Just as Kansas grows wheat to supply the country's bread industry, leaders hope that in years to come the state will become a major exporter of wind energy. Among the most recent additions to the state's renewable energy grid is Meridian Way Wind Farm.
Meridian Way Wind Farm's 67 turbines are spread out over some 20,000 acres of farmland. Among the benefactors are 65 landowners who lease the land to wind farm owner Horizon Wind Energy.
Kurt Kocher, stands in this year's wheat crop. He houses nine turbines on his 4,000 acres of farmland, about eight miles south of Concordia. He hopes those leases will boost his retirement in the years to come.
Kurt Kocher, of rural Concordia, said the Meridian Way Wind Farm provided an "economic shot in the arm" to the town of around 5,000 people.
The Meridian Way Wind Farm south of Concordia sits on a ridge as an old windmill rests on the landscape nearby. The newer "windmills" generate three megawatts of electricity apiece. The 67-turbine farm produces power for some 60,000 homes.
The 67 wind turbines south of Concordia dot the landscape and intermingle with farm life. Horizon Wind Energy has leases with 65 different landowners to house the turbines.
Downtown Concordia reaped some of the benefits from the Meridian Way Wind Farm. More than 200 workers came to town to help with the construction, and the farm currently employs about 20 permanent workers.
Lucas Chavey, an instructor at Cloud County Community College in wind energy, stands at the end of a turbine that once stood at Westar's Jeffrey Energy Center. The turbine was donated to the school so students in the Wind Energy Technology program could gain hands-on experience.
Lucas Chavey, a teacher for the Wind Energy Technology program at Cloud County Community College, talks about the dramatic jump in the number of students looking to be turbine technicians. When the school started the program in 2007, four students were enrolled in the classes. This fall, more than 100 students are enrolled, and there is a waiting list with 50 more.
The Meridian Way Wind Farm generates 201 megawatts of electricity. Some of that power is purchased by local utility provider Westar Energy.