TOPEKA, Kan. - Even as a couple of their electric companies plan new coal-fired generating plants, executives from six top Kansas utilities said Friday they've agreed to goals from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for developing renewable energy.
The executives also said their companies are committed to helping consumers conserve energy so the demand for electricity doesn't increase as quickly as it otherwise would.
Sebelius said she wanted renewable resources _ mostly wind _ to represent 10 percent of the state's generating capacity by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020, goals she has been pushing since January. She and Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, co-chairman of the Kansas Energy Council, had ongoing discussions with the utilities.
Doug Ewert also spoke with emotion. Ewert is owner of ETek Group Inc., and expressed concern at the concept of placing tall structures so close to residential homes. "I'm a company owner, I build communication towers," Ewert said in a voice thick with emotion. "I know what these things are about. I know that they're dangerous."
Last winter's ice storm ripped down several communication towers in northwest Kansas, and left Ewert picking up debris from communication equipment scattered 2 miles away, he said. "In not one location that I've ever put a (400-foot-tall) tower would I put a tower next to a residential community," Ewert said. "It's amazing that this is even being evaluated for that area because of the community that's there. That community should be protected by Ellis County.
TOPEKA | For years, environmentalists have asked Kansas lawmakers to require power companies to use wind as a source of energy.
Lawmakers again balked in the legislative session that ended this month, though they took some small steps toward encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency.
But as long as the wind blows, environmental groups vow to keep trying. They say they're frustrated that lawmakers aren't doing more as energy prices go up and the public talks more and more about carbon emissions and renewable energy.
The protest petition process was a primary concern of commissioners. Henman requested clarification regarding the allotted time frame and protest area.
The terminology regarding the allowed time frame differs slightly in the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission Procedural Guide and the adopted Ellis County Zoning Regulations.
Davidson said that has caused confusion.
Protest petitions must be filed with the Ellis County Clerk within 14 days after the Planning and Zoning Commission makes a decision, which means the hearing is closed, Davidson said.
However, if there ever is discrepancy between these two documents, the zoning regulations would take precedence, he said.
At the end of a presentation on the Ellis County wind farm proposal Friday, project manager Krista Gordon received a rousing round of applause. From about half of the audience. The rest of the 100-or-so people who attended the meeting at the Fox Pavilion were, evidently, unimpressed by the slideshow and question-and-answer session.
Worries about the future of the local ecosystem have cropped up as debate swirls around the proposed Ellis County wind farm. A more specific target for these concerns has been prairie chickens - both lesser and greater prairie chickens make their homes in Kansas prairies.
There have been new developments regarding the proposed Ellis County wind farm, project manager Krista Gordon said Tuesday.
For starters, the project's boundaries will be pulled back from areas of "greatest concern," Gordon said.
Negotiations still are under way, but several turbines located along Yocemento Avenue and Old U.S. Highway 40 will be relocated. Easement agreements also will be revised to ensure the company cannot locate equipment in the areas closest to housing communities outside project boundaries, Gordon said.
The scene was cozy in Tim and Penny Davis' country living room Thursday evening. A group of 13 wind farm "neighbors" had gathered to discuss research pertaining to the proposed Ellis County wind farm in the form of an informal press briefing.
A candid conversation prevailed as residents, who are members of the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition, sipped iced tea and nibbled on fruit bread.
"We need as many people as possible to be informed," said Rod Bittel. "One of the things we've found out is that a lot of people didn't know very much."
There was an air of excitement in Fox Pavilion on Wednesday evening as about 300 people gathered for a free community presentation - "The Truth about Industrial Wind Energy."
The presentation, which started at 7 p.m., was produced and presented by the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition.
"These people are not politicians, they're not promoters of corporate business interests, they're not even experienced public speakers," said coalition member J.P. Michaud. "They're simply citizens ... who feel this is an issue of intense public importance and one deserving of very careful consideration."
A variety of concerns and research was presented by 12 residents.
The proposed Ellis County wind farm could produce a maximum of 200 megawatts of energy - however, at this point it does not appear that the energy would have an effect on local power bills.
"If the power goes outside of Ellis County, there won't be one bit of change to the electrical bills of people in Ellis County," said Competitive Power Ventures project manager Krista Gordon. "If Midwest Energy purchases some of the energy, I don't know if that will have any effect on the bills or what it would be, but that is their call to make."
Midwest Energy, which provides energy to almost 46,000 customers in 41 Kansas counties, already has agreed to purchase 25 megawatts of wind energy from the Smoky Hills Wind Project, located in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties.
Plans for a wind-energy development project a few miles southwest of Hays could bring a blast of change to Ellis County. If the proposed wind farm development is approved, about 135 turbines will be spread over about 11,000 square acres of land.
According to information obtained from the Ellis County Appraiser's office, there are about 50 landowners in this area - 20 of whom have entered a memorandum of easement agreement to have wind turbines placed on their property.
Russell attorney Dennis Davidson will replace Bill Jeter as county counselor in matters pertaining to the potential development of a wind farm southwest of Ellis County, it was decided at Monday's Ellis County Commission meeting.
Following a 20-minute executive session, commissioners formally accepted Jeter's resignation and appointed Davidson in a 3-0 vote by commissioners.
"It would be very difficult to find someone in Hays who didn't have a conflict of interest," said County Chairman Vernon Berens. "We didn't want to question the attorney, so we just went with someone out of Russell who does not have a conflict."
TOPEKA - A U.S. Supreme Court decision on regulation of carbon emissions Monday drew concern from power companies and uncertainty from air quality regulators in Kansas.
"This is an earth-shaking decision," said Steve Miller, spokesman for Sunflower Electric Cooperative, which is made up of smaller power cooperatives spread across central and western Kansas.
Hays-based Sunflower and other investors are planning to build three new coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas.
But Monday's court decision raises questions about the affordability of building new plants amid possible far-reaching regulatory changes.
The heated debate concerning a potential wind farm wafted into Ellis County Commission chambers Monday morning, as resident John Schmeidler presented concerns regarding county procedures.
"In going through the town hall meeting that we had last week, as well as talking to some of the administrators, it seems to me there are several procedural problems that need to be addressed," Schmeidler said.
"Since ultimately this is going to end up on your plate to decide, and perhaps even to the district court to decide, there are some things I'd like to bring to your attention."
He said public notices only were distributed to individuals residing within 1,000 feet of the project area.
"We're talking about a huge project, probably the biggest project that's ever been proposed in Ellis County," he said. "In my opinion, if this were to go to district court, and we only notified people within 1,000 feet, that is not including all the people who are going to be affected by this project."
The district court might find that to be inadequate due process, said Schmeidler, who lives at 2169 Locust Grove, about 4 miles north of Catharine.
Schmeidler asked commissioners to extend the notification area to at least a 5-mile radius around the project site southwest of Hays.
Another concern he presented was that the county has no official recording of the public hearing.
As plans for an Ellis County wind farm continue to kick up dust, a heated debate has blown over the city of Hays, particularly the southwest part of town.
While 20 property owners in the Yocemento Road area have entered lease agreements with Competitive Power Ventures, a Maryland-based power industry development and asset-management company, other locals strongly oppose the idea of neighborhood turbines.
CAMBRIA, Wis. -- With empty storefronts on the main drag and corn stubble stretching for miles in the surrounding hills, this fading farm town seems like a natural stop for the ethanol express.
Not to John Mueller, though. The 54-year-old stay-at-home dad has led a dogged battle to prevent a corn mill from building an ethanol plant up the hill from the village school. Concerned about air pollution, the water supply and the mill's environmental track record, Mr. Mueller and his group, Cambrians for Thoughtful Development, have blitzed the village's 800 residents with fliers, packed public meetings and set up a sophisticated Web site.
The mill has fought back with its own publicity campaign and local corn farmers have taken to the streets in tractors to show support. Now, as the mill races to build the $70 million plant, the matter is headed to the federal courthouse in Madison, 40 miles southwest.
The Sierra Club and Kansas City Power & Light Co. have signed an unusual accord in which the utility agreed to offset all the greenhouse gas emissions from a new coal-fired plant by adding wind power and taking steps to conserve energy on a large scale.
The Kansas City utility, which serves half a million customers in western Missouri and eastern Kansas, also pledged to cooperate with the Sierra Club on legislative and regulatory changes that would reduce the company's overall emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 percent by the year 2020.
In return, the Sierra Club will end its campaign against the utility's 850-megawatt coal-fired plant under construction in Missouri.
GREAT BEND - Barton County Commissioners delayed a decision Monday on zoning for non-commercial wind turbines until the state's secretary of Wildlife and Parks could speak to them.
No resolution was adopted, according to Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman.
Instead, Secretary Mike Hayden was tentatively planning on meeting with the group April 2 to discuss the building of wind turbines near Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.
HAYS - A developer has applied for a conditional-use permit to build a large wind farm in Ellis County, clearing the way for a public hearing on the project later this month.
CPV Wind Hays wants to build as many as 129 towers in an area southwest of town, project manager Krista Jo Gordon said. The developer already has nearly 10,000 acres under lease.
Gordon said no electricity from the proposed wind farm has been sold yet.
The 400-foot-tall towers would be at least 1,000 feet from the nearest household, but officials said landowners who agree to allow turbines on their property would receive a portion of the electricity sales.
A hearing is scheduled for March 28 at the Ellis County Courthouse.
Some call it a carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels, but others point to significant environmental costs.
In Kansas, where winds blow strong, the push for clean energy includes not only new wind turbines but also new nuclear-power plants as part of a "carbon-free" solution to climate change.
It's an idea that may be catching on. At least 11 new nuclear plants are in the design stage in nine states, including Virginia, Texas, and Florida, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute website.
But that carbon-free pitch has researchers asking anew: How carbon-free is nuclear power? And how cost-effective is it in the fight to slow global warming?
"Saying nuclear is carbon-free is not true," says Uwe Fritsche, a researcher at the Öko Institut in Darmstadt, Germany, who has conducted a life-cycle analysis of the plants. "It's less carbon-intensive than fossil fuel. But if you are honest, scientifically speaking, the truth is: There is no carbon-free energy. There's no free lunch."