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Wind farm tax abatement approved; Project could start in Howard County in 2013

Ten-year tax abatements for two phases of the proposed Wildcat Wind Farm have been approved.

Howard County Council members voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of E-on Climate & Renewables’ request for the tax abatements for the project in the eastern part of the county.

Andy Melka, project manager for E-on, said the company will invest over $200 million in the county.

“The tax abatement is the best way to move the project forward,” he said. “All the wind farms in Indiana have received the tax abatements.”

Melka said the company intends to invest $38 million during phase two and $180 million in phase three.

He said during the abatement period, the company will pay $1 million in taxes for phase one and $5.2 million for phase two. Once the abatements expire, the company will pay $1 million to $1.2 million annually in taxes.

Phase two will be located in Howard and Grant counties, with up to 65 turbines generating 100 megawatts of power. Phase three is also in Howard and Grant counties, generating up to 120 megawatts of electricity with up to 125 turbines.

A megawatt provides electrical energy to 1,000 homes. An average commercial generating plant produces between 700 and 900 megawatts of electricity.

Rachel Genkins spoke in support of the project.

She said the nation needs to diversify energy sources, and she favors renewable wind and solar energy.

“If it’s necessary to give a tax abatement, let’s do it,” she said.

Local dairy farmer Grace April raised concerns about the set-back requirements for the project.

Opposed to the abatement, April said she was concerned about the impact of audible and inaudible noise.

April asked for a 2-mile set-back between the nearest wind turbine and her dairy farm.

“I’m talking about the elimination of two or three wind turbines from the project, so I can keep my dairy business,” she said.

Melka said wind farms have been in operation for many years and that studies have shown no adverse effects on health.

“These arguments come up every time we request a tax abatement,” he said.

Commissioner Tyler Moore said the county’s wind ordinance requires a 500-foot set-back and 1.1 times the height of a turbine near residential property or more than 1,000 feet.

“Information is being gathered that will be presented to the plan commission members,” he said.

Greg Sheline, director of the Kokomo/Howard County Plan Commission, said he has been in contact with officials in Benton and White counties, both home to wind farms.

He said there have been no complaints expressed in those counties and is planning a trip for elected officials to visit.

“The set-backs are in the ordinance,” Sheline said. “The ordinance would have to be amended.”