(The following was originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Friday, November 17, 2017.)
The Sentinel report
Over various meetings and interviews a lot of information about RES’ proposed commercial wind farm in Fulton, Cass and Miami counties has been made available in the past couple months.
Here’s a sampling:
• Renewable Energy Systems, or RES, is interested in developing Harvest Wind Energy LLC wind farm, which could bring 133 wind turbines to Fulton County – 70 in Wayne Township, 50 in Liberty Township, 11 in Union Township and two in Rochester Township. As part of the project, other turbines would be located in Cass and Miami counties. No specific turbine sites have been released.
• RES’ estimated investment in Fulton County would be $591,055,643. Brad Lila, director of development for RES, said Fulton County landowners could get paid upwards of $90 million for the life of the project. The project, he said, would create 60-80 permanent
jobs and 300-400 construction jobs.
• Lila told The Sentinel landowners get a set amount for turbines, as well as a royalty percentage for the energy generated. Landowners in the project footprint that don’t receive a turbine may still be compensated, so long as they sign up. He would not tell the amounts.
• RES purchased earlier contracts between landowners in the wind farm area and Community Energy Wind LLC.
• Before it began the process of signing up landowners, RES formed a steering committee of landowners in the area. The company negotiated lease agreement terms with that steering committee, most of whom are farmers, Lila said.
• Should RES successfully go through all the county planning and zoning hoops and decide to go forward, wind turbine construction could start spring of 2019 and power could be generated by December 2019. Construction of access roads and turbine foundations could begin in late 2018, Lila said.
• An ordinance governing wind energy conversion systems in Fulton County remains under consideration by commissioners, who may choose to approve, reject or modify proposed amendments. A public hearing on those amendments follows commissioners’ meeting Monday at 6 p.m. in the Community Building at the Fulton County 4-H Fairgrounds. The ordinance, including its proposed amendments, is available on the county’s website at http://www.co.fulton.in.us.
• Although RES has not yet chosen the type of wind turbine to use, the company has confirmed they would be approximately 600-feet tall.
• A setback of 1.5 times the total height of a wind turbine from a property line and 2 times the height from a residential dwelling are among the amendments being considered by commissioners. That would require a wind turbine of 600 feet to be located 900 feet from a property line and 1,200 feet from a residence.
• Jason Semler of H.J. Umbaugh & Associates estimated that RES’ investment of nearly $600 million would increase the assessed valuation in the wind farm area by $177 million. That’s $91.8 million in Wayne Township. $70.5 million in Liberty, $13.2 million in Union, $2.3 million in Rochester.
• Property taxes in Liberty and Wayne townships would drop $91.21 on a $95,400home – the median in the county. Property taxes in Union Township would drop $91.63 on a $95,400 home and they would fall$22.35 in Rochester Township. A business in Liberty, Wayne or Union townships would receive a property tax reduction of nearly
$400 for every $100,000 of assessed value. There would also be a $7.26 reduction per acre of farmland in those townships. In Rochester the difference would be $1.78 an acre and $96.20 for a $100,000 business.
• The property tax impact, Semler said, would mostly come in a boost to cumulative capital development funds. For cumulative fire funds Wayne Township would see $18,545 more a year, Liberty, $9,881, and Union Township, $4,410. Fulton County’s cumulative capital development fund would receive $45,210. The Fulton County Airport Authority would receive $5,339 more for its cumulative airport building fund.
• Lila reports two things make this a good place for a wind farm: A relatively low population and the ability to connect to nearby high capacity electric transmission lines.
• Wind energy tax credits do not go to developers and operators. Lila said they play a part for the utility companies that purchase power from the wind farm operator. He said even if tax credits were eliminated wind energy is still viable. The current climate in Washington D.C., he said, would not have any effect on this project.
• Should the RES project go forward, the International Union of Operating Engineers believes there are plenty of Fulton County workers qualified for the job opportunities it will present, said James Gardner, Local 150’s business representative.
• RES has conducted studies over 18 months to determine if the area chosen for the wind farm meets regulations concerning migratory birds and bats. It uses guidance from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and also has been in contact with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Lila said.