It seems that several energy companies are looking at rural areas in White County, looking for potential sites to develop wind farms locally. According to Connie Neininger, Economic Development Director for White County, three companies are looking to the White County area. The companies are Horizon Wind Energy, Invenergy LLC, and Catamount Energy Corporation. Local landowners in White County have been approached about being a source for wind energy.
This past week, Ryan Brown from the Indiana Office of Energy and Defense Development spoke to a large crowd in the Tri-County auditorium about the history and current trends to develop wind energy. He supplied a PowerPoint presentation and hand outs to all those attending and talked in general about the wind industry.
It seems the old windmills on farms of days gone by have been replaced with all sizes of wind turbines. These largest turbines can now produce 660 kW or over 2 MW of energy. According to a slide presented, globally in 2006 there were 74,223 MW of wind capacity installed, with only 11,603 located in the United States. Germany and Spain are the global leaders in this area.
According to Brown, the things that drive wind power as a resource are declining wind costs, fuel price uncertainty, federal and state policies, economic development, green power and energy security. Some states are mandating that by a certain year, a percentage of energy must come from renewable sources. For example, by 2010 in California, 20% must come from a renewable energy source. At this time, Indiana does not have a state standard.
Local residents of White County gathered February 15, to talk about what might occur in the area. It was estimated that a 2 MW wind turbine could bring $5000-8000 of income per year. The county earns property taxes for the turbine, paid by the energy company, not the landowner. It was estimated that a new wind farm in the area would bring two to ten new jobs to the area, but many more during the construction phase since local industry would be providing electrical services, concrete and more.
Some companies that are currently investing in wind farms and wind energy in the country are John Deere, BP Solar, Siemens, General Electric, Gamesa, and Xcel Energy for example.
Some general issues or concerns for wind power include bird migration, noise, interference with military radar, visual negatives, sites and permits, and uncertain policies related to tax credits. Right now there is a tax credit through 2008 for wind companies and Congress is looking at whether to extend that.
Some property owners are willing to pay more for green power, or energy sources from alternative sources.
Wind companies have been talking to local landowners about developing wind power on their properties. The developers will be doing wind assessments by putting up a tower with wind equipment to verify the wind speed, air, and wind power. Data is collected for a year or more. The company does a review of bird migration; water sheds, and begins working on pricing strategies. Companies look at how to get that power connected to transmission lines and talks to energy companies to be a guaranteed buyer for a long term period such as 10, 15 or 20 years. Prices for the turbines are negotiated, and construction could begin after six to nine months. Turbines have a 25-30 year life.
Landowners may not all have turbines on their property, but might be paid for underground electrical or access roads through their property. It was estimated that one turbine can take up an acre of space, which would include the concrete pad, turbine and access road.
According to Brown, currently there are no utility-scale wind turbines in Indiana. The Benton County Wind Farm is being developed by BP Alternative Energy/Orion Energy to be a 130 MW farm. Duke Energy has plans to purchase 100 MW of power from that farm. The project was approved in December 2006 and is expected to be completed in December 2007. The Indiana Michigan Power is looking at projects in Jay and Randolph counties.
Brown said, “An 8% Renewable Electricity Standard for Indiana utilities is currently being discussed in the Indiana General Assembly. The bill could result in over 2500 MW of wind power being built in Indiana by 2016.
Bob Leader organized the meeting, while Larry Yerk moderated a discussion portion of the program. One question asked was, “Will farmers get a fair shake?” The answer was that there needed to be a balance between the farmer and the developer. The landowners need to negotiate with the developer. Obviously, the developer is in the business to make money.
A group could organize to go visit an operating wind farm in Illinois. A representative from Benton County was on hand to talk about the process their county had gone through and the wind ordinances that had been drawn up for the Benton County Wind Farm project. Thanks were given to Tri-County School Corporation for the use of the auditorium at no cost.
A website of interest is: www.windpoweringamerica.gov
By Pat Berger
23 February 2007
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