By Ken de la Bastide
Crews from White Construction are working nights in an effort to beat a Dec. 31 deadline to have the first 125 wind turbines operational as part of the Wildcat Wind Farm project.
E-on Climate & Renewables are planning on having 69 turbines in eastern Tipton County and 56 in northern Madison County operational by the end of the year, when current federal tax credits for wind energy expire.
Congress has to take action by the end of the year to extend the credits. Without the extension wind energy development in America could grind to a halt. The administration of President Barack Obama supports the extension of the tax credits.
The tax credit provides 2.2-cents for each kilowatt hour produced by a wind farm.
“We’re optimistic about an extension,” Matt Tullis, spokesman for E-on said. “There is bipartisan support in Congress.”
Tullis said the company is hoping the extension will be approved by the end of 2012, noting that 28 governors of states where wind farms are being developed voiced support for the extension.
Governors recognize the investments in their states and the importance of wind energy, he said.
One of the options being considered by Congress is a five-year extension with a phase-out.
Tullis said any longer extension would probably come later, sometime in 2013.
“We would have to see how the five-year phase out is structured,” he said. “A longer extension will be beneficial. It would have an impact.”
E-on is investing approximately $400 million as part of the first phase of the Wildcat Wind Farm project.
Plans are for three additional phases in Tipton, Grant and Howard counties. Phase Two will include 40 to 60 wind turbines, with 80 percent located in Grant County and the remainder in Howard County, southeast of Greentown.
Phase Three would have 65 percent of the turbines in Howard County with the remaining turbines in Grant County. The final phase would be located in Tipton County exclusively.
“We want to start Phase Two next year,” Tullis said. “Any delay in the tax credits could delay it to 2014 instead of 2013.”
Andy Melka, project manager for the Wildcat Wind Farm said 75 of the 125 turbines were completed last week.
He said White Construction crews are only working at night because the winds are calmer. All the construction crews are working from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Along Ind. 213 in eastern Tipton County portions of the landscape are illuminated as the crews erect the approximately 400 foot towers for the wind turbines.
Melka said approximately 20 of the turbines are already online, providing electrical energy to the power grid.
“We’re still on schedule to have all the turbines up and operating by Jan. 1,” Melka said.
He said the maintenance and control center building near Windfall will be completed by the end of the year.
“Phase Two, even with the tax credits is not certain,” Melka said. “It is more likely to take place if the tax credits remain.”
While E-on is racing to get the first phase of the Wildcat Wind Farm completed, a second company is seeking a tax abatement in Tipton County for a wind farm in Prairie Township, along the Howard County line.
Juwi Wind Energy is proposing to construct up to 95 wind turbines in the township, with construction work expected to start in 2014.
The Tipton County Council will have a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday to conduct a public hearing on the company’s request for a tax abatement.
The company is expected to invest between $100 million and $300 million on the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm.
Matt Heck with Juwi said the company has leases signed with 50 local property owners which contain 150 parcels.
Heck said if the federal tax credits are extended for one year, the company would try to move forward with construction in 2013.
Heck said there is a lot of work taking place with Congress to extend the federal tax credits. He also said a five-year phase out is being considered as an option.
“We are moving forward aggressively,” he said of the wind farm plans in Tipton County.