By Dan Shaw, Evansville Courier & Press

Those who buy electricity from Vectren Corp. are receiving additional power from a wind farm in northwest Indiana.

Phase two of the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, in Benton County northwest of Lafayette, went into full operation last month. The phase's 133 windmills can produce 200 megawatts of electricity. Vectren has a contract to buy 50 megawatts of it.

The agreement, which was approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in June, will give Vectren enough electricity for an additional 15,000 homes a year. It brings Vectren's supply of power generated from renewable sources to 80 megawatts, enough to meet more than 5 percent of its customers' demand for electricity.

"We continue to look to expand our renewable energy portfolio with homegrown, Hoosier sources," said Carl Chapman, Vectren president and chief operating officer.

Generally speaking, it now costs more to generate power using wind than by burning coal. Yet there is a good chance new government rules will make the discrepancy in price more level.

The limits some U.S. officials want to use to curtail releases of carbon dioxide and other gases believed to contribute to global warming will add to the cost of burning coal and other fossil fuels. Using wind, sunlight and other renewable sources will become cheaper in comparison.

Jim McRae, an Evansville resident, said he would be happy to pay a bit more for energy generated using wind rather than coal, so long as the price doesn't become unaffordable. Better still to McRae, who is in his 70s and lives on a fixed income, would be cheaper electricity from a renewable source.

"If you can keep the cost of energy down and make it clean, then I'm all for that," McRae said.

Phase two of the Fowler Ridge wind farm is owned through a partnership of Sempra Generation, based in San Diego, and BP Wind Energy. Vectren's contract with the farm will last for 20 years.

Three other contracts, each also for 50 megawatts, have been signed with affiliates of American Electric Power, which owns a couple of Indiana power plants through its Indiana-Michigan Power subsidiary.

Phase one of Fowler Ridge, consisting of 222 windmills capable of generating 400 megawatts, began operating in April. Most of it is owned through a partnership between BP Wind Energy and Dominion, a company based in Richmond, Va.

Vectren is also buying 30 megawatts of electricity from the Benton County Wind Farm, a separate operation. That farm is owned by both Orion Energy Group, based in Oakland, Calif., and Vision Energy, based in Cincinnati.

The Benton County Wind Farm can generate 130 megawatts. The 100 megawatts not being bought by Vectren are going to Duke Energy, which sells electricity in a large part of Indiana.

Vectren also generates 3.2 megawatts by burning gases released by the Blackfoot Landfill in Winslow, Ind.

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