Plans for a wind farm in northeast Cowley County have been resurrected as the new owners of The Elk River Wind Project look to expand.
The owners have applied for a licensing agreement to build a wind farm in Cowley County dubbed Elk River II that could plant up to 110 wind turbines in northeast Cowley and another 70 or so in Elk County if initial plans come to pass.
Elk River is a subsidiary of British Petroleum (BP), which bought Greenlight Energy Inc., in August of last year. BP, located in Houston hopes to become a leading wind power business in the U.S.
“This project is in the very early days, and we’re looking to grow,” said Neil Chapman, of BP. “We have various projects in different stages of development all over the country.”
The proposal first came before Cowley County officials nearly three years ago when Greenlight Energy announced plans to expand into Cowley County. It was involved in building Elk River I, with 100 turbines over 7,900 acres in Butler County, which came online in December of 2005.
The project generated controversy as the first wind farm to be built in the Flint Hills, and Cowley officials decided to come up with regulations to control and manage the building of wind farms.
At the time, Greenlight Energy said it had entered into private lease agreements with three landowners for Elk River II that spanned 30,000 acres of current ranch land.
With regulations in place, the Cowley County Commission has drafted a licensing agreement that now will be used between the county and Elk River II, LLC.
The agreement describes the rules and regulations required as Elk River II goes forward with their plans for the new wind energy farm.
The commission has worked on the agreement with County Administrator Leroy Alsup for about a month, trying to make sure that all the language is agreeable to both parties.
The licensing agreement was written using guidelines standards from other counties that have adopted them or have them under consideration for wind farms. These counties are Butler, Geary, Riley and Wabaunsee.
The agreement covers the following issues:
*Application process and procedures
*Requirements for the project
*Extraordinary events, including tower collapse, a thrown blade, fatality of a federally protected species or a large avian fatality
*Issuance of license, fees and terms
*Representations and warranties
*Ability to break the agreement
*Governing law and venue (District Court of Cowley County)
Once the County Commission has approved it, then Elk River II will need to approve it.
“We hope that in the next four to six weeks, we can take it to the commission with BP’s approval,” said Alsup.
According to the kansasenergy.org Web site, the Elk River II project could have as many as 167 wind turbines generating from 200 to 250 megawatts of electricity.
Two-thirds of the turbines are planned for the northeast corner of Cowley County. The other third would be located in west central Elk County.
Elk River I is located in Beaumont, in Butler County, about six miles north of the site of Elk River II.
The benefits to Cowley County, besides a number of jobs, will be the revenue brought in by the initial licensing fee of $1,500 per megawatt, and then an annual renewal fee for the license of $1,000 per megawatt, said Alsup.
“Everybody benefits from wind energy,” said Chapman. “We announced plans to develop wind power last year as part of our drive toward lower carbon energy.”
The county commission has not heard any opposition to the wind farm project, either by person or by phone, Alsup said.
By Jeanne Richardson
25 August 2007
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