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Archive for Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Windiest place in Kansas found in Hamilton County

Lawrence firm mapped wind speeds across state

March 21, 2006

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— Jane Moser's farm in Hamilton County isn't unlike most others in Kansas, except for maybe the trees that bend a bit to the north.

Moser lives southwest of Syracuse, near a patch of land 15 miles long that is considered the windiest spot in Kansas, according to the Kansas Corporation Commission.

"If we get a big gust, you have to lean into and hold onto things," Moser said. "Most of our trees have a tendency to lean."

The spot along Bear Creek Ridge shares the dubious distinction with several smaller pinpoints in the Flint Hills, where the average wind speed is between 17.9 and 19.7 miles per hour.

Coriolis, a Lawrence-based architecture and energy firm, mapped out the average wind speeds across Kansas in 2003 to help wind energy companies interested in relocating to Kansas. And several have already taken notice.

British-based Renewable Energy Systems has built two wind-measuring towers at the site, running along the Colorado border. The firm hopes to build a wind farm as soon as transmission lines are built to the remote area, said central states manager Todd Eagleston.

"We have great ambitions for it at some point, but right now it's kind of stranded," he said.

Wind speeds are so high along Bear Creek Ridge because of its geography - shaped like "a big, long hot dog bun laying on its side," said Joe King, of Coriolis. The wind gains velocity going up one side of the ridge and maintains the speed as it blows along the top.

"That's just kind of an anomaly," said Jim Ploger, energy programs manager for the state commission and a wind energy proponent. "It's a good wind, no doubt about it."

But for those who live in the area, wind howling across the plains isn't anything out of the ordinary.

"I don't know that it's any different here than it is in any other part of western Kansas," said Keith Puckett, a rancher and Hamilton County commissioner. "On the nice days, there's no better place on earth.

"On the windy days, you'll wish you were someplace else."

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