Nine giant wind turbines may arrive in southeastern Henry County, a large crowd gathered at Center Christian Church learned Tuesday.
Nextera Energy Resources explained the wind farm proposal. Whitewater Wind Project Manager Jerry Ferrell said the company is considering placement of 77 wind turbines, including 43 in Fayette County, 25 in Rush County, and nine in Henry County.
The project represents an estimated $250 million investment. Ferrell said an estimated $35 million addition to the local tax base and approximately $15 million in lease payments over the projected 30 years of the project will benefit land owners who contract with the company to have a turbine placed on their property.
Other benefits, Ferrell said, include a boost to the local economy through the purchase of regional goods and services, the creation of five to 10 full-time jobs, and roughly 200 temporary construction jobs.
Construction could begin as soon as 2016, but several hurdles must be cleared first, including a myriad of permit requirements, completion of additional environmental studies, and, most importantly, someone to purchase the electricity the turbines generate.
When asked about the likelihood the project will actually come to fruition Ferrell responded, “I’ve laid out a number of situations, a number of scenarios that have to happen for it to occur which include permitting, tax abatement hearings, environmental issues, land resources, there are a number of issues, but the answer to that question is, ‘Would I be here if I didn’t think this was a viable project?’ The answer is no. I’m not going to give you odds, but like I said, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it was a viable project.”
In answering commonly asked questions and those from the audience, Ferrell said the turbines, which are 400 to 450 feet tall, are quiet; that when they are properly sited they are less dangerous to wildlife than structures or vehicles; that the majority of the power lines involved will be buried underground; and that the company does not have the authority to invoke imminent domain in order to force landowners to allow turbines or related hardware on their property.
As for any potential links between the turbines and health problems Ferrell said, “There is no credible scientifically peer reviewed study that demonstrates a link between wind turbines and negative health impact.”
As to why the company is looking at this area for a wind farm, Ferrell said there were several reasons including strong and consistent wind, proximity to existing electric transmission lines, willing landowners, a well positioned market location, and low impact risk to wildlife.
He also said wind has the lowest environmental impact of any source of electricity generation. It creates no air or water pollution and allows land to remain in agricultural use. Each turbine only requires one acre of land, and water is not required. The company has been conducting various studies in the area since 2007 and a great deal of the environmental work has already been done, enough for the project to move forward, Ferrell said.
Nextera Energy Resources is a division of Nextera, which also owns Florida Power & Light. Nextera has more than $72 billion in assets in the USA, Canada and Spain.
Nextera Energy Resources does business in 25 US states and Canada and already has turbines in place that generate 20,210 mega-watts of power. They also operate natural gas, solar, oil, and nuclear power generating facilities.
“We are the largest wind energy company in the US,” Ferrell said. “We are in this for the long haul, and we’re not one of those companies that puts turbines up and then hopes to lease or sell them to some other company. We own and operate all of our own facilities.”
New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation’s role will be to assist in offering details about the wind project, to facilitate meetings, and to bring the project to the Henry County Commissioners and the Henry County Council for their review and consideration, Penny York, who handles EDC special projects, said.
The majority of the large crowd on hand for Tuesday’s meeting appeared to be receptive to the wind farm idea. Ferrell received a round of applause at the conclusion of his presentation.