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July 10, 2009

Wind conference shows how farms can 'grow' electricity

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Some farm fields aren't just for growing crops and providing pasture anymore. Increasingly, they're producing electricity, said Chad Martin, Purdue University Extension renewable energy specialist.

Utility scale wind farms offer farmers and other rural landowners an opportunity to earn thousands of dollars in annual income and, at the same time, generate clean energy, Martin said.

"There aren't many opportunities that will come along in a generation such as what we're finding with the wind industry," Martin said. "For the agriculture community, development companies are offering lease payments to farmers for the use of their land for wind farms. These payments can help preserve farmland but then, too, help sustain a family farming operation and provide some additional revenue."

Martin will lead a breakout session on small wind turbines during the second day of WIndiana 2009, a statewide conference that takes place July 21-22 at the Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis. The conference is the Hoosier state's premier event focusing on the emerging wind energy industry, including utility scale and small wind systems for use at residences, businesses and farms.

The Indiana Office of Energy Development hosts the conference. Purdue is a conference sponsor.

Large scale wind turbines are popping up across rural Indiana. At last count, there were about 310 turbines in Benton and Tippecanoe counties, producing more than 530 megawatts of electricity each year. Another nearly 175 turbines, estimated to generate about 200 megawatts of power, are under construction in Benton and White counties.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, Indiana leads the nation in wind energy growth, Martin said. That growth has created higher demand in windy regions of Indiana that are close to transmission access, leading to higher lease payment agreements for those farmers and rural landowners willing to give wind energy a look, he said.

"The base lease payment per turbine has definitely increased," Martin said. "For national average figures, we're talking $3,000 to $5,000 per year per megawatt of production. And some people are getting up into the $10,000 range per year per turbine.

"Turbines take about one to two acres of land out of production. So when you're looking at raising corn as opposed to putting a turbine up on those two acres, there's no question that there's more profit potential with the turbine."

Small wind turbines are becoming more popular for residential and business use, Martin said. Small turbine electric generation generally is measured in potential kilowatt output, he said.

A 10-kilowatt turbine can cost $30,000 to $50,000 to install. "We're seeing a wide range in payback periods in Indiana, anywhere from 10 years to about 25 years on these small turbine units," Martin said.

"There's a laundry list of questions people need to ask before installing a small scale wind turbine," he said. "First, is there enough of a wind resource within your property to actually make the turbine generate enough power to pay for itself? For these turbines to operate properly, they need to be in a good clean wind resource.

"Another area of concern is, will your power company purchase that excess power back through what we call net metering, and what kind of rate will that utility give you for that power? And another consideration is how high the turbine tower is. That really impacts the your capital cost."

In addition to Martin's breakout session, WIndiana 2009 features sessions on the state of the wind industry, wind resources, the wind energy supply chain and green jobs. Conference attendees also can tour a north central Indiana wind farm and see the small wind system at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. A wind energy trade show also is planned.

The conference runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 21 and 7:30 a.m. to the end of tours on July 22.

Registration is $100 per person and $50 for students. Registration includes continental breakfast both days, lunch and reception on July 21, refreshments, transportation to and from the wind farm tour and all conference materials.

To register, visit the Purdue Conferences registration Web page at http://www.conf.purdue.edu/wind09. For more information, visit the WIndiana 2009 Web page at http://www.in.gov/oed/2413.htm

Writer: Steve Leer, 765-494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Source: Chad Martin, (765) 496-3964, martin95@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-8415;
Steve Leer, sleer@purdue.edu
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