September 2, 2014

Wind farm blows into Randolph County

By Seth Slabaugh | The Star Press | September 2, 2014 |

WINCHESTER – Towers reaching 320 feet into the sky for the state’s latest utility-scale wind farm are popping up in corn and soybean fields in southern Randolph County.

Though they aren’t spinning yet, some already have blades, which add another 100 feet to their height.

“It’s quite a climb,” says Jeremey Chenoweth, operations manager for the Headwaters Wind Farm that will contain 100 turbines when completed by the end of the year.

Carrying 30 pounds of safety harnesses and other gear, it takes him about 20 minutes to climb ladders to the top of the towers for inspection and maintenance.

Including the blades, the height of the structures nearly equals that of Shafer Tower (150 feet) on the campus of Ball State University and of the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument (285 feet ) on Monument Circle in Indianapolis – combined.

“It changes the skyline … but you don’t want to stay in the horse and buggy age,” said Kaylene Straley, clerk treasurer for the town of Lynn. “The public doesn’t appear to be complaining about them like they do about CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations, aka industrial hog and dairy farms).”

People are complaining about construction traffic, dust, damage to roads and the fact the project won’t lower local electricity bills. Chenoweth says roads will be put back in better condition than before.

“It will help the farmers,” Straley said. “They will be getting quite a bit of money off the land.”

The owner, EDP Renewables North America, Houston, Texas, is leasing land from nearly 200 Randolph County property owners for the project’s turbines, access roads and transmission corridors. The lease payments will range from $8,000 to $12,000 a year for each land owner.

In addition, EDP has agreed to pay $10 million in lieu of property taxes to Randolph County government for community development over the next decade, after which the company will pay property taxes for the rest of the project’s life.

EDP has constructed more than 30 miles of gravel roads through farm fields to provide access to each turbine from local roads and state and federal highways.

The wind farm’s components – towers, blades, motors, gear boxes, brakes, shafts, generators, nacelles and other parts – are being delivered by rail and truck. EDP constructed a temporary rail yard at Connersville for deliveries.

Housing the generating components atop the tower, each nacelle is about the size of a bus.

Chenoweth, a native of Arcadia in Hamilton County who attended Indiana University before completing his education in engineering in the Air Force, says wind farms “become part of the background after the initial shock,” like railroads in the 1800s.

Most of the project is bordered by Ind. 1, Ind. 32, U.S.27 and U.S. 36 between Winchester, Lynn, Modoc and Farmland.

EDP is also building an electrical substation at Randolph County Roads 300-W and 700-S and a new maintenance hub in Vision Business Park in Winchester.

So called because Randolph County is the source or headwaters of the White River, Headwaters Wind Farm will have 200 megawatts (MW) of capacity – enough to power more than 51,000 Indiana homes with clean energy. (There are only 10,324 households in Randolph County).

Unlike the coal-fired power plants that produce most of Indiana’s electricity, wind farms prevent the emission of carbon dioxide (a contributor to climate change) and other pollutants that cause smog and acid rain.

Indiana has five currently operating, utility-scale wind farms with a total capacity of 1,544 MW. That ranks Indiana 13th in the nation and provides 3.2 percent of Indiana’s electricity. Wind farms currently operate in Benton, White, Madison and Tipton counties.

More wind farms are proposed in Newton, White, Benton, Jay, Randolph, Grant, Howard and Tippecanoe counties, according to Tristan Vance, director of the Indiana Office of Energy Development.

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