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March 25, 2013

Wind farm moving forward

E.ON may continue building Wildcat project this year

Kokomo — Construction of two more phases of the Wildcat Wind Farm in eastern Howard County could begin this year, a representative from E.ON Climate & Renewables indicated.

Andy Melka, development manager for E.ON, spoke to about 20 local residents Thursday at a Howard County League of Women Voters-sponsored forum.

Phase one of the Wildcat Wind Farm in Tipton and Madison counties began operating in January. Phase one includes 125 turbines that generate 200 megawatts of electricity.

“We will start construction in Howard and Grant counties this year and will be completed in 2014,” Melka said.

Phase 2, located in Grant and Howard counties, is expected to generate 100 megawatts of electricity. Phases 3 and 4 will be located between Greentown and Converse and in the Windfall area, generating up to 800 megawatts of electricity, which will be tapped into the grid at a power substation south of Greentown.

One megawatt provides electrical energy to 1,000 homes.

Melka said Indiana & Michigan Electric is purchasing half of the electricity being generated through Phase One and the rest is being sold on the open market.

He said the electricity generated in Phase 2 will be placed on the grid through a substation southwest of Swayzee or the substation in Greentown.

Melka said Howard County approved a 10-year property tax abatement for the Wildcat Wind Farm last year. The county commissioners also approved road and economic development agreements with the company.

Before construction starts, E.ON will be required to gain approval of improvement location permits in Howard County. The placement of the turbines must comply with zoning requirements in the county. The county has no requirement for a conditional use permit.

“We’re not ready to apply for permits in Howard County,” Melka said.

Coming a day after the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a conditional use permit for the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm that included with setback changes and a need for guaranteed property value for non-participating land owners, Melka addressed several issues.

“Property values is a controversial subject,” he said. “The best way to determine the impact is to look at what has happened in the past. Studies have found there is no significant impact on property values after construction.”

Melka said the company has found no dramatic decline in property values at the wind farms it has built in the U.S.

“We have not had to provide guarantee,” he said. “We could be subject to a guarantee. The question is how do you determine the value of property with all the variables?”

He cited a 2010 study that showed property values declined when a wind farm was first announced, but they bounced back following construction.

Melka said he was disappointed with the Tipton County BZA because it was not specific about its expectations for a property value guarantee from juwi Wind, which is developing the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm.

Concerning shadow flicker caused by turbine blades, Melka said Howard County has required E.ON to consider flicker when siting turbines.

Although there is no standard for acceptable levels of shadow flicker, Melka said it normally is in the 50- to 100-hour range over the course of a year.

To read Scott Smith's news column on the property value guarantee issued as part of the Tipton County Prarie Breeze Wind Farm conditional use permit, pick up Monday's Kokomo Tribune, or read the e-edition. Subscribe here.

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