In about a year, drive west along Interstate 70 and you will probably see 56 wind turbines dotting the Kansas prairie.
TradeWind Energy president Rob Freeman told members of the House Utilities and Economics Committee on Thursday that phase one of the Smoky Hills project would be complete by the end of 2007.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Kansas to demonstrate its commitment to wind power,” Freeman said.
The initial stage will have turbines along an approximately 25-square-mile patch of western Kansas and will provide 100 megawatts of energy, enough to power 45,000 homes.
The turbines themselves will stand 80 meters high and have blades 80 meters in diameter, nearly the length of a football field.
TradeWind has leased 10,000 acres from 15 landowners to start phase one, but Freeman said only about 2 percent of the land will actually be used for the turbines.
“The other 98 percent will continue to be used for farming,” he said. “You can go right up to the base of the turbine.”
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said in her State of the State address that her goal was to have 10 percent of the state’s energy wind-generated by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. She also included $1 million in her budget request for transmission lines to carry wind power.
Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, wondered what the neighboring residents thought about a turbine in their backyard.
“Some are not that happy about this,” she said.
Wayne Bohl was at the meeting but didn’t speak. His ranch is bordered on three sides by properties that have leased space to TradeWind.
“TradeWind has never had a meeting in the area where they invited the public to come and comment,” Bohl said in an interview.
He said he thought the structures, reaching more than 260 feet into the air, ruined the beauty of the native prairie.
Rep. Tom Moxley, R-Council Grove, said Freeman was disingenuous when he said TradeWind followed all of the guidelines a renewable energy committee had set out for wind energy projects.
Moxley said Freeman should have sought more public opinion outside those landowners from whom he leased.
Freeman said TradeWind had complied with the spirit of the guidelines and that the positives of clean energy far outweighed any negatives of the project.
By James Carlson
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