Library from Kansas
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.
While there's a flurry of activity going on around the coal-fired power plant and its companion ethanol plant, there's virtually nothing happening on the wind farm proposed near Goodland. And there's little information being passed between the wind developer and the city of Goodland, which is all but on the hook to purchase power from Renewable Energy Resources. ...[Goodland City Manager Wayne] Hill isn't happy with the provisions of the contract, but he wasn't in his current position when the contract was signed. "It's not that I'm against wind," he said. But there are provisions in the contract that could jeopardize Goodland's power grid, notably power would go in at a lower voltage level than it is now.
In a unanimous vote Thursday night, the Hays City Commission enacted a moratorium against wind development in the city. The intent is to give the Hays Area Planning Commission a chance to examine issues relating to wind towers and develop regulations to govern those towers. ..."We just don't have any ordinances to deal with towers," City Attorney John T. Bird said. "If we don't have any regulations, then it's a free for all." Mayor Barbara Wasinger said proceeding with caution is important.
The state's highest court has put on hold indefinitely its review of a regulator's decision blocking two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas. The Supreme Court plans to wait until legal challenges to the decision are considered first in district court and in administrative hearings involving the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. ... Spokesman Steve Miller said Sunflower wouldn't comment about the Supreme Court's action until its attorneys had a chance to review its order.
Monday night's Hays Area Planning Commission meeting to discuss a moratorium for wind towers was a stark contrast to county meetings on a similar topic. As opposed to overflowing county crowds, Monday night's meeting at City Hall drew one observer. Planning commissioners discussed options for towers within city limits, as well as what other cities are doing regarding the issue. "There's the wind farm towers, 300- or 400-foot towers, then there are the residential towers that brought this all here," said Jesse Rohr, superintendent of planning, enforcement and inspection. "A lot of what you find is dealing with the bigger towers. So you have to differentiate between the two."
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday vetoed a second bill allowing two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas and accused its supporters of being unwilling to compromise. But House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, an Ingalls Republican who strongly supported the measure, replied that the Democratic governor is preventing the state from having a comprehensive energy policy. Sebelius' action was expected and came only three days after the Legislature formally presented the bill to her. The measure was similar to one Sebelius vetoed last month. ...Supporters need two-thirds majorities in both chambers to nullify a veto. They've always had more than enough in the Senate. But the second bill passed the House, 83-41, leaving supporters one vote short.
Commissioners discussed the possibility of a moratorium until the end of the year. "The moratorium is to hold anything off and not allow any development for a set period of time so the planning commission could come back with a recommendation for you," City Manager Toby Dougherty said. The eight months would allow the Hays Area Planning Commission time to research what other cities and counties have done in regard to wind power. The issue came up because a developer asked about the possibility of putting a turbine up in the area of 33rd Street, Dougherty said. ...Commissioners discussed a shorter moratorium period but opted to leave the length at eight months.
Two brothers-in-law, a country road in northwest Missouri, a fistfight ...Surely it's happened before, but probably never over wind energy. ...At the heart of the dispute: Just how healthy is the noise from wind turbines? ...In Rock County, Union Township residents studied medical and scientific research for months before drafting their wind ordinance, which says a setback of at least a half-mile from inhabited structures is needed to avoid health problems. Tom Alisankus, chairman of the committee that drafted the ordinance, said committee members found in their research that the state of Wisconsin had no medical or scientific data to back a model ordinance with a 1,000-foot setback. Proposed legislation that would have allowed the state's Public Service Commission to set statewide siting standards failed to reach a vote before the session ended last month. Doctors in other countries, including Canada, England, France, Australia and New Zealand, have written papers about similar illnesses in people who live near wind farms. ..."Does noise bother people differently? Absolutely," said Smith, the area audiologist. "It can have a very debilitating effect." But, he said, before anyone can conclude that the wind turbines are harmful, a major study must be done.
When an Appanoose woman sought to erect a wind-power generator at her home a year ago, Larry Walrod, county planner, discovered there were no regulations regarding the generators and their towers. To allow her to put up a tower, planners had to design a backdoor path to grant her a special use permit through a provision that allows utilities to operate in the county. The procedure spurred several inquiries from other people interested in putting up their own wind generators, Walrod said. ...Few counties in Kansas have rules one way or another concerning wind-generators and, for the most part, are concerned with giant commercial wind farms, such as those in western Kansas, Walrod said.
Setback requirements between industrial wind turbines and residences likely will not increase from the currently mandated 1,000 feet. At Wednesday's Joint Planning Commission meeting, a motion to double the required distance failed due to a tied vote of 4-4, with commissioner Charlie Rohr absent. "Two thousand feet just protects all the homeowners involved," Commissioner Bill Poland said. "It just gives them a wider bumper of protection." Commissioners continued to review zoning amendments submitted by the public and discussed a proposal filed by J.P. Michaud regarding wind farm regulations.
The developer of a proposed Ellis County wind farm has re-initiated the process of building the wind-energy complex in the county. Hays Wind today filed a request to the county commission requesting a waiver of the one-year waiting period for consideration of the proposed wind farm. The waiting period came into play after last year's rejection of the plan by the Ellis County Commission. Hays Wind project manager Krista Gordon said the latest request was well-researched. ...Recently, Hays Wind, whose parent company is Madrid-based Iberdrola, said it has considered two alternative locations within Ellis County, on top of the hotly contested location just southwest of Hays.
The Hays City Commission will discuss wind generators within the city limits during the work session at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 1507 Main. "We had more than one individual come forward inquiring about wind towers within the city limits," said Jesse Rohr, superintendent of planning, inspection and enforcement. "They raised the flag and made us do some checking and realize we don't have enough in place to regulate those." The commission will discuss a moratorium to allow time to research. The moratorium would be in place until the end of the year, unless it was extended.
RENEWABLE ENERGY -- For investor-owned utilities and electric cooperatives, renewable resources, such as wind, must account for 10 percent of electric generating capacity by 2012, 15 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020. -- If utilities own wind farms or purchase power from wind farms, they must create programs under which customers who pay an extra charge are guaranteed to get power from those wind farms.
Most sources of energy are beyond the pale in the Democratic Party, but nothing carries quite the moral stigma of coal. The latest excommunication is under way in Kansas, of all places, and it may be a forerunner of national political trends. Governor Kathleen Sebelius calls it "a moral obligation," as though she were opposing crimes against humanity. This is a reference to coal companies guilty of nothing more than attempting to provide power to consumers. But their misfortunes include emitting carbon dioxide into the current political atmosphere, and also the presence of Ms. Sebelius, who recently invented another way of enacting her preferred global-warming policies without legislation. ...Coal provides more than half of U.S. electricity because it is cheap and abundant - and viable. Wind turbines and the rest of the boutique alternatives are none of those, a reality that Democrats are going to have to square when they actually bother to pass a climate-change bill.
A large group of people gathered in Reading Tuesday evening to hear a presentation about wind energy. The panel of speakers included proponents and opponents of wind energy and people who were neutral on the issue. City and county officials from both Lyon and Osage Counties were present and helped organize the meeting, which was moderated by Lyon County Commission Chairman Scott Briggs. ...Wind energy will not lessen the country's dependence on oil, Bacon said. "The fact is that the U.S. uses less than three percent of its oil on electricity," she said. "Kansas uses less than one percent." Like Porter, Bacon cautioned landowners when it comes to leases. She said if landowners decide to sign a lease, they need to make sure they consult an attorney who has experience in wind energy leases. "This is a big-boy's game," she said. "Once you step into the wind world, you're not in Kansas anymore, figuratively speaking ... this is a very, very complex, intertwined business." Bacon talked about land impact regarding wind turbines and wind fields. Substantial roads have to be built, she said, with freight up to 100 tons. There has to be reliable electricity on site to power the turbines, which have to have a light on them and are run by a computer. "Wind turbines not only produce energy but will use energy," she said.
Countywide zoning -- and the possibility of rescinding it -- was discussed by Ellis County Commissioners on Monday morning. Chairman Dennis Pfannenstiel, who attended last week's planning commission meeting, expressed concerns about current zoning issues. "To me, countywide zoning is just causing nothing but trouble," he said. "At the meeting the other night, they accomplished nothing. All that got done was bickering.
The board heard from three individuals who had prepared suggestions to revise the current zoning document, which was approved by the county commission in 2006. "I would just like to thank the people that put the time in to do it," Commissioner Gary Luea said following the presentations, as the audience burst into applause. There also were moments of tension, as commissioners began to review a proposal submitted by J.P. Michaud presented last month regarding zoning regulations for wind farms. ...The changes proposed by Michaud on behalf of the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition also suggest setback distances of 1 mile from inhabited structures, and state noise emissions should not exceed 40 decibels for any period of time.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius continues to offer a deal to allow one of two proposed coal-fired units in southwest Kansas as a way to resolve a dispute over energy legislation. But the utility hoping to expand its power plant rejected her proposal weeks ago. And legislators who support the company remain skeptical that the governor's offer is genuine. ...The governor said she would accept construction of one unit if Sunflower committed to developing additional wind power, new conservation programs and capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions. "The framework of this proposal seeks to find a middle ground between all parties concerned," she said, calling her plan "reasonable and sensible" in scope.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed the coal plant bill with an anticlimactic penstroke Friday as supporters of the measure considered another route to gaining approval for the giant project in western Kansas. Sebelius said the legislation, which allows expansion of a coal-fired power plant outside Holcomb and restricts the authority of the state's top environmental regulator, would have allowed too much carbon dioxide pollution. ...Supporters of the bill said the veto put the economic and energy needs of western Kansas in jeopardy. "Not allowing clean coal technology to be part of Kansas' energy future will result in a devastating increase in the average Kansan's electric bill," said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.