By Audrie Garrison, Truth Staff

GOSHEN -- Several public entities in Elkhart County are looking at the possibility of investing in wind energy.

Leaders from Goshen Community Schools, the city of Goshen, the Elkhart County commissioners and Wa-Nee Community Schools have had several meetings with Performance Services, an engineering and construction company that specializes in sustainability projects, about the benefits and drawbacks of installing wind turbines within the county or investing in a larger wind park in another county.

Tim Thoman, president of Performance Services, told the Goshen City Council and the Goshen Community Schools Board that the public entities could make a $7.2 million net profit per turbine from a 25-year project at the council and board's annual joint meeting Tuesday night. They would use recovery zone bonds to build the turbines, and the city and schools would then earn interest on the bonds issued.

Thoman said about 25 percent of the project would be paid from federal stimulus dollars, and the city, county and schools would be eligible for tax incentives if they put the plan in place by 2012.

They would then sell the electricity generated to a utility company through a 25-year power purchase agreement.

"The plan is that these projects are going to be totally self-funded," Thoman said.

Thoman said Elkhart County has a significant wind resource, but one challenge could be finding enough space for the turbines. He said implementation would depend on landowners' feelings toward the project.

Performance Services estimated that a project size of five 2-megawatt turbines would be appropriate for Elkhart County. The company has identified three ideal sites in the county.

Tony Kuykendall, business development manager for Performance Services, told the council and the board that another option would be to invest in a larger wind farm the company plans to develop called Performance Park. This wind farm wouldn't be in Elkhart County -- he said it would likely be located in a west-central county in Indiana.

Thoman said the revenue from the Performance Park investment would be larger than it would for the installation of wind turbines within Elkhart County because the park would be in an area with extremely high winds. The benefit of installing them in the county, he said, would be giving residents the option of using renewable energy if there was an interest.

The next step for the potential Goshen project, Kuykendall said, is to determine the level of interest in the project. One year would be needed for a wind study, followed by a six- to 12-month construction phase. It would be another two to three years until the turbines were operational.

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