The potential for profit is driving the development of an increasing number of wind farm projects, including a proposal that would generate electricity from wind that blows across rural land south of Greater Lafayette.
nvenergy Wind North America LLC is developing the Tri-County Wind Energy Center, which is designed to place wind turbines on property in southwestern Tippecanoe, northwestern Montgomery and northeastern Fountain counties.
Typically, annual lease payments are made to landowners who agree to allow the wind turbines to be placed on their property.
“We’re chugging along in terms of acquiring land and recording wind data,” said Joel Link, vice president of business development for the central region of the Chicago-based renewable energy company. “It’s a pretty ambitious project – anywhere from 300 to 400 megawatts in size – thousands of acres at this point.”
A maximum of 500 megawatts of electricity, generated by approximately 344 wind turbines, is possible through the three-county project. The company said that would generate enough electricity to provide service to 137,000 typical Indiana homes.
Invenergy has more than 1,300 megawatts of wind energy projects in construction and operation, including projects in Wisconsin, Illinois and Texas.
With construction of the Tri-County Wind Energy Center scheduled to start in the spring of 2010, electricity generation is expected to begin later that year.
“So far, the data looks real promising,” Link said. “We still have the rest of this year to record data. I think we’re looking at a 2010 project (start) on that site.”
According to Invenergy, which has opened an office in Lafayette, the local project will create up to 150 construction jobs and employment for up to 15 people when operations begin.
Sallie Fahey, executive director of the Tippecanoe County Area Plan Commission, said recent changes in zoning regulations have positioned the county to benefit from wind farms. A recent study by the National Research Council shows wind farms could generate as much as 7 percent of U.S. electricity in 15 years.
“We have amended our ordinances,” Fahey said. “We are prepared to authorize big wind energy systems and at the same time hopefully make sure they develop the land in a way that will be compatible with surrounding landowners.”
Record pace, key role
Northwest of Greater Lafayette, in Benton County, two wind farm projects are being created.
# Orion Energy Group has installed nearly 90 wind turbines near Earl Park, in Richland and York townships.
The turbines could be activated next month and are expected to generate 130 megawatts of electricity – enough to power between 30,000 and 40,000 homes.
# BP Alternative Energy and Dominion are co-owners of the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, a two-phase project that will create one of the largest single wind farms in the world if it generates an expected 760 megawatts of electricity.
Last month, Invenergy signed a $1 billion contract with GE Energy, which will provide wind turbines for new projects.
Under the agreement, GE Energy will furnish 750 megawatts of wind turbines for the Tri-County Wind Energy Center and other Invenergy projects that will be constructed in North America in 2010.
The projects will provide enough power to meet the needs of more than 200,000 households.
In January, the two companies also announced a $1 billion agreement that will provide wind turbines for Invenergy projects that will be built in the U.S. and Europe in 2009.
“As these agreements demonstrate, the demand for wind energy continues to grow at a record pace,” said Victor Abate, vice president of renewables for GE Energy. “It is clear that abundant, reliable, carbon-free wind power will continue to play a key role in the energy future of this country.”
By Max Showalter
6 April 2008
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