By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer
TIPTON — A request for a conditional use permit for the construction of the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm project in northwestern Tipton County is being filed today by juwi Wind.
The Prairie Breeze Wind Farm is a planned $300 million project that will produce 150-megawatts of electricity through the placement of up to 94 wind turbines in Prairie and Liberty townships in Tipton County.
The Tipton County Council approved a 10-year tax abatement for the project in December.
The conditional use permit request is expected to be heard by the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals at its Feb. 26 meeting.
Mike Rucker, CEO with juwi Wind, said the company will continue public outreach through the permit process. He said the company wants to get the facts out about the project, what local residents can expect and evaluate the merits of the project.
The company launched a website Wednesday at www.prairiebreezewindfarm.com.
“We want people to balance the benefits of the project in terms of the economy, health benefits and air quality,” he said.
The company expects to pay $3.5 million in property taxes in Tipton County during the 10-year tax abatement period of which a majority, $3.1 million would go to the Tri-Central Community School system.
There is a group of residents opposed to the project citing concerns about the impact on property values, noise and shadow flicker from the turbine blades.
Rucker said Thursday there are no plans to expand the current project, which could be constructed in phases.
Construction work is expected to start in 2013 and be completed in 2014.
The company started work on the project in 2008 with monitoring of the winds in the area and the signing of leases with property owners for the placement of the wind turbines. It has leased almost 16,000 acres in the area.
Rucker said one factor in locating a wind farm in Indiana is the state’s demand that public utilities generate energy from renewable resources.
He said the company is negotiating with several companies for the purchase of the electricity and the intent is to be part of a Midwest energy grid.
Prairie Breeze is the second wind farm proposed for Tipton County. E-on Climate & Renewables completed the first phase of the Wildcat Wind Farm in Tipton and Madison counties at the end of 2012. Future phases will be located in Howard, Grant and Tipton counties.
Rucker said in most places the locating of the first wind farm project is the most difficult. He said the wind farm technology is an unknown and people don’t like change.
“This is a great place to develop,” he said. “There is access to the grid, the area is largely rural and it benefits farmers. The farmers are receptive to wind turbines.”
Prairie Breeze is expected to sign similar road and economic development agreements with Tipton County as E-on did for the first phase of the Wildcat Wind Farm development.
“Tipton County is experiencing an economic resurgence,” Rucker said. “Along with recent announcements from other companies in the area, we are excited to be a part of that progress and look forward to providing clean, renewable energy to residents across Indiana.”
The company has commissioned or is developing wind farms in Arizona, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa and Nova Scotia in Canada.
“We’re a mid-sized developer,” Rucker said. “We currently are generating 1,200 megawatts of electricity. We’re located in a wide variety of states where there is a demand for wind energy.”