Miami Co. preparing for proposed wind farm project; Company considering building 100 turbines, expanding project into Cass and Fulton counties
PERU – Miami County commissioners Monday took the first steps to prepare for a proposed wind farm project that could bring up to 100 turbines to the northern part of the county.
Commissioners Larry West and Alan Hunt voted to approve funding to pay for two consulting companies that will help officials assess the potential impact of the project, which could also eventually spread into Cass and Fulton counties.
Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, told commissioners the total cost to pay for the consulting companies would ring up to around $75,000, with all three counties potentially impacted by the wind farm paying a third of that cost.
He said Wednesday Cass County officials have approved their portion of the funding. Fulton County officials will consider funding in a meeting scheduled for July 17.
The wind farm project is being proposed by RES, an international renewable energy company with its U.S. headquarters based in Colorado.
Tidd said Miami County has been under evaluation for a wind farm for years, and the company is now moving forward with the project, including negotiating with landowners where the turbines would be constructed.
Brad Lila, director of development for RES, said Wednesday the company is currently taking a close look at the area, including studying wind speeds, the topography and the capacity of the transmission grid.
“We take a long look at all of that, then try to make a determination,” he said. “But we really like the project. Everything we’ve seen has been positive. The community has been exceptional. The land owners have been supportive. The wind speed is good. We feel very positively about the project.”
Tidd said if the project moves forward, construction of turbines would begin in Miami County, which already has the necessary transmission lines in place, and then potentially spread to the other two counties.
Commissioner Chairman Josh Francis said the company is considering building between 80 to 100 turbines in the northern part of the county. The proposed parameters for the project run from 900 North to the Fulton County line, which encompasses about 36,000 acres, he said.
Francis said landowners recently submitted a revised lease agreement to the company, which is currently being reviewed by attorneys. Based on verbal commitments, around 19,000 acres so far has been pegged for the project, he said.
Francis has been contracted by RES to help develop the lease agreements between property owners and the company. He said Monday he has recused himself from any discussions or votes on the matter as a commissioner, since he is being paid by the company.
He said Wednesday he decided to contract with the company because he believes the wind farm would be a boon for the county, and he can help facilitate its development better as a contractor than a commissioner.
“I think I can do more good out here on the ground getting this done than as a commissioner,” Francis said.
Tidd said once Fulton County approves its portion of the funding, the two consulting companies will move forward with helping county officials determine the financial impact of the wind farm.
The firms will also help craft unified agreements between RES and the three counties regarding road improvements, economic development policies and guidelines on decommissioning and disassembling the turbines if they cease to operate.
Tidd said from an economic development standpoint, the project has huge potential to boost the county’s assessed value, produce revenue for landowners, increase the county’s tax revenue and create new construction and maintenance jobs.
“If the project does go through, believe me, there is potential revenue here to be reimbursed back on these (consulting) fees,” he said.
Francis said he hasn’t encountered much pushback on the project, and most landowners potentially affected by the turbines supported the development.
“We’re getting very little negative feedback,” he said. “I think the majority of landowners there realize this is a very unique opportunity for them to increase the assessed value to local schools and put some money back into the community. It’s been very, very positive.”
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