The power, which officially started flowing Wednesday (Dec. 19), won’t go to Cummins. But the company’s share of the energy generated by the expansion’s 61 wind turbines is more than Cummins uses at all of its Indiana facilities. Essentially, the expansion is replacing the power the company uses in its home state with low-carbon, renewable energy.
“We’ve been working toward this day for a long time,” said Mark Dhennin, Cummins’ Director of Energy and the Environment. “I’m proud we were able to help make this expansion happen. It’s good for our company, good for our partners at Meadow Lake and good for the world.”
The expansion comes just after the United Nation’s climate conference concluded in Katowice, Poland. Participants discussed ways the world can increase low-carbon energy sources like wind and solar to replace power produced by fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.
“We believe wind farms like Meadow Lake are part of the solution,” said Blair Matocha, spokesperson for EDP Renewables of North America, Meadow Lake’s owner. “It’s great to see companies like Cummins helping us take a great idea like capturing energy from the wind and turning it into a reality.”
Cummins has entered into a 15-year Virtual Power Purchase Agreement more commonly known in the industry as a VPPA. It guarantees the wind farm a fixed price for the power Meadow Lake VI generates, providing some certainty to the expansion that helped it move forward.
The VPPA provides Cummins with a hedge of sorts against rising energy prices. The company pays or receives the difference between the contract price and the market price of the energy the expansion produces. Cummins also receives something called renewable energy certificates, or RECs, to demonstrate its greenhouse gas reduction efforts. One of the company’s energy related goals is to promote the development of low carbon energy.
VPPAs provide the opportunity for companies to drive development of new, large-scale renewable power where it is the windiest or sunniest. While Cummins is also installing solar systems at many of its facilities, it is impossible to generate the magnitude of power onsite that’s possible at the Meadow Lake expansion, which is located along a windy stretch of northwest Indiana between Lafayette and Chicago.
Meadow Lake VI will produce about 200 megawatts (MW) of energy annually, enough to power 52,000 homes in Indiana. The expansion represents a capital investment of about $340 million, according to U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Technologies Market Report.
Nestle and the Wabash Valley Power Association are supporting the project with Cummins. The expansion is compatible with farming, which will continue to take place around the wind turbines.
The expansion area is approximately 10,000 acres in Benton County and will use some of the tallest wind turbines in the world, stretching up about 173 meters or nearly 567 feet into the sky – taller than a 50-story building.
The addition of phase VI brings total production at Meadow Lake to just over 800 MW of power.