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Wind project still seeking buyer

Roughly three months after receiving the green light from Fayette County, a proposed wind farm project is still in search of a buyer for the electricity it would produce.

The Whitewater Wind Farm, a proposed wind farm project that would span three counties – including Fayette – has received its special exception permits from both Fayette and Henry counties, which was the last major hurdle the project had to clear, at least regarding local governments, in order to become a reality.

Another hurdle, however, has yet to be cleared, as the company leading the project – NextEra Energy Resources – is still seeking a purchaser of the electricity the wind farm, once constructed, would produce.

There are parties interested in purchasing that electricity, according to Jeremy Ferrell, project manager for the Whitewater Wind Farm, while acknowledging that without a purchaser, the project might not take place.

“At the end of the day, this project does hinge on finding a purchaser for the power,” Ferrell said Tuesday. “We are still actively marketing that. We’ve seen quite a few more entrants come into the market, related to the clean power plant … they’re deciding whether to get in front of the clean power plant, how they’re going to procure (it), and a lot of those companies are identifying what they’re going to do as far as that clean power plant.

“They are starting to send out more and more test balloons, so to speak, on what’s available out there,” he continued.

The project also has another question mark, for while it has received its special exception permits in both Fayette and Henry counties, the situation in Rush County is a different story.

Rush County, in July, voted to increase the setback distance within the county for wind turbines from a non-participating landowners property line to 2,300 feet, in response to a proposed wind farm project by Apex Clean Energy. That decision later led to county commissioners voting to cease negotiations with Apex Clean Energy regarding the Flat Rock Wind Farm project, along with a challenge of the county’s BZA decision in court by the energy company.

That situation is affecting NextEra as well, Ferrell said, as the Whitewater Wind Farm project would see roughly a dozen wind turbines placed in Rush County and is up in the air there, due to the recent decisions.

“There are differences between the Flat Rock project and ours,” Ferrell said. “This is an ever-evolving project and we’re still evaluating our options.”

Ferrell wouldn’t go into detail what those options were, and whether it would include additional turbines being placed in Fayette and Henry counties should Rush County no longer be part of the project.

“Anything’s on the table,” he said.

Per the economic development contract with Fayette County, construction of the Whitewater Wind Farm project must commence within the county before Dec. 31, 2016.