LOWELL – For the second time, plans for a proposed wind farm in South Lake County have turned to dust in the wind.
Andy Patterson, with Michigan Energy Generation, said the original partner in the project that was expected to cost between $250 million and $300 million, International Power, was acquired by another firm that did not want to proceed with wind power.
“It’s a big disappointment,” Patterson said. Michigan Energy was working on nine wind farm projects in various stages of development in the U.S. and Canada that have all been scrapped. The South Lake County project was expected to put about 100 people to work.
Patterson said he was unable to secure funding from other investors due to the political uncertainty about the tax structure for renewable energy beyond 2012 and the voluntary renewable portfolio standard in Indiana.
“I talked to a lot of investors trying to revive it. It’s a classic case of uncertainty caused by government,” Patterson said.
Federal subsidies for wind energy are set to expire Dec. 31, 2012. While the subsidies are not necessarily a requirement for developing a project such as this, not knowing if they will exist makes it impossible to develop a business plan investment firms will consider. In Indiana, only having a voluntary standard for how much energy should come from renewable sources was the second problem for investors.
Attorney Dan Blaney from Morocco, who specialized in wind technology and represented local farmers wanting to lease their land to Michigan Energy, agreed with Patterson’s assessment. Without a firm state standard for how much energy must come from renewable energy, companies are reticent to invest.
“These wind companies invest so much money they want a fixed policy,” Blaney said.
He said the environment in Congress where little is being accomplished and extensions on renewable energy subsidies are languishing is a problem for investors.
Michigan Energy has released local property owners from leases for farmland to be used for the windmills that they signed with the company.
This was the second time farmer John Bryant went through the process. He farms about 1,000 acres in South Lake County and was thinking his land might be able to support four or five windmills depending on the setback variances Lake County officials put in place.
“I’m ambivalent about them one way or the other. I don’t really care,” he said.
Bryant said while he expected to earn $10,000 or more for each windmill depending on the amount of power they generated, it was not revenue he was counting on after the first deal fell through.
“I’m not going to worry about it. I got other things to worry about,” Bryant said.
Patterson said he is hopeful a new political climate after the 2012 elections will breathe life back into wind energy proposals.
“I think you’ll see interest pick up again in 2013. Economically wind makes sense still,” Patterson said.
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