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Wind industry feeling a little more welcome  

Credit:  Written by SETH SLABAUGH, www.thestarpress.com 10 April 2011 ~~

MUNCIE – The American Wind Energy Association says the state Legislature is on the verge of taking a “solid first step forward” in welcoming the industry to Indiana.

Indiana already ranks 11th in the country in wind power, despite the lack of a state regulation requiring increased production of energy from wind, according to AWEA’s latest annual report, released last week.

Twenty-nine other states already have enacted renewable electricity standards (RES) requiring electric utilities to generate a certain amount of electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources by a certain date, including 25 percent by 2025 in Ohio and Illinois and 10 percent by 2015 in Michigan.

Seven other states have set voluntary RES goals, and Indiana could become the eighth state in that category if Senate Bill 251 passes.

Authored by Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, the Indiana bill would establish a voluntary “clean energy portfolio standard program” that provides incentives to participating electricity companies.

A participating company would have to demonstrate that it has a reasonable expectation of obtaining clean energy to meet the energy requirements of at least 10 percent of its customers by 2025. The bill’s definition of clean energy includes clean coal.

“The industry thinks that bill is a good, solid first step for Indiana to move forward,” said Brad Lystra, manager of state campaigns for AWEA.

But it remains to be seen whether the bill goes far enough to prevent what AWEA predicts will be a slowdown of further wind farm construction in Indiana.

For example, Randolph County has worked diligently to attract wind energy investment. Developers have leased tens of thousands of acres from local land owners for prospective wind farms. The Area Plan Commission crafted a pro-wind zoning ordinance. The Randolph County Commissioners contracted with the legal team that facilitated development of wind farms in West Central Indiana.

But Horizon Wind Energy, the developer of a proposed 100-megawatt wind farm in Randolph County, decided last year to delay its construction.

“I think this is starting to get in the way of bringing projects to fruition, not just in Randolph County but across the state,” Kevin Law, director of the Randolph Economic Development Corp., told The Star Press in October. “The Randolph County project has not been canceled, but it is being back-burnered for a project in Ohio, which recently adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). We are losing our competitive edge.”

Horizon has started construction of a $1 billion wind farm across the state line from Fort Wayne in Paulding and Van Wert counties Ohio.

This week, Law said, “We really haven’t had any updates from Horizon in several months. They basically told us to hang in there. One of the things Horizon executives are emphasizing is the need for a RPS, and Indiana doesn’t have one. That has to play a part in their decision to put ours on the back burner.”

Meanwhile, Indiana Michigan Power, which also has been exploring construction of a wind farm in Randolph and Jay counties, says it has nothing new to report on the possibility of that project.

By far, Texas is the nation’s top wind power state. What is driving that? Strong, stable, long-term policy, including renewable energy targets, stable tax and siting policies, a competitive-market approach, and constructing a modern and efficient transmission system, according to AWEA’s annual report.

“Interest turns into action when (states) implement their own policy mechanisms for wind power, which, in addition to providing clean, affordable energy, also offers states the promise of economic development in rural areas and even manufacturing facilities that become part of the … supply chain,” the organization reported.

Lystra and others have said that wind farm construction has occurred in Indiana in the absence of a state wind policy because Indiana has ample wind resources, open agricultural areas, a robust transmission network and proximity to neighboring states with RES laws.

Much of the energy created by Indiana wind farms to date is being sold in Illinois or to other states in the wholesale market, to satisfy RES requirements in other states.

“It has made sense for Indiana to sit back and not want to make a law on something that is not yet proven to be broken,” Lystra said. “What the industry is trying to communicate is, although there has been significant development in Indiana over the past few years, our analysis indicates the ability of the state to continue at that clip is ramping down. It makes sense for the House and the Senate to take up an RES under the knowledge that the industry is slowing down in Indiana.”

Senate Bill 252 has passed the Senate and is expected to be voted on by the House in the next week.

Indiana is one of the most coal-dependent states in the country in terms of electric power generation.

Source:  Written by SETH SLABAUGH, www.thestarpress.com 10 April 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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