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Wind power company encourages renewable energy curriculum

EDP Renewables, the company that established the first of Randolph County’s wind farms, and is working to follow it up with another wind farm of similar size and very large solar farm, Thursday sponsored a workshop to show area teachers ideas for incorporating wind energy into the classroom.

Seventeen teachers from across the county attended the seminar.

EDP External Communications Associate Bevan Augustine said EDP Renewables, the owner-operator of Headwaters Wind Farm, when it considers a new region in which to establish a presence, looks for a supportive community, landowners who want to participate, access to transmission lines, and a significant wind resource (which takes at least a 2-year study to determine).

“We are looking at a $300 million investment in Randolph County,” Augustine said. “There is also an economic boom seen during the construction period and ongoing benefits such as tax payments. Land owners have already earned about $12 million. It’s a drought-proof cash crop that creates good living wage jobs.

“The price of wind power has gone down by about 2/3 since 2009. We don’t have to pay for fuel, which makes it easy for us to figure operations costs.”

EDP Project Development Manager Paul Cummings said Headwaters I wind farm was established in 2014. Headwaters II, which is essentially equal to the first phase of the project in generating capacity, will begin construction next summer to be operational by Sept., 2020.

“Randolph County’s easier to work with,” Cummings said. “The county embraces renewable energy, it’s a pretty clear signal that we should continue doing business here.

“This is locally generated energy that will be used locally.”

He said the solar and phase II of the Headwaters Wind Farm will create 45 to 50 new full time jobs.

EDP Senior Operations Manager Russell Cooke said the list of wind-related jobs is very lengthy and it is not all tech-related positions. It involves fields such as biology and agriculture, as well as technology.

“The path (to working in the wind and renewable energy fields) is very wide and there’s a lot of opportunity,” Cooke said.

County Economic Development Director Greg Beumer said he sees wind energy and other renewable sources of power as the key to a regional economic revival of the sort brought on by the Indiana gas boom of the early 1880s into the early 20th Century.

“We are on the cusp of an important renaissance for Randolph County,” Beumer said. “Counties two and three deep all around us are saying no, they don’t want this. But we’ve got to have the workers to make this happen.

“Economic development payments from EDP will lead to significant quality of life improvement in Randolph County while other counties will not have those kinds of funds. It’s a game changer.”

Beumer stressed the importance of preparing local students for future jobs in renewable energy fields.