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I&M scouts East Central Indiana sites for possible wind farm  

Indiana Michigan Power has invited 250 residents of Jay, Randolph and Wayne counties to meetings next week to discuss the possibility of developing a wind farm.

The electric utility is seeking people willing to lease their land to I&M for the installation of two or three 200-foot meteorological towers to collect wind data.

If the data show that a wind farm is feasible, either I&M or a developer would plan to lease land for the installation of wind turbines, typically 50 to 70 of them, each taller than the Statue of Liberty with rotors the size of jumbo-jet wings, said I&M spokesman Mike Brian.

The torch of the Statue of Liberty reaches 305 feet above the ground.

“A typical 100-megawatt wind farm would cover an area up to 12 square miles,” Brian added. “It would be spread out over a wide area.”

Greg Beumer, director of Randolph Economic Development Corp., said, “This would be a pretty positive thing for our area if it goes. With I&M behind it, if it can be done, I think it will happen. It would be a significant investment. The number I’ve heard is $20 million to $25 million (to build the wind farm). We think it would be a significant benefit for the tax base of our county. It also would add some income to a significant number of land owners that could be involved.”

In addition, a wind farm could be a minor tourist attraction, Beumer said.

While more than 10,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity have been installed in the United States, Indiana currently has none, though Orion Energy is placing up to 135 wind turbines capable of producing 200 MW of electricity in Benton County.

“We’re not wanting to get real specific yet,” I&M spokesman Jim Riggle said, when asked where the 250 people being invited to the meetings resided. “Southeast Jay, northeast Randolph, southeast Randolph and northeast Wayne.”

The first meeting will be Nov. 9 in the Jay County Courthouse, and the second one will be Nov. 10 at the Union City Community Room. Neither will be open to the general public or the press.

Of the 250 people invited, 150 are land owners who could be asked to lease land, and 100 are neighbors with whom I&M wants to share information.

According to Orion Energy, wind power is inexpensive, fast to install (typically less than six months from the start of construction), clean, renewable, popular and compatible with other land uses. The vast majority of wind farm acreage remains available for other uses, such as farming, hunting and recreation.

Wind energy proponents – like advocates of corn-based ethanol – say wind power is revitalizing farms and rural areas.

President George W. Bush has said it’s possible the United States could generate up to 20 percent of its electricity from wind. Wind energy generating capacity now totals less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

I&M’s current electric capacity is 5,777 MW, 62 percent of which comes from coal-fired power plants and 37 percent of which comes from the Cook nuclear plant. Less than a percent is generated by hydro power.

Coal-burning power plants release large amounts of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, including toxic metals, into the atmosphere, AWEA notes.

I&M officials say their announcement of a possible wind farm in East Central Indiana is unrelated to the Legislature’s Regulatory Flexibility Committee hearing five weeks ago in Muncie.

During the hearing, wind energy champions urged lawmakers to require Indiana’s electric companies to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2017. More than 20 states have enacted similar legislation.

Hoosier native Wayne Hoffman, of Oakland, Calif.-based Orion Energy, testified, “If Indiana fails to enact strong policy, it will lose billions of dollars in renewable energy investments to other states, most notably to Illinois.”

Indiana’s electric utilities testified against the proposed legislation.

I&M favors production tax credits to encourage wind energy development rather than mandating the production of a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources before they are affordable and reliable.

“Production tax credits at the federal level help make a lot of these (wind farms) possible,” I&M’s Brian said. “The only problem is, they tend to be enacted for short periods of time.”

During an interview a week before the committee hearing, Grant Smith of the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana said, “One of the things we want to dispel is that we don’t have any wind capacity in Indiana.”

# Contact news reporter Seth Slabaugh at 213-5834.

thestarpress.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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