Purdue University is considering a partnership with private companies to develop a 60-turbine wind farm in northern Tippecanoe County.
Campus officials want to erect 30 turbines on university land and have access to another 30 nearby that would be used by faculty and students for research and education initiatives. Generating energy for the campus is not part of the plan.
The idea was discussed Wednesday during a Purdue Board of Trustees physical facilities committee meeting at Stewart Center. The meeting was held to give committee members a jump-start investigating the project before they are asked to vote on it Feb. 3 and prior to asking for full board approval Feb. 4.
“The research description and benefits that would come out of something like this fit perfectly with the whole Purdue mission,” said trustee Michael Berghoff, committee chairman. “This is something concrete and specific. You talk about turbine design – that is a classic Purdue topic.”
But the trustees were hesitant to fully back the plan until they saw a financial impact analysis and understood how ongoing university research could be affected, among other questions.
“There needs to be some strong discussion about this,” said trustee Mamon Powers. “I’d like to see some kind of finance modeling to see what kind of cost will come to Purdue.”
Ken Sandel, Purdue director of physical and capital planning, described the project as a joint effort among Purdue, Purdue Research Foundation, General Electric and Performance Services, an Indianapolis-based engineering and construction company.
The focus would be opening up new research and teaching areas, such as wind energy technology, turbine load management, environmental, agricultural, and social impacts of turbines, and more.
The proposed Purdue Energy Park would be made up of 30 GE turbines across the 1,600 acres at the Purdue Animal Sciences Research and Education Center – mostly agriculture land 10 miles northwest of campus off U.S. 213 South between county Roads 500 North and 750 North.
Purdue Energy Park would also encompass Performance Park, a 30-turbine wind energy farm being developed on more than 2,400 acres of private land by Performance Services’ as the first wind farm in Tippecanoe County. Current plans show Performance Park sitting on an area bound by North County Line Road and County Road 750 North, U.S. 231 and County Road 300 West.
Performance Services is the design-builder of both parks and is in negotiations with a major financial investor for the commercial venture, according to Purdue.
The 100 megawatts of electricity the 60 turbines has a potential to produce would be sold to a utility, Sandel said, but Purdue would not receive that money. The university would get land lease payments, however.
Performance Services is in discussions over which utility company would purchase the power, said Scott Zigmond, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.
It is unclear how much, if any, of the energy produced at the park could be funneled back to Purdue to offset energy costs.
Also unknown is how much cost and revenue Purdue would see from the park, a topic trustees asked about repeatedly.
At the least, the university would receive $300,000 per year, or $10,000 per turbine, on Purdue-owned land.
Jay Akridge, dean of the College of Agriculture, said some of that money would go to Animal Sciences Research and Education Center to account for lost crop production and or increased operating costs. About 20 acres of land would be needed for turbines and access roads at the center.
Some faculty are worried about how ongoing projects at the center could be affected by the turbines, Akridge said. Answers to those concerns are being sought before the trustees meet on Feb. 3.
Sandel wants to bring a resolution to the trustees next month that would allow Purdue Research Foundation to manage a leasing agreement for Purdue land at the Animal Sciences Research and Education Center.
That would be the first step in the planning the park. Final approval of the lease of land to a private company would rest with the state.
“There is a lot of opportunity here but there is also a lot to overcome,” Berghoff said. “All of these little parties will have to get along for the research to be conducted in a way that is beneficial to the university. It is a big idea and those things comes with associated problems.”
Plans for a Purdue wind farm go back to 2005, Sandel said, when a meteorological tower was installed at the site.
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