Randolph County Wind Farm

By Mike Bennett

It’s often hard to see the mechanisms at work with economic development and major green-energy efforts.

But, that’s certainly not the case in Randolph County.

Gigantic electricity-producing wind turbines stand tall and noticeable for miles around as evidence of one of the largest projects ever in east-central Indiana — Headwaters Wind Farm.Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 4.02.45 PM

It’s an environmental and economic boon for the area. Electricity is being produced without carbon emissions.

Corporate owner EDP Renewables North America of Houston, Texas, is spending up to $400 million to erect the 100 units. The wind farm will require 20 full-time employees to run and maintain the units that are expected to be built by the end of 2014.

Farm owners by the dozens are receiving rental payments for harvesting the wind on their lands. “It has benefited a lot of farmers,” said Kaylene Straley, who hasn’t seen anything like in her 32 years as clerk-treasurer for Lynn, a town of just more than 1,000 residents. “It’s going to benefit the county, the small towns.”

Randolph County will be paid $10 million by Headwaters for economic development over the next 10 years. After that, Headwaters will start paying property taxes.

The units have sprung up steadily since last spring, mainly in fields west of U.S. 27, north of Indiana 36 and east of Indiana 35. They stretch west from Lynn to Modoc and north toward Farmland and Winchester.

The towers and blades together reach more than 400 into the air. Straley said the wind farm certainly has its detractors. “A lot of people think it has ruined the skyline here, the landscaping,” she said.

Unit parts were shipped by railroad to Connersville and then trucked for 30 to 40 miles to the building sites. About 30 miles of gravel roads were constructed through farmland to reach the turbines. That raised a lot of dust and blocked a lot of roads since last spring.

No matter what, major changes often are tough to swallow. In fact, some farmers would rather not talk about where they stand. “A lot of people didn’t like the looks of telephone poles and light poles when they first came in,” Straley said.

The wind farm is expected to produce enough electricity to power 55,000 homes each year.

The necessary wind is seldom in short supply on the flat farmlands of Randolph County.

The energy will be sold to Indiana Michigan Power, which serves Indiana cities such as Muncie, Fort Wayne and South Bend. I&M President Paul Chodak III told media after the project was announced: “Our agreement with EDPR is an important step in our continuing efforts to diversify our generation portfolio, which includes wind, hydro, nuclear and coal.”

Wind energy has grown across the nation in recent years as battles have raged over the use of coal-using power plants, the most common in Indiana. It is a green alternative that can help reduce the reliance on coal. The emissions from the burning process are pollutants that most scientists and medical experts believe contribute mightily to health problems and global warming.

Right now, wind farms produce just over 3 percent of Indiana’s electricity.

Expect that number to grow. Eight new wind farms are reportedly in the planning stages around the state, including others in east-central Indiana.

Straley isn’t surprised: “Rumor has it that they will be building more on the east side of (U.S.) 27,” she said.