The Herald Bulletin

March 27, 2013

Official says Wildcat Wind Farm might expand

By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin

ELWOOD, Ind. — There could be more wind turbines going up at Wildcat Wind Farm.

Nothing’s set in stone yet, but development manager Andy Melka said there’s a good possibility E.ON Climate & Renewables could move on to phases two and three of the project, expanding into Grant and Howard counties as early as this year.

“This isn’t a sure thing yet,” Melka said. “But the chances look good.”

Phase two would involve building 40 to 60 turbines, producing at least 100 megawatts of electricity per year — enough to power around 40,000 homes. Phase three would see 40 to 75 new turbines, producing somewhere between 100 to 130 megawatts.

The power would be pumped into the grid through substations southwest of Swayzee or in Greentown. Those turbines could be operating by 2014, he said. There’s no word yet on what company would by that power.

Both counties have approved road and economic development, decommissioning, tax abatement and other agreements that would help the project move on.

“This is really good for the counties, too,” Melka said. “We don’t need water, sewer or anything like that. And the roads would be in better shape when we’re done.”

Crews broke ground last year on phase one of the farm, a 200-megawatt project spanning 8,500 acres in Madison and Tipton counties. The last of those turbines was finished Dec. 8, said Matt Tulis of E.ON Climate & Renewables.

Those turbines produce enough energy to power 60,000 average American homes for a year, 100 megawatts of which is to Indiana Michigan Power for distribution.

As far as phases two and three are concerned, there are still a lot of moving targets, Melka said.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said, including environmental studies, choosing a turbine model, engineering and speaking with landowners.

E.ON also needs to decide whether it will see enough profit from its investment, which could be as much as $200 million for each additional phase. Phase one cost about $400 million.

“These are not small projects,” Melka said. “It’s a serious investment, a lot of money.”

Before committing to phases two and three, E.ON was waiting to see if Congress would renew the government-allocated Production Tax Credit (PTC), which subsidizes the electricity produced by wind turbines at a rate of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour. That credit was extend earlier this year.

“Extending PTC gave these projects a much higher likelihood of passing,” Melka said.

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook, @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter or call 648-4250.