While the Hays-area community remains divided regarding the proposed Ellis County wind farm, the breeze seems to blow a different direction in Spearville.
In the project’s first year, city officials have nothing negative to report. County officials cited no concerns or complaints.
Even landowners, who live in the middle of the project and didn’t enter a lease agreement, are supportive of the development.
“I was in a position that if I wanted to complain, I probably could have been first in line because of where my house sits,” said Jerry King, a landowner in the Spearville project area who doesn’t have a turbine on his property. “But sometimes you have to do things for the greater good. I just saw … this was an economic development for the landowner, it was a chance for some local people to get some jobs. And it was great for the school system, and I’ve got a kid in school.”
The King family lives in a newly remodeled home – their house was damaged by a storm last summer – about 1,300 feet from the nearest turbine. Because they own less than 3 acres of land, it was not possible to place a turbine on their property.
Their home, completed about three months ago, is located in an area central to the project – turbines extend for several miles from King’s front and back yards.
The Spearville Wind Project is relatively new – all turbines were in service by October. The project, owned by Kansas City Power & Light, consists of 67 391-foot turbines and has a production capacity of 100.5 megawatts.
“They’re excellent economic development, especially in little towns,” King said.
So far, King and his family have nothing negative to report, he said.
“You’re inside a house, and you can’t even hear it,” King said. “I can’t.”
The turbines do produce a “whoosh-whoosh” sound as the blades rotate from the tip height and cut through the air on the way down, but it didn’t take him long to “get used to it,” he said.
King had expected to see a red glow through the windows of his home at night Ã‚Â– the turbines flash red at night in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration standards, he said.
“I had been told that would be an issue, but you can’t even see the lights flashing because they’re so high in the sky,” King said. “That hasn’t become an issue at all. That surprised me.”
At this point, King and his family have no negative health effects to report. They sleep through the night, and there have been no suspicious symptoms, he said.
“Those are just little generation plants up there. That’s what those are,” King said. “There’s nothing different from them from any power line going down the street. It’s the same thing.
“Although I did lose my hair,” he joked, removing his baseball cap. “Just kidding.”
King said it will be difficult to gauge effect on his property value until the house is up for sale.
“It’s really not an issue for me today, because I plan on being here for quite a while,” King said.
County officials also are optimistic about the project. In fact, they’re willing to welcome another one. Wind data already is being collected from another location in the southeast part of the county, said Ford County Commission Chairman Kim Goodnight.
“From all the different turmoil the state has seen as far as acceptance or the non-acceptance of wind farms, we had nothing but cooperation from the entire community,” Goodnight said. “It was nice to be part of a project that everybody was behind. It still has been accepted as a win-win situation over there.”
Furthermore, more turbines could be added to the Spearville project – the wind farm is in its first of three phases.
The main benefits for Ford County government have been economic – after the conditional-use permit was granted, the county negotiated decommissioning and road-maintenance agreements.
The county also receives an annual payment from KCP L, beginning with $221,628 in December. These payments will increase by 2.5 percent each year through the life of the project, or until 2036.
The project also provided three new jobs for local residents – the other four project employees were transferred from other locations.
Opposition was minimal from the beginning, and public information meetings were immediately held, Goodnight said.
“Everything that we do in the county has a certain level of success to it when we get everybody involved,” he said. “When you don’t, and there’s those who don’t feel like they are informed, that’s where you do get your opposition. I think we made a real concerted effort to keep everybody in the loop.”
The project is not located within city limits, but the towers’ location just across U.S. Highway 50 makes them a welcome fixture in the Spearville skyline.
While the town of Spearville itself does not directly benefit economically from the project, residents are proud of the development, Mayor Ken Domer said. The project began with a well-attended city celebration, Domer said, and one of the towers displays the name of the Spearville High School mascot, the Lancers, almost 400 feet in the air.
“As far as I’m concerned, (the company’s) been pretty good people to deal with, and we haven’t had any problems,” Domer said. “They’ve been good neighbors, and they’ve done a lot of good things around town.”
Spearville long has been known as “the city of windmills.” This phrase was coined when the railroad came through the city. It was noted that every house had a windmill, Domer said.
Of course, the towering white giants aren’t comparable to their now-rusted ancestors, but thanks to the wind development project, the small town still is known for its wind.
“I’m surprised the people in Hays don’t want them,” Domer said. “But if they don’t want them, we will take them.”
By Kaley Lyon
Hays daily News
10 May 2007
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