Article

Kansans continue mulling future of wind energy

SALINA, Kan. - The debate over the future of western Kansas as a source of renewable wind energy ranges from those who call it "ridiculous" to those who "don't see any drawbacks to it at all."


And those who waver somewhere in the middle are hearing plenty of reasons to choose one side or the other.

Deb and Neil Colle live in rural McPherson County, where Gamesa Corp. - a Spanish multinational company - is planning to build a 50-tower wind farm. They are among the most vocal residents opposing the proposal.

"This is an industrialized nation," Deb Colle told The Salina Journal. "It needs a reliable, constant source of energy. We can't run any kind of machinery on wind turbines."

That hasn't stopped Gamesa and others from tapping the wind-swept plains of western Kansas, where the U.S. Department of Energy calls its accessibility and reliability among the most desirable in the nation.

Gamesa, which also operates a wind farm in Illinois, is trying to secure leases for the land in northeastern McPherson County. But the staunch opposition of the Colles and others led county commissioners to impose a moratorium until July.

"There is a lot of support," said Stephen Wiley, who is managing the $100-million Kansas project for Gamesa. "The people who oppose the project have been very vocal, but it's not a very large group."

Support is more forthcoming in Cloud County, where many Kansas farmers see... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

And those who waver somewhere in the middle are hearing plenty of reasons to choose one side or the other.
 
Deb and Neil Colle live in rural McPherson County, where Gamesa Corp. - a Spanish multinational company - is planning to build a 50-tower wind farm. They are among the most vocal residents opposing the proposal.
 
"This is an industrialized nation," Deb Colle told The Salina Journal. "It needs a reliable, constant source of energy. We can't run any kind of machinery on wind turbines."
 
That hasn't stopped Gamesa and others from tapping the wind-swept plains of western Kansas, where the U.S. Department of Energy calls its accessibility and reliability among the most desirable in the nation.
 
Gamesa, which also operates a wind farm in Illinois, is trying to secure leases for the land in northeastern McPherson County. But the staunch opposition of the Colles and others led county commissioners to impose a moratorium until July.
 
"There is a lot of support," said Stephen Wiley, who is managing the $100-million Kansas project for Gamesa. "The people who oppose the project have been very vocal, but it's not a very large group."
 
Support is more forthcoming in Cloud County, where many Kansas farmers see value in clean, renewable energy.
 
"The wind is here; we can use it. And there is no byproduct to dispose of when you are done," said Raymond Kindel, who has signed an option with Horizon Wind Energy on his land in north-central Kansas. "It's just an all-natural thing."
 
But even in Cloud County, where many people support the project, a host of problems are delaying completion of the wind farm.
 
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recently ranked the state last in energy efficiency spending, and legislation to encourage "clean" energy has been almost nonexistent. No bill concerning wind energy has passed out of the House Utilities Committee during its most recent session.
 
"I'm not saying one good bill," said Rep. Josh Svaty, D-Ellsworth. "We're talking not one bill. Nothing."
 
Wind energy advocates also have faced technical and logistical problems, such as finding buyers for the energy and linking wind farms to the population. And even if all those hurdles are cleared, turbine suppliers are sold out through 2007, said Wayne Walker, a project development director at Horizon.
 
"If I had a buyer now, I could have the project completed next year," Walker said of the Cloud County project.
 
Many Kansans also are wary of the potential harm caused to tallgrass prairies, a counterargument to the proponents who say wind power is more environmentally friendly than burning fossil fuels. In some respects, both are right.
 
Less than 4 percent of roughly 400,000 acres of tallgrass prairie remain in Kansas today, but the carbon dioxide generated from burning coal nationwide is almost 3 billion tons annually.
 
That leaves yet another choice for those caught in the middle of the wind energy debate.
 
"We certainly don't want to harm our ecosystems," said Rep. Deena Horst, R-Salina. "I know that is a concern for a number of people who contact me on a regular basis. I do think it's critical we start looking at some alternative energy."

Source: http://www.kansascity.com/m...

MAR 28 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1923-kansans-continue-mulling-future-of-wind-energy
back to top