REBlog Indiana's First Commercial Windfarm

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Patrick Kitchens

Benton County is a rural place of 9,000 residents in Northern Indiana sandwiched between the Illinois border and Tippecanoe County (Lafayette). The make up is primarily cornfields and farmhouses. In the colder months this terrain allows northern winds to sweep the landscape. Enough so that a major energy company from California has decided to build Indiana’s first commercial sized wind farm on these flat fields.

Orion Energy Group began construction this fall on the $200 million Benton County wind farm. The first phase of building will consist of 87 turbines with a maximum of 135 to be built. Each turbine is a GE 1.5 MW that stands over 385 feet tall. The first phase of turbines will produce 130 MW with a total capacity of 230 MW planned; enough electricity to power 50,000 homes. Over 100 construction jobs will be created and after the farm begins production twelve full-time employees will oversee operation. The wind farm will be located in York and Richland townships which have been declared by the Benton County council as economic revitalization areas. That cleared the way for the council to grant 10-year tax abatement for the alternative energy development company, which agreed to pay the county $1 million over four years. Landowners will receive lease payments of $5-10,000 annually for every 1/3 acre that is sacrificed for a turbine. “I’m all for clean energy and looking for other ways to get more self-sufficient,” said Bob Suiter Jr. who anticipates three turbines to be placed on his 800 acres of property.

The original project was being constructed by Orion Energy LLC. Then in late December 2006 BP Alternative Energy bought the California based company. Shortly after the acquisition, BP announced plans to construct five wind projects in the United States in 2007 — two in Texas and one each in California, Colorado and North Dakota. However, three Orion Energy LLC projects were not included in the deal. The wind farm in northwestern Benton County and similar projects in Texas and Illinois are now being developed by Orion Energy Group, the successor to Orion Energy LLC. Duke Energy Indiana signed an agreement to purchase up to 100 megawatts of wind-generated electricity from the Richland and York township turbines annually for the next 20 years which will be made available to Indiana residents.

Patrick Kitchens is the publisher of REBloom, a Bloomington monthly renewable energy newsletter advocating the benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Pick one up at all Bloomingfoods locations, Soma Coffeehouse, Upland Brewery, and Roots restaurant, or email for a monthly e-newsletter.

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