Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Company considers wind farm

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 12:08 AM CDT
A Spanish energy company with a growing U.S. presence is studying the possibility of spending "hundreds of millions of dollars" to build a wind farm near Owensboro.

Heartland Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish wind-power company, has filed a request with the Owensboro Metropolitan Board of Adjustment for a conditional use permit to build a 197-foot meteorological tower at 11901 Kentucky 951.

That's about 4.1 miles northeast of Knottsville.

The tower would be used to measure wind speed, wind direction and vertical wind speed for 12 to 24 months.

an Johnson, spokeswoman at Iberdrola's U.S. headquarters in Portland, Ore., said Monday that if test results are positive, the company wants to build a wind farm near Owensboro.

"Kentucky does not have a commercial wind farm," she said. "We like to be an early entrant into a state."

Iberdrola currently has 38 wind farms in 20 states, she said.

The company is rated as one of the largest private electric utilities worldwide and the largest renewable energy operator in the world.

In July, the Wall Street Journal said "the U.S. is hugely important to Iberdrola: It accounts for 31 percent of the group's installed capacity, 38 percent of the group's wind-generated electricity, and 42 percent of the company's pipeline of future wind farms."

In the first half of 2009, the article said, "Iberdrola added 228 megawatts of wind power in the U.S., after warning that the credit crunch would curb its clean-energy expansion. Iberdrola's total capacity worldwide just topped 10,000 megawatts."

Johnson said the company now has 3,000 megawatts of wind power in the U.S.

"One megawatt will power 300 average American homes," she said. "We have the capacity to power 900,000 homes now."

Typical wind farms in this part of the country have 66 to 67 turbines, Johnson said.

Turbines, which can cost more than $1 million each, tower up to 250 or more feet above the ground with blades turning in circles up to 330 feet in diameter.

Land owners are paid for each turbine on their property or for the amount of power they produce, depending on how the contract is written, Johnson said.

"We like to control a lot of land to give us plenty of room for the turbines," she said.

Land owners can continue to grow crops up to the base of the turbines, Johnson said, and cattle can graze around them.

Each turbine operates at the same decibels as a residential refrigerator, she said.

"The sound has never been an issue," she said.

Wind farms, Johnson said, pay property taxes on the turbines as well as rent to the land owner.

"They're great for the economy of the communities," she said. "They create a lot of jobs when they're being built."

Iberdrola wants to collect data from the meteorological tower for at least one and possibly two years, Johnson said, before deciding whether the area is viable for a wind farm.

Construction usually takes between six months and a year, the company said.

Iberdrola has already qualified for $546 million in stimulus funds this year for eight wind farms it has built with an investment of $1.87 billion, the company said.

The board of adjustment is scheduled to consider the request for the meteorological tower at its Nov. 5 meeting.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Owensboro Bank Deposits Grow

Bank deposits in Daviess County grew by $185.1 million to a total of $1.8 billion in the year ending June 30, a new report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. shows.

A breakdown of deposits in each of the county's 12 banks shows BB&T is still the county's largest bank with $364.8 million in deposits, up from $316.8 million a year ago.

Here's the rest of the breakdown:

U.S. Bank, $359.4 million, up from $284.2 million.

Independence Bank, $255.1 million, up from $198.3 million.

Chase Bank, $223.2 million, down from $235.9 million.

National City, $183.4 million, down from $187.2 million.

South Central Bank, $140 million, up from $135 million.

First Security Bank, $111.1 million, up from $92.7 million.

Old National Bank, $74 million, up from $73.05 million.

Fifth Third Bank, $63.8 million, up from $54.1 million.

Republic Bank, $51.9 million, down from $66.6 million.

PBI Bank, $12.8 million, up from $11.6 million.

Woodforest Bank, $87,000, new to the market.

First Centre for Business and Research tenants expected by end of the year

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Sunday, October 25, 2009 12:07 AM CDT
The transformation of an 86-year-old former tobacco warehouse at 1016 Allen St. into the high-tech Centre for Business and Research was originally scheduled to be completed by midsummer.

But Malcolm Bryant, the building's owner, said last week that he still expects the massive project to be completed before the end of the year.

"I would hope to have at least one, if not three, tenants moved in by the end of the year," Bryant said.

Alisha Hardison, owner of Dalisha's Desserts, won the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.'s first eMerging Ventures Challenge. The business plan competition's prizes included a $15,000 investment award and a free six-month lease on office space in the Centre for Business and Research.

And Hollison Technologies, a local startup biotech company, has already leased space in the building.

Madison Silvert, vice president of the EDC and executive director of its eMerging Ventures Center for Innovation, said Friday that he's working with a third company that's likely to lease space in the center.

But if that company commits, he said, "They probably won't be ready to move in until after the first of the year."

Plans for the building call for research space for biotech companies as well as office space for a "business accelerator," a place where new businesses can rent as much space as they need until they're ready to move out on their own.

"There's room in the building for up to 30 tenants, depending on how much space they need," Bryant said. "It'll probably be more like 20, though, with a mix of sizes. But we want them to grow and move out into other locations."

Bryant said: "The shell, what we call the commons area, is practically complete. And we're finishing out spaces for three tenants. Plans are ready for the 'wet labs' in the northeast corner of the building. We're working on floor plans. Mechanical is about complete. It should be totally enclosed by the end of October."

Getting the doors and windows in will make it easier for work to progress as the temperatures cool, he said.

"There won't be anything like it in Kentucky," Bryant said. "It's going to be quite a landmark."

Silvert said he's talking with several out-of-state companies about space in the center.

"That building will be one of the jewels of downtown," he said. "It's an amazing building. I think things will really pick up after we go to the BIO International Convention in Chicago in May."

That organization says on its Web site that it "represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations."

Seven universities and colleges will be affiliated with the Owensboro center when it opens.

The list includes the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University, Murray State University, Brescia University, Kentucky Wesleyan College and Owensboro Community & Technical College.

The 37,000-square-foot brick warehouse was built in 1923 for the Southwestern Tobacco Co.

Plans to convert the two-story building into a high-tech center were announced in September 2008.

Bryant said he's "run into more opportunities than problems with the building. We're going to have more natural light than we had thought. We'll be taking advantage of the exposed brick and wood. We're putting bright colors on the walls. It's looking cool."

The EDC had expected to hear by now whether it will receive a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration.

Nick Brake, EDC president, said he's still optimistic that the grant, which had been expected in September, will come through.

"It has to be announced by a member of Congress," he said.

The money, which would be used to install "wet labs" in the Centre for Business and Research, would come from federal funds designated for communities affected by Hurricane Ike and its remnants in September 2008.

"Wet labs" are laboratories with water, direct ventilation and specialized piped utilities along with basic equipment.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com