LEWISVILLE – A 75-turbine wind farm that could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in property tax revenue and in payments for landowners could be operational here by the end of 2013.
This week, representatives from the energy company Nordex USA presented their plans for the so-called Flat Rock Wind Project to the Henry County Council and the Henry County Commissioners.
Matthew Decker, a project developer for Nordex, said now, after two years of preparation, the company wants to place 75 wind turbines in southern Henry County and northern Rush County.
The company already has 29,000 acres of land under cooperation agreements with property owners.
Nordex’s planned development area stretches from just south of Interstate 70 in Henry County to about Road 600 North in Rush County. From west to east, it goes from Ind. 3 to Straughn.
Under current plans, about 23 wind turbines would be placed in Henry County, and about 52 would be placed in Rush County.
However, Nordex is working with the New Castle-Henry County Board of Aviation Commissioners to try to alter the municipal airport’s flight patterns so that 10 more turbines can be placed in Henry County – where wind speeds are better – instead of Rush County.
As Decker explained to the Henry County Council on Wednesday, 10 more turbines in Henry County would bring about $100,000 more in property tax revenue each year to the county.
Decker said each turbine will produce about $10,000 in property tax revenue each year.
But the potential financial benefits of the wind farm don’t stop there. Property owners in the development area would be paid for their cooperation if they work with Nordex.
Property owners who have wind turbines placed on their land would receive 4 percent of the gross revenue, and there would be a guaranteed minimum rate, said Howard Kruger, a consultant for Nordex.
Kruger estimated that a property owner with a turbine would receive between $19,000 and $24,000 a year.
Other property owners in the development area who contract with Nordex would also be compensated, Kruger added.
Plus, Kruger said Nordex would repair roads in the county so that they can handle the equipment that hauls the wind turbines.
“Some of those roads in southern Henry County really need some work,” Kruger said.
He added that for other wind projects, roads end up being in “phenomenal shape.”
Nordex would also post bonds so there’s money available – if something goes wrong – to remove the turbines and to repair the roads.
In addition to other financial benefits, Nordex would have to pay fees to submit for construction permits from county government. In Henry County, each turbine’s permit would cost $20,000. If Nordex has 23 turbines in the county, the permits alone would produce $460,000.
Pending the approval of government agencies, Nordex hopes to begin construction on the wind farm next year. The foundations could be placed in the spring of 2013, and the turbines could be delivered in the summer of 2013, Decker said on Wednesday.
Kruger added that the reasons Nordex chose southern Henry County and northern Rush County were the wind speeds, the power line infrastructure and the landowners.
“Unless the Rocky Mountains go away, it’s always going to be windy in Henry County,” Kruger said at one point on Wednesday.
He added later, “It’s like an oil well. It will never dry up.”
One focus of Nordex’s presentations on Wednesday was the way its wind farm could impact the New Castle-Henry County Municipal Airport.
During the commissioners’ meeting, Decker said Nordex wants the wind farm and the airport’s runway extension project to “coexist happily.”
Nordex hopes to work with the Federal Aviation Administration and the aviation board to change a flight pattern at the airport so that about 12,000 more acres can be used in Henry County, where wind speeds are faster.
The flight pattern would change from a left-hand pattern to a right-hand pattern under Nordex’s plans. The change would send more traffic to the north of the airport instead of the south.
“We recognize that the airport’s been working on this runway expansion for a while,” Decker told the commissioners on Wednesday. “We’ve certainly heard how beneficial it would be. So we really don’t want to get in the way of that at all.”
Decker said Nordex plans to work with the aviation board’s consultant to submit a preliminary airspace study to the FAA to see if the flight pattern change could work.
Then, eventually, Nordex would ask the aviation board to officially submit the flight pattern change to the FAA, Decker added.
Nordex hopes to get a final determination from the FAA in March of 2013.
Maurice Goodwin, president the aviation board, attended both of Nordex’s presentations on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Goodwin said, “Everything he presented is pretty factual.”
Goodwin said Nordex’s timeline for working with the FAA and the aviation board could run shorter or longer than predicted. Goodwin also said that the changing the flight pattern would likely require public meetings to get input on whether residents want the change.
Goodwin said he believes some New Castle residents will protest it because they don’t want planes flying over the city.
“My personal opinion is that we’re going to get a lot of complaints,” Goodwin said.
According to Nordex’s current plans, the flight pattern change would impact only 10 turbines that would have to be moved from Henry County to Rush County if the change isn’t made.
On Wednesday, only about 20 people attended each county meeting in which Nordex presented its plans.
Few people in the crowd spoke out with questions or comments. Most of the questions on Wednesday came from council members.
However, one Lewisville resident, Doug Furbee, asked if Nordex would put turbines in and around Lewisville.
Kruger said there many setbacks, including near major roadways like Ind. 103 and Interstate 70, where Nordex can’t put turbines.
Kruger added that Nordex wants to work with property owners and answer their questions and concerns.
“As a company, we don’t want to create a rift in the community with our development,” Kruger said.
Gary Wilson, a former employee of the Henry County Extension Office who worked in wind energy, urged council and aviation board members to support Nordex.
He said other wind developers are considering Henry County but are waiting to see how the county handles Nordex.
“This is something that you want to act on,” Wilson told the council. He added, “These silly questions, some of them have been asking, they’ve already been told two or three years ago.”
Then, Councilman Harold Griffin fired back, “I don’t consider it silly because there are people who don’t know.”
Then, Griffin told Wilson not to “brow beat” the council.
Councilman Richard Bouslog said he had investigated a rumored wind turbine syndrome that is said to create health problems for people who live near turbines. Bouslog said medical research has indicated the syndrome doesn’t exist.
“If anyone’s living in that area, you will not lose sleep,” Bouslog said on Wednesday.
He added, “(Council President) Nate (LaMar) and I stood under a large (wind) tower. There were no vibrations. And it sounded like you were at a beach.”
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