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Serving: IN

Wind Energy Hits Big Time in Indiana

First statewide conference on wind energy slated.

Once thought not possible in Indiana, wind energy gets its first big statewide conference soon. The event is scheduled for June 17 and 18 at the Indianapolis Convention Center in Indianapolis. The conference even has a name and logo, with the name being 'WIndiana 2008.' No less than Lt. Governor Becky Skillman is slated as the featured speaker for the event.

This comes on the heels of construction of the first operating wind farm in Indiana, built near Earl Park in Benton County. A second project is already underway nearby, and a tentative agreement has been reached for a wind farm project near Winchester in east-central Indiana. There's also the possibility of wind farm developments near Frankfort. The conference will include a tour of the wind farm at Earl Park, plus a stop at a small wind installation just now being constructed at a business near Indianapolis.

The conference is geared toward economics, technical issues and legal implications. Those attending could range from people wanting to learn how to increase wind industry manufacturing opportunities in the Hoosier state, to landowners from areas that might be in the prime path of future wind turbine projects.

These wind farms, commonplace in some western states, use huge towers and gigantic rotating blades to generate electricity. Energy companies harvest the power as electricity. So far, leases for towers have been lucrative for landowners who own land where a tower is built. One interesting twist in the proposed project near Winchester is the fact that nearby landowners would share in some of the payback from the towers, whether a tower was actually located on their property or not.

Whether a wind tower will be profitable for a company to install, since the initial costs are staggering, depends partly upon average wind speeds at various locations. The ability to access electrical transmission lines to move, distribute and sell the power produced as electricity is also an important point.

So far, scientists and researchers who measure average wind speed over a year's time note that the northern half of Indiana is definitely more feasible as possible home to wind farms. There is a decrease in average wind speed across most of southern Indiana. However, that doesn't mean there will never be wind farms in southern Indiana counties, specialists say, If the efficiency of operating the turbines improves, someday it could become feasible to locate wind farm projects where average wind speeds aren't as high as those locations needed to make a project profitable today.

The conference is organized by the Indiana Wind Working Group, the Indiana Office of Energy & Defense Development, and the Energy Center at Purdue University's Discovery Park. To learn how to register, visit: www.energy.IN.gov.

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