Good things are happening at the Farmland Industries site.
The property along Kansas Highway 10 on Lawrence’s eastern border is an eyesore. Fertilizer was manufactured on the site for nearly 50 years until Farmland closed its plant in 2001, leaving behind contaminated land and groundwater. The property currently is getting an environmental cleanup, paid for with funds from an $8.6 million trust.
Last week, it was announced that federal agencies will spend $35,000 to study whether the former Farmland Industries site could one day support the production of renewable energy.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would pay the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Laboratory to evaluate the potential for putting some kind of renewable energy production on the empty Farmland site. The study will determine what alternative would work best with potential industry and business, such as geothermal, solar, wind or bioenergy, said Matt Bond, the city’s project manager for the Farmland cleanup.
The EPA also wants to explore producing alternative energy from plant-based materials, such as a biopower facility or a biorefinery.
Eileen Horn, the sustainability coordinator for the city and Douglas County who applied for the federal program, said now is the time to start “day-dreaming” about what makes sense for renewable energy at the Farmland site.
Such a development certainly would fit with goals set by the Lawrence City Commission in August when it hired a consultant to formulate a master plan for the 450-acre site, 300 acres of which is cleaned up and ready for development. Commissioners said they hoped that would include plans for a “green-energy business park.” An alternative energy source for firms locating in the park could be an attractive marketing point for potential businesses.
It’s been a decade since Farmland Industries closed. Turning the property around has been a slow process, but it’s good to see some positive activity at the site.