It’s safe to say few minds were changed.
Scout Clean Energy hosted an open house Tuesday at the Jay Community Center to outline its plans for a 52-turbine wind farm in Jefferson and Richland townships.
And opponents of the wind farm – roughly 50 percent of the 100 or so people on hand – were there to make their voices heard.
“We just want to make our presence known, that we’re not giving up,” said Jeff Birsfield, one of the leaders of the opposition to Bitter Ridge Wind Farm.
Birsfield said the group has hired an attorney – Stephen Snyder of Syracuse – who is expected to be present May 9 when Jay County Council considers a request from Scout for a tax abatement on the project.
He will also represent the group the following night, May 10, when Jay County Plan Commission will be asked to revise county regulation of wind farms. The plan commission may also be asked to establish a moratorium on any new wind farm projects in the county.
For its part, Scout Clean Energy seemed pleased with the outcome.
“It’s been very productive,” said project manager Pete Endres. “We answered a lot of questions, and hopefully folks are satisfied.”
Scout representatives were on hand to address concerns about the siting of turbines and environmental issues as well as to discuss the potential economic impact of the project.
Scout CEO Michael Rucker said the total capital investment involved is about $170 million, with $135 million as construction costs.
He added that setbacks for the wind turbines will exceed those required by Jay County’s zoning ordinance. Currently, the ordinance requires a 1,000-foot setback from any dwelling. NextEra’s Bluff Point Wind Energy Center used a setback of 1,400 feet.
Rucker said Tuesday that Scout’s setback will be 1,500 feet.
“We’re exceeding the county regulations by a fair bit,” said Endres.
That was not enough to satisfy opponents, some of whom referred to the turbines as “monstrosities.”
Though the siting map will not be finalized until Scout submits its development plan to the Jay/Portland Building and Planning Office, a preliminary version shows all of the turbines located in an area south of Indiana 67 and south of county road 400 South. Most of the turbines would be located east of Indiana 1.
“We have 40 landowners participating in this project,” said Endres.
At next Wednesday’s meeting of the county council, Scout will seek a tax abatement like the one approved by the county for the NextEra project.
That would phase in local property taxes but eventually have a significant impact on the county’s total assessed valuation.
In addition, Scout would provide the county with payments in lieu of taxes of $390,000 a year for the first four years, with those funds to be used for economic development.
In all, over the 25 years, Scout would make an estimated $15.3 million in property tax and economic development payments to the county. In addition, it would generate about $500,000 a year in lease payments to local landowners.
“We’re seeking the same treatment as NextEra,” said Endres.
If approved, construction on the project could start as early as 2019.
Rucker acknowledged that Scout has yet to find a buyer for the 130 megawatts of power that would be generated annually, but he said those discussions are progressing.
Once completed, the wind farm would belong to Scout Clean Energy and be operated by a sister company, Harvest Energy Services Inc., also of Boulder, Colorado.
“People have been very interested and courteous,” Rucker said of Tuesday’s session. “I really enjoyed talking to them, actually.”
State Rep. Greg Beumer, who was on hand for most of the session, echoed those sentiments.
“This is a positive opportunity to give factual information to all the individuals in the county, no matter which side of the issue they’re on,” he said.
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