The northern Indiana utility NIPSCO held a ribbon cutting on Friday for its new wind farm in White County, which the company says will power some 80,000 Hoosier homes.
NIPSCO currently serves roughly 1.2 million customers statewide.
The event was attended by several renewable manufacturing and construction companies along with state and local representatives.
Pablo Vegas, president of NiScource Utilities - NIPSCO’s parent company - said the project is part of the company’s broader goal of retiring its Indiana coal plants by 2028.
“This wind farm here at Indiana Crossroads is the third out of 14 renewables projects we are going to develop here in Indiana, which is part of our strategy of completely shutting down our fossil fuel coal plants that we operate here in the state,” he said.
Environmental groups have raised concerns that the utility may be backtracking on some of its commitments -- but Vegas says the transition has to include retraining for workers at coal plants who might otherwise lose their jobs.
“While it sometimes may not feel like it’s fast enough, we really want to be thoughtful and planful so we don’t have any negative repercussions from these transitions,” he said.
Vegas says he’s hopeful federal renewable incentives currently moving through Congress as part of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan will pass.
“A lot of it is grounded in tax credits to incentivize the production of wind and solar,” he said. “So the BBB, if passed, will help the industry continue to move in this direction. I do hope we see some progressive legislation on that front.”
JP Roehm is the president and CEO of Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives, a construction company that specializes in renewable projects. He echoed Vegas in hoping potential federal investment through the Build Back Better plan might incentivize more renewable projects.
“Many counties (in Indiana) now are known as closed for business to renewables,” he said. “Hopefully with the tremendous investment that will be coming with the pending legislation in congress it’s my hope we can get our fair share of that investment.”
White County Commissioner David Diener said wind farms have increased tax revenues for the county.
“These economic benefits to our community benefit every property owner within the county, whether they are particularly happy with wind turbines or not,” he said.
But Diener, like many county commissioners, opposed efforts by the state legislature to standardize where wind and solar farms could be located - something advocates said would make it easier for renewable energy companies to invest in the state.
“We feel as though the local level people can make decisions, whether it’s on wind turbines or farms,” he said. “These are not decisions that come from government, they come from the people who own the land.”