Articles from Kansas
Can protections for wildlife coexist with industrial wind turbines? Apparently not in Kansas.
The Reno County Commission agreed in a surprise move Tuesday to issue a moratorium on the development of commercial wind farms in Reno County through the end of the year and look at banning them in the zoned areas of the county.
Cherokee County Commission members on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution that establishes a one-year moratorium on wind energy development inside of county limits, saying they want additional information on such operations. “I believe we, as a commission, deserve the time and the right to fact-find,” said Commissioner Lorie Johnson, of District 2. The resolution establishes a moratorium and suspends certain types of improvements regarding wind energy on any land within the limits of Cherokee County for one year, officials said.
A special meeting was held Thursday morning between commissioners, residents and representatives from the company — RWE in America. They were also joined by Labette and Neosho county commissioners, who voiced their concerns after having experienced similar turbine projects in their communities. “There were concerns of property values decreasing, the damage to infrastructure, roadways, the unsightly of these wind turbines within the county,” said Cory Moates, Cherokee County Commissioner.
Neosho County officials, an engineer, and a representative of wind farm developer Apex Clean Energy will tour roads in the Neosho Ridge Wind project area to view damage to county roads. Road and Bridge Director Mike Brown, County Counselor Seth Jones, engineer Tanner Yost with the firm Kirkham Michael, and Chris Weatherford of Apex will tour the area covered in the county’s Road Use Agreement with Apex. Yost said he reviewed the area and submitted a report June 10. Jones said that he has not received a written response from Apex, but he is supposed to receive it before the tour.
Labette County commissioners on Monday heard another request for a moratorium on wind farm development to allow further study. Commissioners will take up the request next week but two commissioners didn’t appear to support it. So far, several requests for a moratorium on wind development have failed. Commissioners Brian Kinzie and Cole Proehl both have voted no while Commissioner Lonie Addis voted yes on the requests.
As RWE Renewables considers harvesting wind in Labette County, residents who would live in the proposed wind farm footprint are concerned how wind turbines will impact their health and livestock, among other issues.
Last year, NextEra added 120 turbines in neighboring Nemaha County, Kansas, surrounding Centralia and Corning. That neighboring wind farm, which began operations in 2020, was a warning to some residents of Marshall County, who say the looming turbines, blinking red lights, engine humming and whooshing sounds when the blades rotate past the turbine’s tower will diminish their quality of life.
OSWEGO — A resolution laying out proposed points to be included in an agreement with RWE Renewables wind energy company was brought to the table by Labette County Commissioner Cole Proehl on Friday and approved in a 2-1 vote.
Haas said his concern is that if the commission does not handle RWE’s development right with a special use permit or through zoning, the next wind company wanting to develop in the county will expect the same deal. So if setbacks aren’t adequate with RWE’s development, the next company will expect the same. Haas said he’s seen this in the past when studying wind developments in a number of states. Some counties ended up in court with wind companies.
In a surprise move, Reno County Commission Chair Ron Hirst proposed on Tuesday the county impose a moratorium on commercial wind development for zoned areas of Reno County. With no surprise, the suggestion didn’t go anywhere. Instead, the board tabled until next month acting on regulations the commission has been considering for the past several months.
State Senate Utilities Committee Chairman Mike Thompson said Wednesday that he is trying to protect landowners who fear that a proliferation of large turbines in their rural areas will drop property values and harm their quality of life. Thompson, a conservative Shawnee Republican, is pursuing a bill that would impose statewide regulations limiting turbines to one per square mile and keeping them 1.5 miles from any home or public building.
Wind now cranks up more kilowatts than any other power source in the state of Kansas. Yet even as towering turbines and their slow-churning blades come to increasingly define the Kansas landscape, a counter movement seems to take hold.
Anderson County resident Mike Burns ripped pages of his prepared speech in half Monday to speak from the heart about why Kansas had to pass a law regulating placement of wind farms to protect property rights and bring peace of mind to folks in rural areas attractive to developers. Burns joined dozens of people at the Capitol eager to testify on behalf of Senate Bill 279, which would establish state-crafted regulation of wind generation facilities from the turbine to power line. It would replace county commission preferences for or against wind farms with state law defining turbine setbacks from businesses, parks, homes, property lines and much more. The maximum density would be one turbine per square mile, well below the current standard. There would be caps on sound and light emitted by turbines that sometimes reach 500 feet into the sky.
Board delays decision on adoption at least another two weeks
“We made a business decision to take a step back from some of our current leases,” he said. “Some were terminated, but now we’re back, and we’re going to start the process all over again.” Scheffler said some of the properties leased for the project four years ago will not be pursued because of restrictions by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense. Much of the area affected by those restrictions is in Washington County, he said.
County commissioners approved amendments to chapter 27 of the planning and zoning commission’s 2018 wind farm overlay district at Monday’s meeting.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to appreciate what we here take for granted, to see what our eyes and our minds fail to grasp: the Flint Hills of Kansas are a national treasure. ...Gov. Kathleen Sebelius first promulgated such a moratorium in 2004, which was then continued and expanded by Gov. Sam Brownback. On July 28, 2020, Gov. Kelly issued her proclamation, thus continuing bipartisan protection of this endangered ecosystem.
In March, Stonebridge applied for building permits to start construction. The planning and zoning department denied building permits because zoning administrator Sharon Omstead deemed the applications insufficient. The county implemented a sunset clause in 2018 that terminated previously-approved conditional use permits on if the company did not apply for construction permits by April 1.
Pretty Prairie Wind LLC, a subsidiary formed by NextEra Energy to develop an 82-turbine wind farm in the southeast quadrant of the county, filed the suit in July 2019 after it failed to obtain a conditional use permit to build the project.