Library from Kansas
Officials from Westar Energy and Renewable Energy Systems Americas will hold a ground-breaking ceremony at its Central Plains Wind Farm site in Wichita County. The site is expected to go online by the end of the year.
It was more wind farm-related planning issues Monday evening as the Hays Area Planning Commission continued its process of developing wind power regulations to be applied within city limits. While no action was taken on the issue, commissioners discussed the possibility of having a more unbiased academic source provide a day of education for local government. "It seems like it's going to be a coming thing in the future," Planning Commissioner Terry Claycamp said. "To have some non-biased, knowledgeable source, we could have questions answered." ..."On the commercial side, I've been very frustrated because most of the information we can get ... everything seems so slanted in one direction or the other," Planning Commissioner Jim Fouts said.
Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson said Tuesday wind production in Kansas can expand to create an export market for notoriously stiff breezes cruising across the state. "We know there is just a certain amount of wind we can integrate into our electrical system in Kansas," Parkinson said. "How do we keep the momentum going? We're probably talking about export." Wind generation capacity is spiking in Kansas through construction of large commercial farms. The state's installed capacity was 365 megawatts at the end of 2007. That total is expected to reach 1,015 megawatts at the end of 2008.
Mike Irvin, an attorney for the Kansas Farm Bureau Legal Foundation who spoke Tuesday at the fourth wind conference at the Scott County Fairgrounds, said energy companies aren't bad, but landowners must be aware of contracts and agreements before signing them. Irvin told about 100 people at the conference at the Scott City Fairgrounds that he knows farmers are independent people who might not want to discuss land issues with other farmers or attorneys. "Landowners and attorneys need to work together," Irvin said. "More people have more power. Put the independence away and consult attorneys."
Wind farm talk was blowing from a new direction Monday morning as Trego County Commissioners heard from Iberdrola Project Manager Krista Gordon. Gordon attended the weekly meeting to discuss plans for the tentatively dubbed Saline Wind Project, which the company hopes to develop north of Ellis in Ellis and Trego counties. A second project, the Chetolah Crossing Wind Project, planned for southwestern Ellis County, southeastern Trego County and northwestern Rush County, also was discussed. "I just wanted to introduce myself to you and make sure your board is aware that we're working in Trego County," she said.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius spent a day this week in Houston, the city of big oil, to promote another energy source -- big wind. In her speech Monday to the annual convention of the American Wind Energy Association, Sebelius called on the federal government to renew its production tax credit for wind energy due to expire at year's end. She urged Congress: "Make it clear to investors that this incentive will last for several years." The governor's message echoes a concern of wind developers, who complain they can't make plans to build in places such as Kansas without a multi-year tax credit in place to boost their emerging industry. The U.S. Senate recently approved a single-year extension, but the bill remains pending in the House.
Hamilton County commissioners handed the documents necessary to build a wind farm back to the Syracuse-Hamilton County Planning Commission Tuesday morning after finding some of the formatting of the zoning regulations need to be changed. The commission did not approve the zoning regulations to allow the wind farm, but support of the $300 million project was evident. "We're not ready to approve it except in spirit," said Hamilton County attorney Rob Gale at the meeting. The planning commission will change some of the formating, including adding a section to separate the regulations from the definitions, said John Kennedy, Hamilton County economic developer.
Hays Wind LLC's plans for a wind farm south and southwest of Hays will continue, and sooner than originally anticipated. A year-long moratorium required by Ellis County's zoning regulations regarding a conditional-use zoning permit was waived by county commissioners in a 2-1 vote at this morning's meeting, with Commissioner Perry Henman dissenting. Commissioner Vernon Berens and Chairman Dennis Pfannenstiel both spoke in favor of wind energy development within the county and granting the waiver to speed up the process.
As lawmakers ended the 2008 session Thursday, they rejected a standalone bill extending the tax break beyond 2009. Topeka lawmakers say the $1 million per year tax break is aimed at a wind turbine manufacturing plant interested in locating in the capital city. The investment would bring up to 950 jobs to the area. "We know other states have put up cold hard cash," Kelly said. The name of the company hasn't been disclosed. Without the extension on the tax break, it is likely the company will look elsewhere, she said. ...A month ago, House members voted overwhelmingly to pass a bundled bill authorizing expansion of a coal-fired power plant at Holcomb and extending the sunset for the tax break meant to lure a $150 million investment to Topeka. After Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed the bill, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, chastised her for costing the state "billions in opportunities."
Exactly four weeks ago from Thursday, House members voted overwhelmingly to pass a bundled bill authorizing a coal-fired power plant and extending the sunset for a tax break meant to lure a $150 million investment to Topeka. When Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed the bill earlier this month, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, chastised her for costing the state "billions in opportunities." On Thursday, lawmakers rejected a standalone bill solely extending the tax break. ...Topeka lawmakers say the $1 million per year tax break is aimed at a wind turbine manufacturing plant interested in locating in the capital city.
Westar Energy and Electric Transmission America have banded together in hopes of building ultra-high capacity transmission lines between Wichita and the Spearville substation. The partnership, dubbed Prairie Wind Transmission, is expected to get under way after the company receives government approval for the project, according to a statement released by Westar Energy. ...[Westar's Kelly] Harrison said the lines would be the start of an interstate transmission "super highway" that would allow Kansas to export renewable energy resources to states that don't have similar options. Kansans could also access power markets across the region.
The process of developing wind power regulations is underway for the city of Hays. On Monday night, the Hays Area Planning Commission discussed the wind power moratorium, which is in effect until Dec. 31. "I do think (we need) a four- to six-month investment of time and energy to do research and make sure that we have consideration," Chairman Larry Gould said. The subject originally came before the commission after developer Wes Bainter, Hoxie, inquired about installing wind generators for a senior apartment project on East 33rd Street.
It seems politicians of every stripe have a new buzzword to abuse. Preface any project or technology with the word "renewable," and it is almost guaranteed to generate automatic public support and popularity, even though it is invariably linked to some handout for big corporate interests. Powerful lobby groups representing private interest sectors are the primary beneficiaries of these policies, rather than the public interest. ...How renewable will our farmland be when thousands of acres of prairie are fragmented by access roads, power lines and wind turbine foundations? How renewable will our precious rural ecology be when soil profiles are disrupted, native plant ecosystems damaged and wildlife driven off by the noise and intrusion of monstrous wind turbines?
Baby, the wind must blow. But whether rules about generating electricity from the the wind will go is the question for the Franklin County Planning Commission. ...The proposed rules deal only with "small wind" and not the large utility-sized wind farms that are sprouting up over western Kansas. Both Walrod and Wilson say that given average wind speeds and patterns in Franklin County, it's not likely that any commercial wind farms would be located in the county, although Walrod said that in the future, some spots of southeastern Franklin County might be considered.
The requested waiver on wind energy development in Ellis County will resurface for further discussion June 2 after county commissioners opted to table action Monday. Commissioners agreed to postpone making a decision until the Joint Planning Commission, which is in the process of reviewing and amending wind farm zoning regulations, has a chance to discuss the request and make a recommendation. "I think we need to allow them to finish that process. Pushing it through is just going to make it more contentious," Commissioner Perry Henman said. "I think we need to get our rules and regulations straight so that every project doesn't become as contentious as this one. I think we're jumping the gun if we push this through."
For months the zoning board, city council, county commissioners, and residents have held meeting discussing the proposed $300 million wind farm in Hays. The project has people on both sides. After being rejected for a conditional-use permit last year, county zoning regulations state Iberdrola, the company behind the Hays wind project, must wait one year before submitting a new application. That year is up in September. ...But the new application will have to wait. County commissioners decided to let the planning commission discuss the year hold on May 28th before deciding if the new application will wait until September.
The Ellis County Commission this morning tabled a request to waive a yearlong waiting period for a second attempt at a wind farm southwest of Hays. Commissioners opted instead to send the waiver - required after the developer's initial proposal was rejected last year - to the county's zoning commission for review and recommendation.
At Monday's meeting, the commission will be asked to waive a year-long moratorium required by county zoning regulations and enforced last September when the conditional-use permit was rejected. ...The application to be discussed Monday is slightly different than the proposal submitted about a year ago. The project area's internal and external boundaries have changed, including additional tracts of land to the south and west of the original project.
Bonner Springs may get a zoning ordinance amendment this summer that addresses an issue increasingly on the public's mind. At its study session before the regular meeting on Tuesday, the Planning Commission gave the go-ahead to Planning Director Don Slone to draw up proposed amendments to the city's zoning ordinance to allow wind turbines in certain areas with restrictions.
Generation Resources Holding Co. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Monday. The Leawood-based wind-energy project developer filed to rid itself of as much dischargeable debt as possible as the company has little in the way of personal property but owes nearly $6 million to creditors holding unsecured nonpriority claims. ...According to its Web site, the company was building or had built several wind-energy projects in Pennsylvania.