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Archive for Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kansas competes for wind farm projects

Wind turbines tower over north central Kansas on the Meridian Way Wind Farm.

Wind turbines tower over north central Kansas on the Meridian Way Wind Farm.

March 28, 2010

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— Several new wind farms may be cropping up in the area, allowing Kansas to capitalize on the free-blowing breeze in a state officials say has the second-most potential for wind power in the country.

At least three wind farm projects — two new projects in Gray County that may spread into surrounding counties and an expansion project at the 112-megwatt Gray County Wind Energy Center near Montezuma — are in the works, according to local officials.

In Gray County, officials have been working with Maryland-based Competitive Power Ventures LLC since last April on a 500-megawatt-capacity wind farm to be north of Cimarron, said Gray County Appraiser Jerry Denney.

Project stages

Researchers have been studying the proposed site that will cover nearly 38,400 acres of land and could produce enough energy to power 200,000 homes since summer 2007. A conditional use permit was granted last fall to the energy company by the county commission, which includes road and lease agreements with landowners.

The commercial-scale project is to be built in stages, and the erection of about 72 turbines generating about 165-megawatt of power could begin in early spring 2011, said Paul Wendelgass, the project’s director with Competitive Power Ventures.

He said the energy in the first stage will be delivered to the Sunflower Electric Power Corp. grid and sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the federally owned corporation servicing Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and other neighboring states.

The director estimated construction of the first phase, about nine to 12 months, could generate 150 to 200 local construction jobs. About seven to 10 full-time employees to operate and oversee the farm would most likely be recruited regionally.

Gray County Commissioner Mark E. Busch described the project as a “win-win” for landowners leasing land, the county’s tax base and regional renewable energy efforts.

Gray County commissioners have also been in contact with officials from NextEra Energy Resources — formerly FPL Energy — the owners and operators of Montezuma’s Wind Energy Center, which began commercial operation in 2001 and is responsible for towers spread over about 12,000 acres.

The energy company is planning to construct 67 1.5-megawatt turbines east of the current wind farm and 13.5 miles of transmission lines to transport the energy to a transfer station in Ford County.

A third, budding project by Cimarron-based Zephyr Wind Power LLC is also in the works, a large wind farm project possibly spilling into several southwest Kansas counties including Gray, Ford and Finney, Denney said.

Present production

Kansas produces 1,021 megawatts of wind energy annually, most of it from its eight commercial wind farms — one of 14 states to produce more than 1,000 megawatts of wind power annually.

Texas produces 9,403 megawatts, the state with the most wind-powered energy, and California follows with about 2,798 megawatts of energy per year, according to the Department of Energy.

On-site construction on a 143-megawatt wind farm in Hamilton County may also begin this fall, according to county economic officials.

Under an agreement between the county and the wind farm’s developer, Acciona, a global renewable energy company based in Spain, the county will receive $300,000 per year in exchange for using county land.

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