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Tippecanoe County wind energy projects stall  

Credit:  Written by ERIC WEDDLE, www.jconline.com 4 April 2012 ~~

Two wind energy projects planned for Tippecanoe County are facing stiff headwinds that could block further development.

Lack of funding has put on hold a 100-megawatt energy park proposed for farmland owned by Purdue University and nearby privately owned property.

And the status of a plan to build a 133-turbine park in an area southwest in the county is in the air, although the reasons are less than clear.

Matthew DaPrato, a wind energy analyst with IHS Emerging Energy Research, said these projects and others that miss out on a federal wind energy production tax credit set to expire at end of this year will likely struggle to secure financing and agreements with utilities to sell their power.

“It will change the equation,” DaPrato said. “In Indiana, I would not expect to see any built next year without the credit there.”

Without a power purchase agreement, developers cannot attract tens of millions of dollars, or more, from funders to purchase and install turbines.

DaPrato said utility companies across the country are currently signing power agreements with developers because they are locking in on low prices.

A combination of the Production Tax Credit, which will expire at the end of 2012 unless Congress renews it, increased turbine efficiency and lower turbine manufacturing costs is making the cost of wind megawatts per hour competitive.

The lack of the wind farm subsidy is already having an effect. A wind farm in western Boone County was canceled recently by enXco, a French energy company.

“Regulatory uncertainty” over the fate of the federal renewable energy tax credit was a factor in the decision, a company spokeswoman said.

Indiana is at a disadvantage, DaPrato said, because lawmakers have not adopted a mandatory renewable energy portfolio standard. In 2010, Indiana passed a voluntary goal for utilities in the state to produce 10 percent clean energy by 2025.

Some other states, such as Illinois, have a mandate.

“Without the RPS, there is nothing to guide utilities,” he said, referring to the renewable energy portfolio.

Looking to 2013

Performance Services, an Indianapolis-based engineering and construction company, has been seeking financial backers and a power purchase agreement since early 2011 for a turbine park planned for the Animal Sciences Research and Education Center, 10 miles northwest of West Lafayette, and on private land in western Tippecanoe County.

This week Scott Zigmond, vice president of sales and marketing for Performance Service, said he remains committed to the project, though the original goal of breaking ground this year won’t be meet.

“Now we don’t see a full project in 2012,” he said, “but we are planning on a full one in 2013.”

The company is paying leasing fees to 19 landowners in the northern part of the section.

“The process is, now we have to get a utility company or utility companies … to agree,” Zigmond said. “From that, we would go into financing.”

Ken Sandel, Purdue’s director of physical and capital planning, said the university’s financial interest is as landowner. The Purdue Research Foundation is overseeing the lease of land.

“Our primary interest in this is the research, not only in the engineering research in the turbines and turbine technology, but the impact on the environment and agricultural,” he said.

Sandel said Purdue remains committed to work with Performance Services.

Southside questions

The story of delay and uncertainty is similar for Invenergy Wind LLC of Chicago, which has floated plans to build 133 turbines in an area of southwest Tippecanoe County along with parts of Montgomery and Fountain counties.

Chuck Shelby, a farmer who lives on South County Road 400 West, is one of more than 200 people to sign easement agreements with Invenergy for its 45,000-acre Tri-County Wind Project. Shelby has continued to receiving leasing fees, though he is not sure where the project stands.

“I have a lot of the same questions others have,” he said. “We have not heard from them in awhile.”

County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh said it has been months since the county spoke with the company.

“We don’t know what is going on,” he said, “if it is on hold or if it is canceled.”

Last summer county commissioners approved giving wind farm developers 18 months to get their first generator up and running once their projects in the county are approved.

Invenergy opened a downtown office several years ago. It was closed in late 2011.

“Our development efforts in central Indiana continue to be supported out of our offices in Chicago,” spokeswoman Alissa Krinsky wrote in an email.

In a statement provided to the Journal & Courier, Kevin Parzyck, Invenergy’s vice president of development for the central region, said the company continues to evaluate the impact of uncertainty in the wind energy Production Tax Credit.

“The project is pursuing necessary federal, state, and local permits, and we are actively meeting with potential counterparts about purchasing power and renewable energy credits from the facility,” the statement said.

Contributing: The Indianapolis Star

Source:  Written by ERIC WEDDLE, www.jconline.com 4 April 2012

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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