Purdue University and its partner Performance Services of Indianapolis have planned, designed and leased land for a $200 million wind farm in Tippecanoe County to be generating electric power by late next year.
Now, they just need state regulatory approval and a customer for the 100 megawatts of electricity they hope to capture from the wind turbines, which could power up to 25,000 homes.
The university confirmed plans Tuesday for a wind farm of up to 6,000 acres about seven miles north of Lafayette, using parts of the existing Purdue agricultural and energy farms and also using wind leases acquired by Performance Services on thousands of neighboring acres.
Together, they have about 4,000 acres designed so far, including sites for at least 60 commercial turbines made by General Electric. They also plan a welcome center, where the public and students can learn about wind and other forms of renewable energy, such as solar and methane gas, that are being explored in Purdue’s Energy Park.
Purdue and Performance Services are briefing representatives of at least six Indiana electric utility companies on the project this week, trying to interest them in buying all or part of the energy.
It’s the latest development in Indiana’s wind power industry, which is one of the fastest growing in the nation. Indiana has sprinted from zero to about 1,000 megawatts of wind power in barely three years.
Many states require electric utilities to use renewable energy sources for a portion of the power they sell, even if they have to pay more for it than for coal-fired electricity. Indiana does not, but most of the power companies have shown an interest in buying electricity generated by wind turbines, solar arrays, biomass and other technologies.
Richard Benedict of Indianapolis Power and Light Co. said the utility company has an interest in two wind farms so far, one in Benton County and the other in Minnesota.
He wants to hear more about the new Purdue/Performance wind park before making a commitment. “There is no doubt that it’s real and it’s commercial” quantities of electric power, he said.
Tim Thoman, president of Performance Services, said the timeline is aggressive to negotiate purchase agreements for the power and complete state regulatory approvals.
The goal is to order the huge turbines next winter for delivery by spring 2012, so construction can be done and power flowing before a critical deadline Dec. 31 that year, when federal tax credits of 30 percent for investors are due to expire.
“This actually works out perfectly because we are neighbors, just across the road, and because it can bring great benefits in research and education,” Thoman said.
Purdue officials hope tens of millions of dollars a year in research grants will flow to the project.
But the real excitement for Purdue is in using the development to do research on wind energy and teach students about wind turbines, large-scale wind farms and renewable energy.
Ivy Tech Community College officials said Tuesday that they also see educational opportunities for its technology students to learn how to maintain and operate the expensive and complex turbines.
“Purdue likes to be recognized as a green institution, a university on the cutting edge and a university that develops significant expertise,” said Victor L. Lechtenberg of the Purdue office of engagement.
The Purdue trustees approved the wind energy park project last month.
“We as researchers hardly ever get to do tests on an entire system, in this case, an entire wind farm connected to the power grid,” said Douglas Adams, professor of renewable energy.
“Imagine how much we can learn inside a commercial wind farm. We can take data we’ve never even dreamed of taking for days, months or years.”
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