The Richmond 2 solar park sits along Interstate 70 just north of U.S. 40 on the city's east side. Mike Emery/Palladium-Item
The Richmond 2 solar park sits along Interstate 70 just north of U.S. 40 on the city's east side. Mike Emery/Palladium-Item
RICHMOND — The air above the Richmond 2 solar park remains crystal clear on a sunny April day even as thousands of solar panels produce electricity.

That's in stark contrast to the image most associated with energy production: A large coal-fired plant belching smoke and polluting the air. The Indiana Municipal Power Agency, a nonprofit, wholesale power provider with 61 member communities, decided in 2000 it needed to reduce its dependence on coal.

IMPA, which includes Richmond, Centerville and Dublin as members, in 2000 set a 20-year goal of generating 20 percent of its energy by sources other than coal, said Raj Rao, IMPA's president and CEO, who began his energy career in 1977 at Richmond Power and Light.

"As of this year, we have 67 percent of the energy coming from coal and 33 percent is coming from something else," Rao said. "We have decided that by 2030 we need to have 50 percent dependence on coal and 50 percent coming from some other resources."

Solar power represents a part of that non-coal energy. By the end of 2018, IMPA had 20 solar parks statewide with a generating capacity of 48.2 megawatts. That still lags far behind the 615 megawatt capacity of its coal facilities, the 410 megawatt capacity of its natural gas facilities and the 296 megawatt capacity of purchased wind and nuclear electricity.

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