There was a time when folks thought trying to harness wind for power in Indiana was a pipe dream. It seemed like a far-out concept that might wor in western states, and then, only maybe.
Reality is windfarms are already operating across the U.S., and plans are well underway for Indiana's first wind farm. It will be located in northern Benton County, says Jimmy Bricker, Benton County ag Extension educator. A member of the planning and zoning board by virtue of his office, Bricker ahs followed the project closely. He's hoping it will mean economic development in the long run for Benton County, an area that currently is limited on industrial development to help the tax base.
"We expect the first batch of towers to be built and operational by this December," Bricker says. Construction should start soon, he adds.
These aren't your typical windmills you see in picture-postcard-type images from the Netherlands. Each tower will extend more than 200 feet into the air, cost $2 million to build, and support three turbine blades. Each blade will be approximately 115 feet long.
Energy produced by the wind will be turned into electricity. There is no storage system, so the electricity will be fed into a grid immediately, Bricker says. Buyers for the electricity have already signed onto the project. In fact, one incentive for utilities in other parts of the country is to purchase power from such an entity as a windfarm, and gain 'green' credits for being environmentally friendly. These can be used to offset facilities where they still have yet to meet air quality standards.
While the first project consisting of several dozen towers is well underway, there is talk of a second phase in Benton County, which would place towers along another ridge in the county, Bricker explains. He says there is a similar project in White County, and discussions are underway in Clinton County, more into the heart of central Indiana.
What determines how valuable these wind towers are to utilities is the wind speed that can be expected in various areas, he notes. Companies carefully measure wind speed over time before investing in a project. The wind speed is reportedly exceptionally high for the first Benton County project. It's measured in terms of how much electricity it can generate over a given period of time.
Landowners will receive leases with annual payments for each tower. Expect lease payments to vary depending upon the value of the electricity the utility believes it can harvest from that location.
One point of contention has arisen during the development of the project, Bricker notes. The investors owning the towers will get property tax abatement. But that doesn't mean they won't pay any taxes, he says. Others who helped bring the project to the county believe tax abatements were essential in convincing the owners to invest in the wind farm project here.
Stay tuned for more details as the project unfolds through the summer and into fall.