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Sweet addition to Indiana wind power capacity

With 1,400 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity in Indiana, EDP Renewables recently strengthened its position as the top wind energy producer in the state with the completion of the 202-megawatt Sweet Acres Wind Farm.

By Paul MacDonald

There is no doubt about it: the state of Indiana, and its counties, have been welcoming to EDP Renewables North America (EDPR NA) and its wind and solar power projects—but it’s a welcome the company has worked hard to earn. The company, which has its U.S. base in Texas, now has 1,400 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity in Indiana.

EDPR NA, a leading renewable energy developer and operator in North America, recently strengthened its position as the top wind energy producer in the state with a new

202-megawatt wind project: Sweet Acres Wind Farm.

The project’s name when it was being developed was particularly appropriate: the Crossroads II Wind Farm. 
 Indiana is located, as its motto says, at “the crossroads of America”. It borders Lake Michigan and Michigan to the north, Ohio to the east, Kentucky to the south, and Illinois to the west, making it an integral part of the American Midwest—and the home to a terrific wind resource.

The Sweet Acres Wind Farm in White County, Indiana, about 90 miles northwest of Indianapolis, became operational in late 2023 and is now powering the equivalent of more than 54,000 average Indiana homes for power utility NIPSCO. EDPR NA completed the 302-MW Indiana Crossroads I wind farm, which is also in White County, in 2021.

As the largest operator of wind energy generation in the state, the company’s operating wind portfolio also includes the six phases of the Meadow Lake Wind Farm (White and Benton Counties) and two phases of the Headwaters Wind Farm (Randolph County). The 200 MW Riverstart Solar Park in Randolph County was the company’s first greenfield solar development project in Indiana and was completed in 2022.

Mason Daumas, Associate Director of Development at EDPR NA, noted that Sweet Acres Wind is the latest iteration of the wind projects the company has in Indiana, and benefits from the solid relationships the company has built with local government and landowners in the region, and the state.

“We have quite a bit of good experience in the area,” he notes, “and I think it reflects the fact that we really focus on developing meaningful relationships with landowners, and we work to build a lot of trust. It’s 10 years in, and we’re still developing projects in the area.

“We have multiple landowners that are coming back, saying they want to keep participating because EDPR NA is still developing projects,” he added.

During the peak of construction, Sweet Acres Wind employed 250 people and it has eight permanent positions to operate and perform maintenance on the project throughout its multi-decade operational life. The project will pay an estimated $37 million to White County landowners through land lease payments and disburse more than $48.5 million to local governments, which funds schools, roads, infrastructure, and other essential services.

 
  

Daumas said that the company started development work on Sweet Acres Wind in 2018, and the process was pretty straightforward.

“One of the pieces that really led to its success and allowed us to expand in White County is the availability of a transmission system,” he explained. “There’s been a large buildout of transmission leading to the Reynolds substation, where we have a Point of Interconnection (POI) for Sweet Acres Wind, and it has really unlocked a large amount of availability of wind power on to the grid.

“I think the transmission project is testimony to the concept that if you build it (transmission), it (wind power) will come.”

EDPR NA has benefited from the many projects it has built in the region, and in the lead up to those projects, the extensive information sharing that was done at many public meetings. From the first project, the 200 MW Meadow Lake 1, there was extensive community involvement, and the company worked closely with the Economic Development Office and county government, as part of the project development process.

They followed that successful development template with further wind projects.

And the projects are interconnected, explained Daumas.

“After we built each new project, we were able to ‘daisy chain’ and build transmission line to connect back to the original POI, just a bit further out. So we started with one project, then a phase next to it, and the next phase next to it. We think of the wind projects as all being related, with Meadow Lake being the first and Sweet Acres being the latest.”

The state of Indiana is one of the leaders in renewable energy in the U.S. Renewable energy accounts for about 5,100 megawatts of Indiana’s electricity generating capacity, which is almost one-fifth of the state’s total. 

So what kind of renewable energy “special sauce” does the state have, to interest the industry?

“I think one of the things we like about Indiana in particular is the state leaves the decision-making power to the counties,” said Daumas. “There are states where the regulatory approval involves two processes, and companies require both state and county approvals.

“But in Indiana, it’s really about working with the local counties. We have presences in White County and Benton County and we have a good sense of what it takes to develop projects there because we’ve worked with both them.”

The counties, he says, now have a very good expectation of what wind projects bring—the tax dollars they are going to provide, and the road upgrades they are going to involve.

 
 With Sweet Acres Wind now successfully operating, there could be more to come for EDPR NA in Indiana, in terms of renewable energy projects. “One thing is very clear: Hoosiers are ready for more renewable energy, and EDP Renewables is ready to deliver,” said Miguel Stilwell, CEO of EDPR.
  

The company has spent a lot of time, and effort, building beneficial relationships, and, as noted, they have been able to see the benefits as they propose subsequent projects.

And with a large number of wind projects in the area, the public also knows what a wind project involves, so there is less of an education element to building a new project.

“We don’t have to do as much explaining about what’s involved because we’ve had a foothold in this region for some time. In communities where wind power is new, we are more active with engagement.”

They have also benefited from the informal exchange of information that has gone on among landowners in the area, in the decade they have been involved in the region.

“Landowners are telling other landowners, ‘hey this what is was like to work with EDPR NA, and that they fixed my drain tile as part of the project’,” says Daumas.

“We have people speaking on our behalf which I think sends a powerful message.”

Having such wind power advocates helps to address any reservations a landowner might have about a wind project.

In the case of Sweet Acres, they had a fairly large number of landholdings to deal with—40-plus lease agreements, exclusive of neighbor agreements or gen line agreements. A single lease agreement can involve several people, though, says Daumas. “The number of people we collaborate on in any wind project in Indiana is easily in the hundreds.”

This reflects the difference in land ownership in the Midwest, vs. areas like Texas, where one person can have very large landholdings.

In terms of wind attributes, this area of northwest Indiana, says Daumas, is just plain windy, making it ideal for wind farms.

Their first project, Meadow Lake I, was smack in the middle of a high wind resource area, and subsequent projects, also in the region, also benefit from this resource, though perhaps to a slightly lesser degree.

That said, though, Daumas points out that the wind turbines they are installing now are a lot more efficient, vs. 10 years ago when Meadow Lake I was built, and are larger, and better capable of generating power from the wind. “Even though Sweet Acres might have a slightly less strong wind resource, energetically it is very productive.”

 
The site for Sweet Acres Wind, as with the sites for the other EDPR NA wind power projects in Indiana, is on farm land, primarily used for growing corn and soybeans. The company works carefully on siting turbines and project design, to have the least impact on farms. 
  

The site for Sweet Acres Wind, as with the sites for the other EDPR NA projects in the state, is on farm land, primarily used for growing corn and soybeans. The company works carefully on siting turbines and project design, to have the least impact on farms. “We want to build the wind farms in a way that allows the farmers to continue to use their land in the way that they had previously,” he says.

In terms of the actual construction, Indiana-based IEA was the EPC on the project, and they used their subsidiary, White Construction, for turbine construction, and William Charles Construction for the high voltage work. The project has 42 Nordex N155 4.8-MW wind turbines. Daumas noted the company deals with a number of turbine suppliers. For example, Vestas turbines were used on the Crossroads I project.

Depending on the components, and supplier, the renewable energy industry still seems to be dealing with some supply chain issues, post-COVID Daumas said they were fortunate in that their supply of components was uneventful.

“But I want to give our procurement team credit. I think things being smooth on Sweet Acres Wind was a result of a lot of pro-activity and identifying what particular components may have longer lead times due to recent supply chain issues,” he said.

“Going forward, what we are seeing as developers is lead times, in particular for high voltage equipment, are really extended, so that is something we are factoring into our permit timelines.”

Procurement teams have always been crucial in the construction of a wind project, but perhaps they will be more important than ever, going forward.

“Part of it, too, is across the U.S., we are seeing a large deployment of renewable generation—and a lot of us are looking for the same pieces of equipment. We have to mindfully and responsibly incorporate those new timelines into our project, which I think we have done successfully so far.”

Daumas said one of the biggest challenges of the Sweet Acres Wind project was on the development side, involving the generator lead line, which was lengthy, at 14 miles.

“I don’t know if that is the longest, but it definitely was one of the longest single generator lead lines that we have built for a project.”

This, of course, involved a separate set of leaseholders from the wind project itself.

“As an independent power producer in Indiana, we don’t have any eminent domain rights,” he explained. “Every single landholder who is hosting a transmission line with EDPR NA, we have worked with them, and they have chosen to be a participant in this project—I think that reflects well on how we engage with the community and how much work we do out in the community.”

With Sweet Acres Wind now successfully operating, both Daumas and senior company management said there could be more to come for EDPR NA in Indiana.

“The state of Indiana, and specifically White County, is essential to EDP’s portfolio and is one of the most important sites worldwide for EDP Renewables’ ongoing renewable energy development and operations efforts,” said Miguel Stilwell, CEO of EDPR, of the company’s projects. “One thing is very clear: Hoosiers are ready for more renewable energy, and EDP Renewables is ready to deliver.”