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Hobart farmer spurns NIPSCO buyback, shelves wind turbine plans

HOBART | A local farmer has taken a pass on being the first in the city to plant wind turbines on his property.

Farmer Louis Mikolics late last year received City Council approval to place two 172-foot tall wind turbines on his farm, 6716 Colorado St.

The massive devices harness wind power for electricity.

Mikolics, 78, said he was ready to move forward until he looked at the agreement he signed with NIPSCO.

He said he did not believe he would get a good return on his investment of $750,000 for the turbines, 55 percent of which is paid back through federal grants.

Mikolics, who has been farming for more than 60 years, said he’s debt-free, leases and farms some 500 acres and owns the 100-acre homestead on Colorado Street, where he lives with his family.

Mikolics said the unknown costs, such as annual payments on a NIPSCO-required $3 million insurance liability policy, made him shy away from the construction.

“I can do better by growing blueberries,” Mikolics said.

Nick Meyer, director of external communications for NIPSCO, said the company’s pilot program for purchasing both solar and wind turbine energy is a a good one.

“The customer has to decide for themselves if this is the best investment,” Meyer said.

NIPSCO at present has some 100 projects, including residential and business, in which the company buys generated power back.

Meyer said NIPSCO’s buyback rate is among the highest in the country.

For instance, the buyback from NIPSCO for solar power is 26 to 30 cents per kilowatt hour compared to 11 cents from other companies.

The contract with Mikolics for his wind generated power was for 15 years at a 17 cents per kilowatt hour buyback from NIPSCO with a 2 percent increase initially and every year thereafter, Meyer said.

Meyer agreed there is a clause in agreements with NIPSCO in which a buyback wouldn’t be made under certain circumstances outside their control.

“It’s protection,” Meyer said.