WARREN COUNTY, Ind. — The developers of a contentious wind farm proposed for Warren County are seeking final zoning approval.
If approved, the Jordan Creek Wind Farm would construct up to 150 wind turbines across Jordan, Liberty, Prairie and Steuben townships, according to the special exception application. The turbines would generate up to 300 megawatts of electricity — enough for 80,000 Indiana homes — according to the document.
The project would take up about 27,000 acres of private land, the owners of which will receive payouts. Property taxes and other payments to Warren County are expected to add up to more than $32 million over 30 years, according to the application.
The project also would include access roads, cables, electric substations, above-ground transmission lines and meteorological towers. Orion Renewable Energy Group is the developer of the project.
Some Warren County residents have come out in opposition to the wind turbines. A group called Warren County Concerned Citizens formed and began discussing opposition to the wind farm on Facebook.
Warren County resident Burt Etchison said county residents are concerned about the long-term viability of the project.
"I want what is best for us, and I don’t like making comment about what others do on their own land," Etchison wrote in an email. "But when they plant a forest of 500-foot towers with rotating tops in my world, and when it’s a precarious endeavor only held up by a tax credit, then they have closely involved me and my land."
Etchison said residents are also concerned about property values, potential impact on existing local businesses and disruption of farming practices such as aerial application, among other issues.
Some residents circulated a petition outlining opposition to the turbines. The petition cited noise, vibration, shadow flicker, the shedding and throwing of ice from turbine blades and the potential for catastrophic blade failure as reasons for opposing the wind farm. The petition also called for the setback distance from a private property line to be 2,500 feet, rather than the 750 feet currently required by Warren County's zoning ordinance.
"The vast majority of residents in the project area have signed petitions against the turbines or at least against the current ordinance," Etchison wrote in an email.
Orion project developer Michael Cressner said that many of these fears are unfounded. Dangerous ice throws and catastrophic blade failures seldom happen, Cressner said.
Cressner said requests for broad setbacks of 2,500 feet are common among opponents of wind energy projects.
"It doesn't allow for any place where you could site a wind turbine," Cressner said. "It's under a flag of safety, but really it just means 'we don't want wind.'"
Cressner also stated that Orion was not worried about tax credits being yanked out from under the project.
Orion utilizes the federal renewable energy production tax credit. This credit pays by the kilowatt hour of electricity produced once a project is up and running. The credit was last renewed by the U.S. Congress in December 2015 and lasts until Dec. 31, 2019.
The amount of the subsidy is determined by what year the project began construction. So a project that began in 2017 would get a higher subsidy rate than a project that began construction in 2018. But the subsidy doesn't actually kick in until the project begins generating power and revenue. From there, the subsidy is limited to the first 10 years of an operational project.
Cressner said that many in the wind energy industry do not expect the federal renewable energy production tax credit to be extended again. The project has an operational plan of 30 years or more, so the tax credit disappearing is part of the long-term outlook, Cressner said.
The project includes a decommissioning agreement. Should the turbines cease producing power for 12 months — and no further plan is submitted to and approved by the Warren County Zoning Office — the company must decommission the equipment.
Warren County allows wind farms to go into areas zoned agricultural with a special exception from the board of zoning appeals. The Warren County Board of Zoning Appeals will meet to discuss the issue and take public comment on Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Fine Arts room of Seeger Memorial High School. Should the meeting run long, another meeting date is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 28, according to Warren County zoning director John Kuiper.