A Texas-based firm will study portions of Wayne, Randolph and Henry counties in the months ahead looking for a site to build one or more wind farms.
Two representatives of EDP Renewables, Jeffrey Nemeth and Chris Brooks, outlined plans to study east-central Indiana during a presentation to the Wayne County Commissioners on Wednesday.
EDP is the firm that built the Headwaters Wind Farm in Randolph County that was completed in December 2014.
“It could be that we would build one in each county or one that straddles all three counties,” said EDP project manager Jeffrey Nemeth. “We just don’t know at this point. We are in the very, very early stages of development, and there’s a lot of studying to do.”
Nemeth said there also is a possibility that, after study, the firm would elect not build in this area.
“Right now, it’s too early to tell,” he said.
The firm is based in Houston, Texas, with offices in Indianapolis and Chicago. It built the wind farms that straddle Interstate 65 in White County, north of Lafayette.
That sprawling locale is actually four wind farms that include 303 turbines and produce 500 megawatts of electricity. Nemeth said initial plans in this area are to build a wind farm that includes 100 turbines and produces 200 megawatts, which is the same size as the current farm in Randolph County.
Nemeth said the Randolph County project involved 180 landowners.
“We’ve had a great experience with property owners in Randolph County,” he said. “We had significant support, strong landowner support.”
If the firm did build in Wayne County, it would construct 300-foot towers that would stretch to 495 feet with blades fully extended.
Nemeth said the first steps include studying the county’s wind ordinance, zoning laws, wildlife and construction costs before contacting homeowners and building a tower to test wind speed.
“When we build a farm, we make a significant investment in the project and we are here for the next 30 years,” he said.
Nemeth said a ballpark estimate of the project costs is $1.5 million to $2.2 million.
“But that’s just an estimate. It depends on construction costs and where the turbines come from,” Nemeth said.
He said landowners receive financial compensation for placing turbines on their land and his company has “a neighbor agreement” that offers a financial incentive to neighbors within 1,500 feet of the farm.
When asked how soon construction might start, Nemeth said, “It might be one and a half years or 10 years or never.” He said that decision will be influenced by whether the company has a taker for the electric power being produced.
One reason the Headwater farm moved so quickly was that the power company AEP “wanted 200 megawatts.”
“These projects are obviously influenced by a utility who wants to buy the power,” Nemeth said.
His firm does not currently have a request from a utility company to buy additional power.
The commissioners were pleased to hear of the project.
“We want you to know that we are excited about this project,” said Commissioner Mary Anne Butters. “We welcome you, and we hope you will keep the lines of communication open.”
Bob Wotherspoon, who lives north of Richmond, has long been a proponent of wind energy. He told the EDP representatives, “I have 40 acres of ground for the test site.”
“I just want to ask how we can speed this up because I’m here to help you,” Wotherspoon said.