• Steve Eberly

A Renewable Promise Realized

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

A dozen years have zipped by.

It’s a trite expression saying that the older you get, the faster time goes. Well, last week brought forward a milestone worthy of some reflection for me.

As the Jordan Creek Wind Farm is about to go online, elected officials from Warren County received a $1.13 million check from NextEra Energy Resources. This was the first payment of the economic development agreement for the 400 megawatts wind project. Total cash payments to the county will be approximately $8 million over the next four years. In addition to the cash payments, the wind farm will create in excess of $33.5 million in county revenue over the life of the project.

Wind and solar are proven methods to diversify our energy economy, produce power as truly homegrown, and bring millions of dollars to our communities.

As I look back, I now realize what a monumental year 2008 was for me: I retired from Purdue and assumed the role of economic developer for Warren County. And I joined just at the right time as a new economic opportunity was beginning to sweep through Indiana: wind farms.

While other counties near us began to partner with developers in 2008, Warren County’s path to becoming a part of Indiana’s renewable energy future took a little longer to evolve. In many respects, that was OK because manufacturers and operators gained experience producing wind energy in the Midwest. Equally significant, the economic opportunity for small rural Indiana counties became more evident and understood by local officials.

I never gave up hope. Right away, I saw what an incredible opportunity renewable energy development was (and still is) for our small, rural community. Not very often does a four hundred-million-dollar investment come knocking on our door—and one that will support our county government, our schools, local farmers, and help keep electricity costs low in the long term. And did I mention how wind and solar are turning out to be a critical piece of infrastructure to recruit new companies to Indiana?

The evolution of wind turbines in Indiana has proven to be a vital component of local economies. As more solar projects are announced and continue to develop, I remain confident that we will see the same level of success. Wind and solar are proven methods to diversify our energy economy, produce power as truly homegrown, and bring millions of dollars to our communities.

Indiana is in the midst of a history-making change in fuel used to generate electricity, in large part driven by falling cost of renewables. Change can be challenging – as I learned in 2008 – but it also brings rewards, as Warren County is realizing today. We know, from a study we released this year, that a single wind or solar project can generate more than $1 million in property taxes per year.

That opportunity is knocking at the door of other counties throughout Indiana today. A look back shows they should open the door. A look ahead – based on what I’ve seen first-hand in Warren County and elsewhere – shows that a brighter future awaits.