EVANSVILLE, Ind. – A renewable energy development company is seeking to build up to 81 wind turbines in Posey County.
E.ON Climate & Renewables North America already operates a wind farm in Madison and Tipton counties with another in development in Clinton County.
The company is proposing a 200-megawatt wind energy project near the Posey-Gibson county line, said Karsen Rumpf, wind development manager. He said it would take an estimated 47 to 81 wind turbines to generate that amount of power. Construction could begin in 2020.
However, Rumpf said much of the project’s scope and timetable depends on how many landowners are interested in leasing property for the turbines and the right-of-way for access roads to them.
Rumpf said the project is estimated to add $36 million in commercial property tax revenue to Posey County over its 30-year projected lifespan. He said that is in addition to paying for local road improvements, hiring local construction workers and even charitable donations.
“We try to keep as many things locally as we can,” he said.
Local officials have confirmed that property owners in both counties have been approached. The Posey and Gibson County Farm Bureaus have even held an informational meeting with an attorney present to answer individual property owners’ questions.
More than 100 area residents attended that meeting, said John Feutz, president of the Gibson County Farm Bureau.
“Obviously, it is a concern,” he said.
Beyond acknowledging those facts, Mark Seib, president of the Posey County Area Plan Commission, declined to speak about the proposed wind farm because he would eventually have to vote on it.
Regulation of utility-level wind energy projects is done at the county level in Indiana, according to the state’s Office of Energy Development. Only 15 out of 92 counties currently have wind power ordinances, all of them in north or central Indiana.
“This is kind of a new thing. They (property owners) would have to do a special use application,” said Mindy Bourne, executive director of the Posey County Area Plan Commission.
Variances from the different height restrictions in the applicable zoning categories also would need to be approved, Bourne said.
The result could potentially lead to situations in which one property owner may be approved but another might not, she said.
Property owners contract individually with the company for use of their land, including for utility and access road easements, Rumpf said.
Rumpf said the hubs for the wind turbines would need to be at a height of 80 to 90 meters or approximately 262 to 295 feet.
That sounds tall but according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration it is average. Since 2012, the average height of wind turbines installed in the United States has been about 280 feet.
“Wind speeds on a whole seem adequate to support the project,” Rumpf said.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the average annual wind speed at an 80-meter height is 6 to 6.5 meters per second in northern Posey County. In north and central Indiana, where the existing wind farms in the state operate, wind speeds at that height appear to range from 6.5 to 7.5 meters per second.
Rumpf said power generated by the project would be uploaded to the grid, operated by the regional transmission authority MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operators), for sale to utilities or other buyers via fixed rate power purchase agreements.
E.ON is based in Austin, Texas. It currently operates 23 wind farms across the country, according to its website. These include two in Illinois and one in Indiana, the Wildcat Wind Farm in Tipton and Madison counties.
Its most recent wind farm, including Radford Run in Macon County, Illinois, and Bruenning’s Breeze, in Willacy County, Texas, came online in December 2017.
The cost of building wind energy projects has decreased 66 percent in the past five years, Rumpf said.
“It is much more cost effective now, more economically viable,” he said.
The U.S. wind industry grew 9 percent in 2017, adding more than 7,000 megawatts of new capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Wind energy provided 5 percent of Indiana’s electric generation in 2017, 6 percent of Illinois’ electricity and 0 percent in Kentucky.
There are seven wind farms with a total of 1,095 turbines in Indiana, producing about 1,800 megawatts of power.
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