Post Tribune – Wind energy picks up speed April 4, 2011Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: NIPSCO feed-in tariffs, nuclear power in Indiana, wind energy in Indiana
4/1/2011 10:51:00 AM
Diane Krieger Spivak, Post-Tribune
In light of Japan’s escalating nuclear disaster, alternative energy experts worldwide are taking a critical look at nuclear power.
Japan’s Premier Naoto Kan said this week that the country should pursue clean energy like solar and biomass.
Germany has announced it’s dismantling its nuclear program in favor of offshore wind farms.
The United States is examining its 104 nuclear power plants.
Sweetwater, Texas, lawyer Rod Wetsel, who wrote a textbook on wind energy law, said Japan has brought into focus the need to find energy source replacements for fossil fuel in sources other than nuclear, even though the trend toward wind was in force prior to Japan’s 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
The movement toward wind and solar power is projected to grow even more because of the disaster, however, even in Indiana, which has no nuclear reactors.
Wetsel represents property owners who lease their land to the world’s three largest wind farms, located in the Sweetwater area. He is familiar with the 100-turbine wind farm London-based International Power is proposing in Eagle Creek Township, east of Lowell, and said Benton County is being called the new Sweetwater of the Midwest.
It’s the Midwest, he said, forecasters are predicting as the new frontier for wind energy.
“I think one of the new frontiers is going to be in Indiana,” Wetsel said.
Indiana likes wind power
The Hoosier state stands to see huge economic benefits through wind power. It was wind energy that blew a cash cow into Nolan County, Texas, where Sweetwater is the county seat, With a total population of about 15,000, Nolan County went from a $430 million tax base in 2003 to $2 billion today.
Here, Lake County is working on a large-scale wind ordinance, even as International Power approaches landowners to lease property for its turbines.
Eric Burch, of the Indiana Office of Energy Development, said the push toward wind and solar energy in Indiana “is not based on what happened in Japan.” Indiana’s energy interests lie in wind, solar, biomass, bioenergy and clean coal, rather than nuclear at the moment.
“The current regulatory climate from the federal government precludes anybody from doing nuclear now,” Burch said. The Indiana Senate, after passing the state’s alternative energy bill that included nuclear, decided to step back and take a harder look at nuclear energy before proceeding with incentives to promote it.
Burch said there has been “a lot of talk about solar, but there are not specifics other than Powers Energy’s plan.”
Evansville-based Powers Energy of America is working with New Jersey-based SunDurance Energy to bring a solar farm to Schneider near its planned $295 million garbage-to-ethanol plant. No other large-scale solar plants are in the works but the interest is there, as evidenced by a three-day 2011 PV Power Up Solar Summit taking place through this week in South Bend.
“A number of developers are looking at solar in a variety of places around Indiana,” Burch said. The impetus is a change expected to take place soon in the state’s feed-in tariffs that allow lager-scale customers to sell back energy to utility companies.
Northern Indiana Public Service Co. spokesman Nick Meyer said state property tax incentives don’t now include solar, “but the legislature is looking at that.” SunDurance had approached NIPSCO about selling electricity that would be generated from the solar plant to NIPSCO, Meyer said.
“We’re currently working on that,” Meyer said. A finalized proposal for a feed-in tariff is expected go before the Indiana Regulatory Commission soon.
Diverse energy sources best
Shanelle Evens, landowner and community coordinator supervisor for the Midwest for enXco, said enXco is looking at Newton County for possible locations for wind farms. enXco currently develops and operates more than 5,000 turbines nationwide.
Like Wetsel, Evens said the Midwest is ideal for locating wind farms. enXco owns Benton County’s Hoosier Wind Farm.
“It’s open with lots of wind year round and good transmission line access to the grid, which is most important,” Evens said. “The industry is growing exponentially.
“In general we’ve been seeing a steady rise in the wind industry for a number of years,” Evens said. “We’re continuing to see that. But countries around the world need a diversified energy source so that, for whatever reason a supply line gets cut, like in Japan. They’re rethinking nuclear energy,” she said. “I don’t think anyone wants to rush to any decisions. It shows we need to look at all of our sources and not put all of our eggs in one basket.”
“At this particular point I think people are less than anxious to be talking about new nuclear power plants,” said Laura Arnold, a member of the board of directors of the Indiana Renewable Energy Association. “The question is, are the financial markets interested in financing nuclear plants. They were hesitant before but with this going on in Japan …
“Big wind developers want Indiana to publicly show support for renewable resources by passing legislation,” Arnold said.
Jody Peacock, spokesman for Ports of Indiana, said the port in Burns Harbor is handling a growing demand for the transportation of wind turbine parts. The first ship of the season, which docked Sunday, carried 75 turbine blades heading to Ohio and expected to get two more shipments soon after. In 2009 the port handled three ships of windmills components and last year took in 15 ships.
“That a good indication for future shipments,” Peacock said.
Randy Palmateer, spokesman for the Northern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, agreed with industry leaders that it was too soon to tell if wind and solar energy will get a push from a decreased interest in nuclear power.
“It’s too quick to see a jump in solar,” Palmateer said. “Companies want a government incentive to go after it.”
Palmateer said the building trades are trying to get more hands-on training, but there is a lack of green energy projects in Northwest Indiana, although apprentices now get instruction in wind and solar installation. “There aren’t as many contractors going after alternative energy as we want,” Palmateer said.