All the 'I's are yet to be dotted and all the 't's crossed, but it appears highly likely that another wind farm project will soon come to Indiana. This time it will be in eastern Indiana near Winchester, in southern Randolph County. The announcement was made last week during an unusual news conference.
Instead of an energy company announcing they were coming, a loose-knit group of citizens who banded together once they heard there was interest in starting a wind farm in the area held the news conference, announcing which one of four companies that they preferred to work with. In the end, the winner was Horizon Wind Energy of Houston, Texas. Ironically, the impetus for the whole project stemmed form inquires by another company. While that company was one of the four considered, it wasn't the one selected to develop the project.
Tom Chalfant, farmer and president of the Randolph County Farm Bureau, was involved in the process that led to the announcement last week. He's also one of the players that helped bring Cardinal Ethanol to the community. That plant is not yet on-line, but should be later this year, Chalfant says.
Indiana Farm Bureau helped provide guidance to landowners once the idea of a wind farm in their area surfaced, Chalfant notes. "They urged us to work together and negotiate rather than everyone talking to companies one on one," he says. "We didn't form an LLC or anything, but we banded together. That allowed us to interview all four companies who were interested in the project. The decision was made be secret ballot."
What's at stake is a wind farm that could consist of 100 towers, Chalfant notes. There is no guarantee yet that Horizon Energy will build the farm, but all indications are that they are extremely interested in proceeding, he notes. One important factor not yet determined is average wind speed in the area, although Horizon officials believe that it will be satisfactory for the project to go forward.
One interesting feature of the contract negotiated with Horizon is that more than just landowners who lease land for the actual towers will benefit from this new source of income coming to the county. "Landowners who lease easement roads but don't have towers, and even landowners with property within 200 feet, will receive some payment, even if they don't have a tower on their land per se," he notes. "That way many more people will benefit from the project."
One wind farm is already well along in the construction phase in Indiana in Benton County. Another even larger project is planned there. Other wind farms within north central Indiana are apparently also under consideration. Wind patterns aloft will likely limit interest to the northern half of Indiana, where wind speeds on average are higher, at least until advancements in efficiency of electricity-generating wind towers are made.