Panelists bring expertise to wind energy discussion

COLUMBIA CITY — Three men with a broad range of knowledge regarding wind energy have been invited to speak at a information session March 23.Chad Martin, a renewable energy extension specialist at Purdue University; Todd Samuelson, a CPA with H.J. Umbaugh and Associates and Travis Murphy, a business development manager for renewable energy will share their perspectives during a community discussion about wind energy.The community discussion is planned for 6 p.m. March 23 at Indian Springs Middle School. It is free and open to the public.The discussion itself will center around wind energy as a whole, not discussing any specific project.“This is more of a sharing from a high-level perspective,” said Alan Tio, president of the Whitley County Economic Development Corporation, which is co-hosting the event along with the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce.“We’re probably not going to get into the bushes and weeds“ of any specific projects, Tio said. Martin, a member of Indiana Wind Working Group, has a background in biomass energy resources and wind energy.In an e-mail, Martin said he will be speaking about the research work Purdue is doing in the wind energy area and a brief status update on the status of ecological impacts from wind farms. His part of the discussion will also share what wind energy will look like to homeowners and landowners. Samuelson, who through Umbaugh’s, has been one of the county’s financial advisors on a variety of projects, will provide information on potential financial impacts to the county from a wind farm development.Travis Murphy — who recently joined Johnson Melloh Solutions, a renewable energy contracting company — previously worked for the Indiana Office of Energy Development. He will share a broader perspective on information from what other communities have experienced and also from a state and national perspective. “We have a lot of experience in these speakers,” Tio said.The event will be moderated by Phill Shaull. While some questions may be written down for discussion by the panelists, the program is more about providing information about wind energy than a question-and-answer session about any specific project.Stakeholders, from individuals, to business owners to government officials, are welcome to hear about wind energy.“It’s an important step to bring some of these groups together to hear about wind energy,” Tio said, adding that he hopes through providing information, the county can move forward together in the process.