Horizon Wind Energy, Houston, Texas, plans to invest several hundred million dollars in Randolph County because it meets three essential requirements.
Land owners are receptive, it’s windy enough and there are existing electric-transmission lines.
In a secret-ballot vote, a group of several dozen land owners overwhelmingly chose Horizon to develop a 100 megawatt to 200 MW wind farm south of Winchester, said Randolph County Farm Bureau President Tom Chalfant.
“We essentially have the ingredients to put together a project,” said Martin Culik, a project manager for Horizon. “We are real pleased that Randolph County farmers and land owners have selected us as their preferred developer. Community reaction is very important. We’re just thrilled to see the community reaction.”
The project was revealed on Wednesday during Ag Days at the Randolph County Fairgrounds.
Horizon, owned by a Portuguese company, recently finished the 400 MW Twin Groves Wind Farm near Bloomington, Ill., at a cost of $750 million, Culik said. It’s the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi River. Horizon is now developing the 600 MW to 1,000 MW Meadow Lake Wind Farm in Benton and White counties north and west of Lafayette.
The wind farm here would be built somewhere within 60,000 acres south of Winchester between Modoc (Ind. 1) and Lynn (U.S. 27) and as far south as the Wayne County line. Horizon expects the project to include 50 to 100 or more wind turbines, each standing 260 feet or so tall, in addition to the 130-feet-long blades that extend the height of the structure to nearly 400 feet.
The project will generate land lease payments, significant property tax revenue, hundreds of construction jobs and 10 to 20 permanent maintenance and operation jobs, Culik said.
Each land owner would receive $7,000 to $9,000 in lease payments annually for each turbine. That’s $350,000 to $900,000 in total annual lease payments to local property owners, depending on the number of turbines and the amount of the payments.
In addition, Horizon pays the owners of land located between the wind turbines.
“All land owners, whether they have a turbine or not, get a base payment, and people with turbines get additional payments,” Culik said. When he said “all land owners,” he meant those near a turbine, usually within a quarter of a mile. “Even that is pretty generous,” he said. “This is a hallmark of Horizon’s work and why they selected us.”
Meeting as a group, land owners in south central Randolph County heard proposals from four energy developers, according to Chalfant, who praised Horizon’s “knowledge of agricultural issues.”
Culik earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy and was a county extension educator in Genesee County, N.Y., when Zilkha Renewable Energy decided to build a wind farm there. Culik ended up going to work for Zilkha, which was renamed Horizon Wind Energy after being acquired by Goldman Sachs. Energias de Portugal (EDP), the largest utility in Portugal, bought Horizon last year.
Culik believes his agricultural background helped sell Randolph County residents on Horizon.
Horizon might not be the only wind farm built in East Central Indiana. Other companies are considering other sites in Randolph, Jay and Wayne counties. Hoosier Hill, the highest point in Indiana, is located near the Randolph County line in northeastern Wayne County.
“AEP is in town looking along the state line, I guess, and Florida Power and Light has some land,” Culik said.
Indiana Michigan Power, a subsidiary of AEP, has three meteorological test towers in the area, one each in Randolph, Jay and Wayne counties. I&M has said it is hopeful the region is windy enough for the company to build a wind farm or have someone else build it, in which case I&M would buy the power.
Horizon says it expects to build a 100 MW to 200 MW wind farm.
“But it could be more than 200 megawatts,” Culik said. “It all comes down to the wind resource, the amount of open land available, and the big one is the transmission line, and finally how much power we can sell. If a utility is interested in 500 megawatts but we only have a transmission line that can hold 200, then your constraint is the transmission line. If we have a utility only interested in buying 200 but we can put 500 on the line, then the constraint is how much we can sell.”
One megawatt of electricity can serve 300 homes, Culik said.
So if Horizon builds a 100 MW wind farm, it would generate enough electricity to serve the equivalent of 30,000 homes, and a 200 MW wind farm would serve 60,000 homes.
Horizon expects construction to start in three or four years.
By Seth Slabaugh
20 March 2008
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