Article

Thump-thump-thump

"(Wind turbines) don't move fast, but they have this constant 'thump, thump thump,' " Lovejoy said. "Obviously, the closer you are to them the more potentially annoying it is. The sound is sort of like when someone is drilling. You can put up with that for a few days, but at some point. ..."

EARL PARK -- In varied degrees, work is progressing on plans to harness some of the wind that is more prevalent around here than in many other portions of the state.

Two California-based companies involved in similar projects throughout the country are eyeing rural portions of Benton County for large-scale wind farms that would generate electricity, which they could sell.

"I think it's great. I'm anxious for it," said Frank Balensiefer, who has owned Earl Park Sign Shop for 42 years and recently watched Benton County residents argue over a landfill issue and school consolidation.

"They've turned down a lot of other things, and they've got to do something. This is not going to hurt anything.

"Everybody around here wants this. They want the county to grow but don't want to pay more taxes."

The U.S. Department of Energy recently changed portions of its Indiana Wind Resource Map, which shows areas north of Lafayette and east of Muncie as sites that have the potential for higher power wind class values.

That has made this area of northwestern Benton County even more attractive to enXco Inc., which is headquartered in North Palm Springs, Calif., and Orion Energy LLC, which... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

EARL PARK -- In varied degrees, work is progressing on plans to harness some of the wind that is more prevalent around here than in many other portions of the state.

Two California-based companies involved in similar projects throughout the country are eyeing rural portions of Benton County for large-scale wind farms that would generate electricity, which they could sell.

"I think it's great. I'm anxious for it," said Frank Balensiefer, who has owned Earl Park Sign Shop for 42 years and recently watched Benton County residents argue over a landfill issue and school consolidation.

"They've turned down a lot of other things, and they've got to do something. This is not going to hurt anything.

"Everybody around here wants this. They want the county to grow but don't want to pay more taxes."

The U.S. Department of Energy recently changed portions of its Indiana Wind Resource Map, which shows areas north of Lafayette and east of Muncie as sites that have the potential for higher power wind class values.

That has made this area of northwestern Benton County even more attractive to enXco Inc., which is headquartered in North Palm Springs, Calif., and Orion Energy LLC, which is based in Oakland, Calif.

"Our goal is to get a project in Benton County built in 2007," said Orion Energy president Reed Buckley.

"That's the goal we're working toward at this point."

EnXco is not moving as rapidly as its rival in placing wind turbines in Richland and York townships in the northwest part of the county.

"We are pursuing the project. Right now we don't have a buyer for any of the output from that project," said company spokesman Steve Jones.

However, Northern Indiana Public Service Co. is a potential purchaser. Bolstered by a strengthening economy and continued growth of customers' demands, the company has issued two requests for proposals seeking bids on power supplies.

"We'll submit a proposal," Jones said. "If we are selected we'll be doing more work more quickly."

A short-term request for proposals deals with seasonal capacity and energy needs only for the period 2007 and 2008.

The long-term request for proposals would be appealing to the wind farm prospects of both Orion Energy and enXco. It covers up to 40 years and seeks capacity and energy proposals and alternatives for up to 600 megawatts of electricity to meet the company's projected electricity supply needs during the period of 2009 to 2014.

"Looking at capacity and energy resources available within the industry is a part of the process to ensure a safe, reliable supply of electricity for our customers and the company," said NIPSCO president Mark Maassel. "We're committed to providing reliable, environmentally sound, cost-effective power to our customers. This is simply one step in our integrated power supply planning process as we look into the future."

Pros and cons

Bob Suiter Jr. is one of approximately 25 property owners Orion Energy is negotiating with for turbine sites.

"Even if they weren't going to put any on any of my land, I'm 100 percent for it. It's a win-win," said Suiter, who owns 800 acres between Earl Park and Raub. "We've got to start doing more on our own to generate energy. We've got the wind. We might as well use it."

Suiter said three or four turbines could end up on his farmland and he expects negotiations to be wrapped up within 30 to 60 days.

"They would be leasing the wind rights from me. I'll get paid 'X' amount of money per tower. We're still in negotiations on the final amount. Plus, after you generate a minimum amount of electricity they'll pay you so much per kilowatt for what's generated."

Each turbine would take approximately one-third of an acre out of production and the companies are expected to pay between $5,000 and $10,000 per year for individual sites.

Stephen Lovejoy, a professor of environmental and agricultural policy at Purdue University, said there are tradeoffs for farmers to consider before agreeing to lease their land for wind turbines.

"For some of the folks that own the land it could be fairly lucrative. They're going to receive a set amount of money to allow them to build structures on their property," Lovejoy said. "On a per-acre basis, that's probably a higher return than they will get for cropping.

"But what if it doesn't work? Who's responsible for taking these structures down? If you have to spend a few thousand dollars to get rid of these things, that's a potential downside that people who sign leases need to protect themselves from as much as possible."

Then, Lovejoy said, there's the sound.

"(Wind turbines) don't move fast, but they have this constant 'thump, thump thump,' " Lovejoy said. "Obviously, the closer you are to them the more potentially annoying it is. The sound is sort of like when someone is drilling. You can put up with that for a few days, but at some point. ..."

Boosting the economy

Carol Clark, director of the Benton County Local Economic Development Organization, said wind farms provide a unique opportunity for economic development.

"This is new, not only in Benton County but the state as a whole. I think this is a very good model for collaboration," Clark said. "We have the landowners involved, local community, government agencies -- there's a lot of entities involved in bringing a project of this magnitude to the local level.

"Of all the green sources of alternative energy, wind power produced on a mass scale is the most economically viable. Wind power is unlimited and can't be depleted. It doesn't pollute the air, water or soil. Benton County is a rural county and that's very important for them."

If the wind farms become reality, Suiter said Orion Energy and enXco also will be helping Benton County pay some of its bills.

"They're going to have to pay property taxes on the towers. All these counties need money coming in from somewhere," Suiter said. "We keep adding to schools and remodeling them. That takes more tax money."

Jane Smith is a rural mail carrier in Benton County. Her route takes her past many of the properties being considered for turbines that would capture the wind that blows along a land ridge that stretches through Richland and York townships.

She hasn't heard any opposition to what's planned.

"It's a good renewable energy source and it's something the county has a lot of," Smith said. "We always knew it was windy. We didn't know we were the windiest place in the state. I think it will be a really good thing."

mshowalter@journalandcourier.com


Source: http://www.jconline.com/app...

JUL 7 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/3378-thump-thump-thump
back to top