Plans to build a 12-turbine wind farm in northern Tippecanoe County were green-lighted Wednesday by the Board of Zoning Appeals.
The forthcoming Purdue Energy Park will be the county’s first large wind energy project. Construction of a dozen 432-foot towers will begin this summer.
Though Purdue University isn’t contributing financially, the partnership with Indianapolis-based developer Performance Services will provide the research university with opportunities for data collection, curriculum development and hands-on training, said Ken Sandel, director of physical and capital planning.
“A lot of the concern about the flicker effects, a lot of concern about noise are the things that the Purdue researchers can help address and engage in as we move forward with research on a commercially viable farm,” he said.
In requesting a special exception, the developer noted that nearby wind farms dwarf the project bearing Purdue’s name. There is a 350-turbine farm in Benton County and a 600-turbine farm in White County.
Those sizable farms were on the mind of Tippecanoe County resident Jim Pairitz, who urged the BZA not to approve an exception Wednesday. He and his wife and daughter aren’t looking to halt the 12-tower project, he said, but rather want to set a precedent to which other wind developers will be held.
Pairitz said the document reflects “shoddy workmanship” and indicates that the project is “moving very quickly.” He noted that no noise data has been presented to support the promise that the turbines will keep below the 55-decibel maximum, and he raised concerns with tabulations in the project’s decommission plan.
Tony Kuykendall, business development manager for Performance Services, responded to Pairitz and two other opponents, clarifying some points of concern and noting that others will be addressed later in the approval process.
Area Plan Commission staff member Bianca Zakiklowski said the BZA’s approval is conditional because the wind farm must still comply with requirements set by Tippecanoe County code.
“There are lots of requirements. If they don’t meet those, they don’t get their building permit. They know that,” she said. “While it would be wonderful to have all of these requirements and all of these studies done, it’s not a requirement of submitting the special exception request.”
In order to receive construction permits, the developer must provide county officials with a road use and maintenance agreement, a drainage and erosion control plan and a “shadow flicker assessment,” according to BZA documents. County ordinance also defines minimum setback distances between the base of each tower and nonparticipating property lines and dwellings.
Zakiklowski said the special exception granted Wednesday will expire if the site fails to produce energy within 18 months.
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