Kansas firm to test LaPorte County wind

LACROSSE, INDIANA - A Kansas company that's considering building two wind farms in northwest Indiana will erect a wind-monitoring tower in LaPorte County within the next month.

Trade Wind Energy of Lenexa, Kan., will put up the tower, 197 feet high and 6 inches in circumference, outside LaCrosse to monitor wind speeds at various heights 24 hours a day for about two years.

The testing will determine if there's enough wind to warrant building a wind farm that might produce 200 megawatts per hour, said Paul Smith, a leasing specialist with Trade Wind Energy. The monitoring tower will be on a site that's leased.

"We believe there is. We've been studying this area now for eight months," Smith said.

The company is exploring building two wind farms, one near LaCrosse and one near Kouts. The neighboring communities are about 25 miles southeast of Gary.

Because towers with guy wires to help stabilize them are not allowed in the county, a zoning variance had to be granted.

"They want to get going with it," LaPorte County zoning administrator Ray Hamilton said.

Smith said a wind farm would have about 10 percent the generating capacity as the NIPSCO electrical plant in Wheatfield.

NIPSCO would be a potential customer for the electricity produced at the wind farm that would feed into existing high voltage lines, he said.

"We just feel it's a good location," said Richard Polich, also of Trade Wind Energy.

Another monitoring tower is being planned for somewhere between LaCrosse and Kouts.

"We'd like to do a monitoring tower in Porter County if we can get lease agreements with landowners," Smith said.

If the findings are favorable, Smith said it would take about four years to negotiate lease agreements with existing landowners and construct a wind farm.

He said 38,000 acres are being considered for wind farm construction in LaPorte and Porter counties.

The state's first commercial power station fueled by the wind, the 130-megawatt Benton County Wind Farm about 60 miles south of Gary, went online in May. It generates enough power to light 43,000 homes.

Another Benton County wind farm, the 750-megawatt Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, will be one of the nation's largest when complete. A 400-megawatt first stage is expected to begin operating later this year.

At least four other Indiana wind farms are in the planning stages.

A 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that Indiana's winds could produce at least 40,000 megawatts of electricity, or more than twice the state's current generating capacity.


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