With no public comment, the Howard County Commissioners approved Tuesday a revised economic development agreement with E.ON Climate & Renewables for two phases of the proposed Wildcat Wind Farm in eastern Howard County.
For several months the commissioners have been listening to testimony concerning the regulation of wind farms in Howard County involving setbacks from the wind turbines, noise levels and health and safety concerns.
The changes to the economic development agreement include: A 1,500-foot setback from the residences of non-participating property owners and 1,250 feet from participating property owners, instead of 1,050 feet; a change in the allowed noise level from 55 decibels to 50 decibels for non-participating and 52 decibels for participating property owners; a Federal Aviation Administration-approved light shield to limit the observance of the red lights on top of the turbines; shadow flicker restrictions; and wetland protection changes.
E.ON agreed to pay $500,000 to the county over five years instead of a proposed 10 percent reduction, or an estimated $750,000, on the 10-year tax abatement in the first renegotiated agreement.
The revised economic development agreement reduces the size of the project by approximately 50 percent in the county.
Phase 2, located in Grant and Howard counties, was originally expected to generate 100 megawatts of electricity. Phases 3 and 4 will be located between Greentown and Converse and in the Windfall area, with a possible generating capacity of up to 800 megawatts of electricity.
One megawatt provides electrical energy to approximately 1,000 homes.
Phase 2 was reduced in size to approximately 12 to 20 megawatts and Phase 3 to between 50 and 100 megawatts in Howard County.
E.ON plans to invest up to $40 million during phase 2 of the project, which is expected to be operational by Sept. 1, 2014, and $200 million on phase 3, which is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31, 2015.
E.ON currently is operating phase 1 of the Wildcat Wind Farm in eastern Tipton County, which began operations on Jan. 1.
Following the vote, several opponents of the project addressed the commissioners with a variety of questions concerning the enforcement of the terms of the agreement, in particular the noise levels.
County Attorney Larry Murrell said the agreement adds separate enforcement language to resolve any issues with E.ON. He said after 30 days the county can seek injunctive relief to require the company to comply.
“The commissioners took the time to make the agreement enforceable,” he said.
Kokomo resident Brett McNeil said the commissioners did a good job in changing the property setback, noise levels, shadow flicker and got $500,000 from E.ON.
“What did E.ON get?” McNeil said. “They got the continued support from Howard County for the wind farm project.”
The commissioners negotiated a new agreement in July that was further modified in August. A vote on the agreement was delayed for two weeks when Commissioner Brad Bray moved to table a vote on the revised agreement.
Bray seconded the motion made by Commissioner Paul Wyman to approve the agreement. It passed unanimously.
The vote also reaffirmed the county’s road use and decommissioning agreements with E.ON for the dismantling of the wind turbines in the future.
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