By Megan Graham
Tribune staff writer
— E.ON Climate and Renewables, which owns and operates wind farms across the U.S., held a ceremony Tuesday in Elwood to celebrate its first wind farm in Indiana.
Though the Wildcat I Wind Farm project is still in progress, the company energized the first circuit Monday, enabling some of the turbines to begin to generate energy. Andy Melka, the lead developer for the project, said that 27 of the turbines were fully complete with dozens partially constructed. He anticipates that all 125 turbines will be completed by the end of this year. Nearly 150 E.ON employees, members of the local government and landowners attended the event.
Elwood Mayor Ron Arnold said the wind farm is the largest economic development project in northern Madison County history.
“These are the good days because you get to see something tangible being built,” said Tom Festle, of E.ON.
The wind farm, when completed, will produce 200 megawatts of energy, enough to power approximately 60,000 homes, according to E.ON Client Renewables North America CEO Steve Trenholm. Nearly 200 workers have been employed for construction of the project, and at least 10 positions will be created to maintain the wind farm. This will be the company’s 17th wind farm in the country.
“This project will pay about $31 million in local taxes, about $12 million in local salaries and more than $73 million to landowners over the life of the project,” Trenholm said. “Adding wind power to the agricultural, industrial and service mix here in Indiana provides a more sustainable long-term economy for Tipton and Madison counties and the surrounding communities.”
Mike Cline, president of the Tipton county commissioners, said the project will also be beneficial for the community members who will be hosting the turbines.
“Not only is it an economic development benefit to Tipton County and to Madison County, but it’s also an economic benefit to the landowners,” he said. “Without the landowners’ desire and willingness to sign the agreements with E.ON, there would not be a project.”
Larry Conway will have two turbines located on his property.
“It’ll help improve the economy and help with the taxation that we’re facing right now. We’re getting about a 20 to 30 percent tax increase on our land and this will certainly help toward that. Plus, the environmental attributes that it will contribute to northern Indiana.”
Conway also said the rent that will be paid by E.ON to the landowners will be a big help for the farmers who had a bad year.
“It’ll help to supplement the income,” he said. “This last year was too wet, this year’s too dry, so it’s hard to come out ahead. First time it’s come out this way, and I’ve been here all my life.”
E.ON presented financial donations to the city of Elwood, the Encore Lifestyle and Enrichment Center in Tipton, and the town of Windfall. The company’s employees participated in various community service projects that afternoon.
• Megan Graham is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. She can be reached by phone at 765-454-8570 or by email at megan. email@example.com.