A local transportation company may soon bring the large wind turbines commonly reserved for rural areas to the middle of an urban environment.
With the aid of a $2.18 million federal grant, Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corp. is planning to erect three, 154-foot turbines on CityBus property at 1250 Canal Road.
The Tippecanoe County Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved a special exception request for the project Wednesday night, removing one more item from a long list of tasks CityBus officials must complete before having the structures built.
When asked how soon he would like to have the turbines in place, CityBus general manager Martin Sennett responded with “yesterday.”
“We began planning in May ’09. We were awarded the grant last October,” he said. “The bidding for the project opens Nov. 10. After that, I will be able to lay out a projected construction schedule. We’re very excited to get started.”
In addition to Sennett, some residents also are looking forward to seeing the machines make their way into the Lafayette skyline.
“There is really nothing else out here to look at,” said Regina Simms who lives in the nearby Lincoln Neighborhood.
Simms said part of her daily routine is catching the bus outside River Walk Apartments which is about a mile from CityBus headquarters.
“I’ve seen the turbines in Benton a few times,” said Simms. “They’re amazing. I wouldn’t mind watching them at the bus stop.”
According to county planner Bianca Klinker, the planned turbines would be considered large wind systems because they are taller than 140 feet, and each turbine will have an electrical generating capacity over 50 kilowatts.
By comparison, wind turbines in the Orion Energy Group wind farm near Earl Park in Benton County are 265 feet tall.
Sennett said the turbines are expected to save the company about $60,000 in energy costs, as well as generate about $250,000 in revenue. He said at that rate, the turbines should pay themselves off in about five or six years.
Sennett said the project should cost between $1.5 and $1.7 million. The grant money for the project is part of $100 million in economic stimulus funds going to transit agencies around the country to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Attorney Steve Meyer, who represented CityBus at the meeting, said because the area is primarily industrial, the turbines should fit right in.
“Because of the location, there will be no damage to nearby property. This is a uniquely suited urban area,” he said. “We think it’s a good project for the community. Not only is it environmentally friendly, it’s very economical.”
Although no one spoke in opposition of the project during the meeting, board member Jean Hall was concerned about the safety of building so close to other buildings.
“What if one of these things collapses or catches fire,” he said. “These things are not perfect.”
During the meeting, it was decided that any turbine to be built at the site must meet or exceed the construction specifications of the “Northwind 100” turbine built by the Vermont-based Northern Power Systems. Klinker said the Area Plan Commission staff used those turbines when writing their staff recommendation.
She added that the Northwind turbines meet all noise, lighting, height and operation requirements for the site.
Construction of the wind turbines could start late this year or early in 2011, but Sennett said it will be up to the winning bidder to determine the project’s time frame.
“With winter coming, we may have to wait for the spring, but there may be some companies that can work in the colder months,” he said. “We are going to let the experts do their jobs.”
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