Scout Clean Energy’s Bitter Ridge Wind Farm could begin operations as soon as this weekend

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Power generated by Bitter Ridge Wind Farm in southwestern Jay County will be collected at a facility (pictured) adjacent to its operations center, converted from 34.5 kilovolts to 138 kilovolts and then transported to the Jay substation east of Dunkirk. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)

Jay County’s second wind farm is ready to begin generating electricity.

Scout Clean Energy’s Bitter Ridge Wind Farm is slated to go online, pending final inspection of its 52 2.82-megawatt turbines. In a press release this week, the company set a target date of Sunday to begin operations.

“It’s exciting,” said Scout project manager Pete Endres, who was in Jay County on Wednesday and Thursday for the first time in nine months because of travel limitations related to the coronavirus pandemic. “When we’re working on developing these projects, we talk about things in the abstract … And now that you see steel in the ground and a construction project basically coming to an end, it’s pretty remarkable actually.”

The final commissioning was in process this week with a team from General Electric. Turbines went under a six-hour test and 72-hour test to check to make sure each turbine was performing to its specifications.

“Once that is completed, the turbines can be operational,” said Endres.

When Bitter Ridge goes online, it will join NextEra Energy’s Bluff Point Wind Energy Center that was completed in 2017. The wind farm will produce 130 megawatts of energy, enough to power about 50,000 homes. The energy is being sold to Baltimore-based Constellation, a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation.

Led by contractor M.A. Mortenson of Minneapolis, construction of the $135 million wind farm in Jefferson and Richland townships took about 13 months, beginning with access roads in August 2019. All of the bases for the 52 turbines were complete by the end of that year.

Turbines began being erected in April and were completed July 22, with mostly underground work going through the finishing stages over the last couple of months. Scout will have four full-time employees managing the facility from its operations center on county road 700 West about a quarter mile south of county road 500 South.

“In the grand scheme of things, this actually came together pretty quickly,” said Endres. The project began as a concept in 2016, with Scout representatives starting to meet with local government officials in late 2017. “That’s a short period of time in our business.”

The final stage of the project will be paving of roads in the area of the wind farm. Scout and the county have a road use agreement in place requiring that the roads be restored to as good or better than their original condition.

Paving, which will be handled by Milestone Contractors, is slated to begin soon with a goal of being complete by the end of October, weather permitting.

Prior to Bitter Ridge, Scout finished its Heart of Texas facility in Central Texas. Gonzaga Ridge Wind Farm, a California project that involves replacing existing 1980s turbines with new technology, is on the horizon.

Scout is also looking at the possibility of a solar project in Jay County in the same geographic area as Bitter Ridge.

“We are optimistic about it,” Endres said. “We’ve gotten good interest from landowners.

“Solar is becoming very cost competitive nationwide. It doesn’t matter where you are.

“On top of that, solar and wind complement each other really well.”

Jay County passed an ordinance last year that established rules for large-scale solar operations.

Bitter Ridge faced opposition from local group STOP Jay County Wind Farms but eventually earned approval for its plans from Jay County Plan Commission and a 10-year tax abatement from Jay County Council.

As a result of the opposition, a temporary moratorium on wind farms was put in place to allow a review of the county’s ordinance. Updated regulations were approved, and the moratorium lifted, in December.

Scout is expected to pay about $13.7 million in property taxes over the 25-year life of the wind farm. Lease payments to 39 landowners are expected to come in at about $13 million. It has already made the first two of its four $390,000 payments as part of an economic development agreement with the county.

Endres thanked the landowners involved in the project, noting that Scout hopes to be able to hold a commissioning celebration in the spring.

“Without their support and participation we could not have built this project,” said Endres. “And also the broader community. We realize that there was some disagreement in the community about this project, but we sincerely hope that the community over time realizes the benefits of the project and we look forward to being a neighbor for years to come.”