansion and growth phase of completing the original goals envisioned to embed renewables as a significant part of our energy portfolio in Indiana. What started as just a few renewable energy projects is now maturing into a comprehensive domestic renewable energy industry for all of us.

And there are quite a few recent developments that deserve review, looking at job growth, U.S. production, batteries, and power generation:

JOBS: Clean Jobs Midwest reports that clean energy companies employed more than 86,000 Hoosiers at the end of 2021 – a seven percent boost over the prior year. Job growth in clean energy is twice the speed of the overall economy. There are now over 11,000 Hoosiers in the renewable space alone.

Clean Energy Jobs by Sector

Source: Clean Jobs Midwest

AMERICAN MADE: Solar panels are starting to be made in America more. FirstSolar announced it would spend $1.2 billion to build a new solar panel manufacturing plant, its fourth in the U.S., and expand three existing Ohio plants. The manufacturing investments will create nearly 1,000 new jobs.

BUILDING BATTERIES: Indiana’s leadership in the automotive sector continues, and we will reap the benefits. Recent announcements for EV battery production will undoubtedly enhance our understanding of the evolution and improvement of larger-scale storage technologies. GM and LG are eyeing northern Indiana. Near Kokomo, Stellantis (former Chrysler) and Samsung announced plans to build a battery manufacturing facility.

RENEWABLE POWER: EDP Renewables North America just started construction of a new wind farm in White County, Indiana, a project that will provide electricity to more than 50-thousand homes each year. And Indiana’s utilities are also jumping aboard the renewables bandwagon. Duke Energy is adding nearly 2,000 megawatts of generation in solar and wind. Indiana Michigan Power is doing the same. NIPSCO will add more than 3,000 megawatts of solar and wind power generation. And AES and CenterPoint are also making sizable investments in renewable energy production.

I think our progress together is just getting started. I’m sure there are many other stories, both current and to be announced, but Indiana’s stature in the renewables sector is evident.

We are building up for the future, and the answer is “blowin’ in the wind” and also in the crisp air and sunshine of a Hoosier day!