Articles filed under General from Kansas
A 320-foot crane used to construct turbines at the under-construction Smoky Hills Wind Farm fell Wednesday morning while it was being moved from one site to another, said Glenn Melski, vice president and manager of operations for Enel North America, one of the companies that's managing the project. ...The 56-turbine, first phase of the wind farm, which is about five miles northwest of Ellsworth, had been scheduled for completion in December. Melski said he didn't know how much the crane incident would affect the project's schedule.
...commission's Monday night meeting, where regulations on private wind turbines eventually were approved on a 6-0 vote. ...The new zoning code section sets out a series of steps that must be followed, such as having the site surveyed, rules limiting height to 200 feet, setbacks from property lines must be at least 1.5 times the height of the tower and generally limiting the number of turbines to one per 80 acres. Commissioners questioned a few provisions, including one requiring turbines be shut down during icy weather, with some saying that rule would be difficult to enforce. Koepsel said she'd read reports of 2.5 pound chunks of ice being thrown as far as 800 feet from turbine blades, so icy weather is a safety issue.
Enjoy the wind, while it's still free. Next year, you'll be paying for it in your electric bill. While wind itself doesn't cost anything, buying, installing and maintaining the equipment to turn it into megawatts of electricity is expensive. In Kansas, the cost is likely to reach into the billions. Starting next year and for the next few years, you can expect to pay about $2 to $2.50 more a month on your Westar Energy bill as the company brings on line the first phase of its wind expansion plan. Overall, that 300 megawatts of wind power will increase the company's rates by $55 million in 2009, its first year of operation, according to documents filed with the Kansas Corporation Commission. The 20-year cost works out to $830 million, the documents show. ...The governor wants to increase the use of wind power to 20 percent by 2020. Assuming future wind projects have similar costs, Kansas consumers could end up paying about $4.8 billion over the next 20 to 30 years to meet those goals. ..."I have not been against development of any kind of alternative energy," said Rep. Don Myers, R-Derby, a 15-year veteran of the House Utilities Committee. But Myers and others say the biggest drawback of wind is that utilities using it will have to maintain conventional power plants to back it up on days when the winds are calm, usually in late summer.
"It has almost become like a gold rush," said Sherry Kunka, Xcel Energy project director. "We have a long waiting list of developers seeking transmission access." ...The future of wind development depends on transmission lines that need to be built to take the power where it is needed because local needs are filled. One transmission plan would be just for wind energy headed for the rest of Texas. Another would take it to the grid that serves the eastern U.S. When Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Roderic Bremby denied an air permit for two large coal generators near Dodge City, Kan., on Oct. 18, he may have put up a roadblock for sending power east, said Bob Bryant, president and general manager of Golden Spread Electric Cooperative.
Why is Kansas behind? The short answer: It's complicated, and thoughtful people disagree. Wind proponents say the state has provided little leadership, either through regulation or incentive. State officials say Kansas has been perceived as being anti-wind, which has encouraged citizens opposed to wind. Utilities insist they're embracing wind just as fast as they can. ...Many utilities maintain that adding any significant quantity of wind-powered generation will make the electric grid too unstable, because you never know when the wind will start blowing. Or stop. ..."They [wind turbines] could never, ever serve even one home," he said. That's because at some point the wind will stop but demand for electricity hasn't. ...in order to make this wind power available, Austin Energy had to line up a back-up source of electricity for nearly all its wind energy. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the electric grid in much of Texas, requires all utilities file an energy plan, every day, that shows how much electricity it expects its customers to use during every 15-minute period of the next day, and where it plans to get that power from. The 9 percent rule If the power source is a wind farm, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas counts only 8.7 percent of the farm's rated capacity. Never mind wind farms typically produce 20 percent to 40 percent of their rated capacity in the long term. What matters is the short term.
For those of us who call this area home, there are real worries about the documented health effects that may occur if such an industrial complex is built so close to our homes. There are concerns about safety during the building phase as well as from the turbines themselves after construction. The wind turbine complex controversy continues to divide our county. This conflict isn't about foreign oil or saving the planet -- it's about location and the proposed location is not suitable. ...There are fears about property and market values decreasing on the biggest investment that most of us have. Some claim that there is no proof to any of these concerns. We can provide ample documentation to show that the county is taking a huge risk if this project proceeds. To the doubters, we say we don't want to be the guinea pigs that find out whether the fears and concerns are real or not. It's simple, move the location of the turbines somewhere where there are not homes and eliminate the risks.
Midwest is doing what it can with renewable energy, such as wind. "Let's use what we can from renewables, but they're not the silver bullet," Helm said. Midwest has agreed to buy 25 megawatts of power from the Smoky Hill Wind Farm west of Salina, but if past performance is any indication, it will rarely get the full amount. When Midwest was purchasing power from the Gray County wind farm, it generally was getting only 8 megawatts of power anywhere from 35 percent to 40 percent of the time. "We never got the total amount we contracted for," Helm said.
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Timothy Carr delivered his message with a matter-of-fact tone: The world is going to consume more energy; little of the electricity it will need will come from renewable resources, and much of that power will come from coal.
The licensing agreement with a company that has proposed a wind energy farm in Cowley and Elk counties may be completed within the next month, according to Cowley County Administrator Leroy Alsup. The agreement sets the standards and specifications for construction and operation of the project, he said. Greenlight Energy, Inc. of Charlottesville, Va., constructed Kansas' largest wind farm in Butler County and applied to construct one in Cowley and Elk counties. The company has since been purchased by a subsidiary of British Petroleum, according to Alsup.
The uncivil war ignited by a request from Iberdrola Renewable Energies to build a 200-megawatt complex near Hays exposed deep gaps in thinking about wind power. Advocates pointed to a sustainable, free source of energy that didn't mirror a coal-fired plant's contributions to smog, acid rain, global warming and mercury poisoning. Critics responded that each $2 million turbine was an aesthetic irritant, complete with blinking night lights to warn aircraft. Property owners near the proposed site suggested land values would nose dive. ..."No one in their right mind can possibly consider this an environmentally beneficial development for a peaceful rural community," he [J.P. Michaud] said.
Unlikely bedfellows in the past, utilities are turning more often to environmental groups for advice on potential wind farm sites. ..."We do have a bit of a landrush sort of scenario going on right now without much to control it, Pollom said, "Wind energy in general really has no federal oversight, like you might see with conventional power plants, because you're not producing air emissions. You're not using water resources, and it's not regulated by the Kansas Corporation Commission." The only regulatory involvement is in a zoned county. But much of the state's rural western counties have no zoning, leaving citizens without a formal appeals process.
But as much wind as there is in Kansas, it shouldn't be relied on to feed our growing hunger for energy and prevent further climate change; ...Those who champion research into alternative fuels and high-efficiency cars are "perpetuating the idea that we can continue to be car-dependent," Kunstler said. "There's no silver bullet that will allow happy motoring to continue ... we're not going to run the interstate highway system and Disney World and Wal-Mart on any combination of wind, solar, french-fry oil or switchgrass."
If indeed the wind farm idea is dead at this point and the company does not reapply in a year, there will be plenty of what-ifs strewn about in the coming days, months and even years. And Henman will always be remembered as the commissioner who voted it down. But Henman is right. The zoning rules and regulations do need revisions before something like this project is approved. ... Zoning is created to protect the rights of citizens from having large industrial complexes built near them, regardless of whether or not it is an environmentally friendly or highly lucrative industrial complex.
Fort Hays State University had an interest in the county's decision; however, President Edward H. Hammond said the university would continue with its motions to bring a wind farm to Hays. "The university is going to go ahead with wind generation on our property," Hammond said. "This decision means we will do it alone."
Press Release: 09-04-07
On Tuesday morning, Vernon Berens, Dennis Pfannenstiel and Perry Henman will make arguably their biggest decision as Ellis County commissioners: wind farm or no wind farm. ...Henman said he's decided not to let the over-arching debate of wind energy as a whole effect his decision. The issue is based on zoning regulations, property rights and local quality of life, he said. "Personally, I'm trying to not let those things influence my decision -- if wind towers are evil or good," Henman said. "To me, they're a machine. It makes electricity, and we just need to decide, through zoning, where we need to put them."
The draft agreement contains rather weak provisions for monitoring the wind farm's effect on the environment. We encourage the parties and the commission to strengthen those provisions. Wind farms have a place in the nation's search for alternative energy sources, although that place is far from firm. The economic viability of wind farms still depends on tax incentives. Their long-term profitability in the volatile energy market is uncertain. ...But here we are. A wind farm is on the way. Let's do our best to limit its adverse impact on the land where we live.
Plans for a wind farm in northeast Cowley County have been resurrected as the new owners of The Elk River Wind Project look to expand. The owners have applied for a licensing agreement to build a wind farm in Cowley County dubbed Elk River II that could plant up to 110 wind turbines in northeast Cowley and another 70 or so in Elk County if initial plans come to pass.
At Monday's Ellis County Commission meeting, it was suggested Iberdrola Project Manager Krista Gordon would appear on next week's agenda to answer questions regarding the proposed wind farm. But there's been a change of plans. Gordon's appearance has been canceled, and there will be no wind farm discussion during Monday's meeting, said Chairman Vernon Berens. The decision was made because commissioners didn't want to reopen the public hearing portion of the application process, Berens said. "Plans changed because too many wanted to come back on the agenda, and we've heard all we wanted to hear," he said. "So we said anything with the wind farm will be nixed for Monday, and we'll make a decision on (Sept. 4)."
It will be November before a final decision is made, but at least two companies have indicated an interest in building a transmission line that would pass near Hays. One of those companies - ITC Great Plains - officially is on record that it would like to build the line, which would run from Spearville to the Knoll substation just northwest of Hays and then to Axtell, Neb., just south of Kearney. While it's significant that the line would come close to Hays, it's also the first line that a relatively new state agency - on its own accord - has proposed building if no private company steps forward.