A Lenexa company that built commercial wind farms in windy central Kansas aims to build a wind farm in a small rural county about 60 miles southwest of Kansas City.
Tradewind Energy has installed wind sensors and has researched an area of about 30 square miles in southeastern Anderson County for about five years.
The company told a local newspaper this month that it expected to begin obtaining the building permits for what it calls the Deer Creek wind farm later this year. However, the company also said it could be two to three years before construction begins on the turbines.
“If they go ahead with it,” Tom Young, Anderson County planning and zoning director, said. “They’ve been pretty vague about it.”
However, he said he’s glad to see the company take an interest in the county.
Anderson County, population 8,500, is in the process of writing planning and zoning regulations for commercial wind farms, Young said. He said he’s been checking with those Kansas counties that have written regulations concerning wind farms.
Before Tradewind approached the county, Young said he figured he never would have had to worry about such regulations.
Larry Walrod, a former planning director for Anderson County and now planning director for Franklin County, Anderson County’s larger neighbor, said he never would have thought any eastern Kansas county would have to be concerned with wind farm regulations. All of the commercial wind farms are in central and western Kansas, he said.
“We don’t have enough consistent, sustainable winds to warrant commercial farms like they have in western Kansas,” Walrod said. “… Western Kansas has all the wind.
“That’s why all the people live in eastern Kansas -- to get away from the damn wind.”
To be ideal, an area must not only have consistent winds, it has to be relatively empty and have ridge lines for the wind towers, he said.
“Anderson County is much better off than we are in Franklin County,” he said.
However, eastern Kansas has one powerful advantage for wind farms, said MarilHazlett, of the Land Institute’s Climate and Energy Project, Lawrence.
“Eastern Kansas may not be as windy as western Kansas but it has transmission lines,” Hazlett said. “…You can generate all the wind power you want but if you don’t transmission lines you aren’t going to go anywhere with the electricity.”
The Anderson County site is also next door to Kansas City which is a potential market for the power, she said.
Previously, Tradewind said it would approach Kansas City Power and Light about selling wind-generated electricity. A few years ago, KCP&L -- still smarting from criticism of its proposal to build two new power plants -- announced it would aggressively push conservation and buy more power generated from alternative sources such as wind and solar.
She said Tradewind is also working on plans to build other wind farms in Missouri -- one 60 miles north of St. Joseph and the other 20 miles from Kirksville,
Although Hazlett was critical of the Kansas Legislature’s “comprehensive energy” bill, which many saw as window dressing for pushing through a proposal to build two new coal-fired power plants near Holcomb in western Kansas, she said the resulting package has served as a spur for wind power.
Shortly after he succeeded Kathleen Sebelius as governor, Mark Parkinson hammered out a compromise agreement with Sunflower Electric Cooperative, which had applied to build the Holcomb plants. The compromise allowed the licensing for one new coal plant but with increased requirements for alternative energy sources.
“A comprehensive federal energy bill will make a huge difference for us,” Hazlett said.
According to provisions of bills now being worked, Kansas would see many benefits and not just from wind power. Some provisions include “carbon sequestration,” in which farmers would receive payments for growing certain plants known to absorb tons of carbon dioxide from the air.
“I think Kansas would be sitting pretty,” she said. “We would be farming the wind and farming the carbon.”
Ironically, a battle between East Coast states and the Great Plains is looming over the bills. One item on the Climate and Energy Project Web site notes that government and business officials in the eastern states have realized how many jobs will be created by wind and alternative energy and are fighting proposals to make it easier to build transmission lines from the Great Plains to the East Coast. Those states would rather have wind farms in their states or off shore in the ocean -- although previous proposals have attracted fierce opposition, especially in the case of the off-shore wind farms.
There are other provisions that could spark more east-west battles, she said.
“That, and health care,“ Hazlett said. “It could be an interesting year.”