The Impact of Monster Load Projects on Local Communities

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These are viewed as once-in-a-generation opportunities that lead to subsequent investments and increased growth.

Brian Anderson
Director of Economic Development
Wabash Valley Power Alliance

When it comes to competing on a national and global scale, the ability to offer shovel-ready land suitable for a transformational monster load can change a local community’s entire trajectory and its universal impact.

Monster load projects have evolved drastically in recent years. While there is no official definition of what constitutes a monster load, these projects typically require at least 35 megawatts and 500 to 1,000 acres for development – or even more. These are often billion-dollar investments and can bring more than 1,000 jobs to a single community.

“Monster load projects are transformational for our territories,” said Brian Anderson, director of economic development for Wabash Valley Power Alliance. “These are viewed as once-in-a-generation opportunities that lead to subsequent investments and increased growth, and can help transform educational and municipal systems, roads and utilities, just to name a few effects.”

Data centers can require a significant amount of electricity. Some larger data centers can be part of monster load projects that can lead to significant investment in a community.

Monster loads can have a profound impact — and they come with big demands. Just one of these projects can double or triple the total amount of electricity sold by an electric cooperative. One such site is the LEAP District in Lebanon, Indiana. This megasite offers 9,000 acres for development and will be anchored by a 600-acre, $2.1 billion Eli Lilly & Co. monster load project. At full build, LEAP Lebanon is expected to house hundreds of companies that will employ more than 50,000 people.

With operations of that magnitude, the focus is on the water and electrical demands, as well as figuring out the best and most efficient ways to get more service capabilities to those sites. There is also an increasing demand for more renewable resources, which is of critical importance for many of these projects and for WVPA.

“When it really comes down to whether the transmission can be built and where it will come from, WVPA’s quality of employees and engineers is a big difference-maker,” said Rachel Huser, manager of economic development for WVPA. “We can walk in the room and with relative certainty say ‘yes, you can do it, and here’s how you can do it.’ We have the ability, skill and experience to achieve these companies’ goals. We’re also committed to always looking toward the future and figuring out how to get there together.”

As Indiana seeks to attract more operations from globally in-demand industries, such as EV batteries, data centers and microchip manufacturers, the door has opened to more monster load projects. These projects could also have a substantial impact on the supply chain by domesticating the manufacturing of products like microchips, which have been in high global demand but short supply.

“We have the brain power in the United States, so there’s no reason we can’t be competitive with the rest of the world by bringing a lot of that production here,” Huser said. “Combine the educational foundation with our resources, location and ability to meet the requirements for such sizable projects, and it’s clear that the communities our member co-ops serve are ideal for these operations.”

Attracting these companies also requires the ability to meet workforce demands, provide ample transportation options and offer a nearby educational base. WVPA remains committed to working directly with communities and companies to ensure that the necessary schools, housing, transportation and resources are available to meet demand.

“Obviously, as the ‘Crossroads of America,’ Indiana has significant truck traffic, rail opportunities and one of the best airports in the world,” Anderson said. “We also have a metropolitan statistical area of roughly two million people here in the Indianapolis area and two incredible research institutions in Indiana University and Purdue University on the north and south ends of the MSA, so we can meet those demands.”

While the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) acts as the driving force behind bringing these projects to life, successfully landing these monster loads requires a collaborative effort between the IEDC, WVPA, local economic development groups and communities to make them succeed. When they do, these projects can be huge wins for communities, with their impact being felt far beyond company doors.

“It takes a lot of hands to lift one of these projects off the ground, and you need to just put yourself in a position to entertain and ultimately land one of these projects,” Anderson said. “Collectively, we have the ability to bring these projects to life in WVPA territory — and to transform communities and their potential global impact.”