Zoning officials have approved scaled-back plans for a northern Indiana wind farm where Purdue University researchers plan to study the impact of the towering turbines.
The project approved Wednesday by Tippecanoe County's zoning board calls for a dozen wind turbines, about a fifth of the number originally planned for the rural site north of Lafayette.
The 20-megawatt Purdue Energy Park project will be the county's first large wind-energy project, with Indianapolis-based developer Performance Services set to begin construction this summer on the 432-foot-tall towers.
Although Purdue University isn't contributing financially to the $40 million project, its partnership with Performance Services will provide school researchers with opportunities for data collection, curriculum development and hands-on training, said Ken Sandel, Purdue's director of physical and capital planning.
He said the researchers' work will include studying the light and noise impacts about which residents near wind farms sometimes complain. The site will also be used for training on its operations.
"A lot of the concern about the flicker effects, a lot of concern about noise are the things that the Purdue researchers can help address and engage in as we move forward with research on a commercially viable farm," Sandel said.
The wind farm had originally been proposed to be built on Purdue property, the Journal & Courier reported.
Tippecanoe County resident Jim Pairitz urged the zoning board Wednesday not to approve an exception allowing the farm to move ahead. Pairitz said the project is "moving very quickly" and he noted that no noise data has been presented to support the promise that the turbines will keep below the 55-decibel maximum.
Area Plan Commission staff member Bianca Zakiklowski said the wind farm approval is conditional because it still must comply with requirements set by county code.
"There are lots of requirements. If they don't meet those, they don't get their building permit. They know that," she said.