With no protest mounted, a proposed wind project southwest of Hays will come before the Ellis County Commission needing a simple majority.
Approved by the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission by a 5-2 vote in June, the Hays Wind project received no opposition during a protest period that ended Wednesday, and county commissioners tentatively are set to hear the proposal July 28.
Hays Wind project manager Krista Gordon with Iberdrola Renewable Energies addressed concerns from Kiwanis Club members at a meeting Thursday.
“Iberdrola has about 100 contracts under development across the United States, and there are only a couple where there’s any opposition at all, and of course, the Hays project is one of them,” Gordon said. “This is definitely the anomaly, not the rule.”
Gordon addressed questions regarding the size of the project and technological advancements that have taken place since some of the first wind projects were installed in Kansas.
“The Montezuma project was built using 660-kilowatt wind turbines in 2001. Now, 2 megawatts is an industry average,” she said. “That’s just seven years, and we’ve tripled the size of the wind turbines.”
Iberdrola used 1.5-megawatt turbines to build its other Kansas project, the Elk River Wind Farm in Butler County, in 2005.
The turbines Gordon expects to be installed in the Hays Wind project will have 20-year life spans. Iberdrola has turbines in California nearing their 20-year expected life, and Gordon said the company has options.
“If you take out 10 turbines that were installed 20 to 30 years ago and put in one single turbine from today that might produce more electricity than those 10 turbines, then maybe it’s better land use,” Gordon said. “If the 10 old turbines are still working fine and the spare parts are still available, keep them up and running.”
“At that point, you’re looking at very cheap energy,” Gordon said.
With increased size, efficiency and output of the new turbines come higher costs, especially in fuel and construction costs.
“The fuel costs are big components to the turbines themselves. The parts are shipped from factory to factory and to the project,” Gordon said. “Copper and steel have both gone up tremendously, as has concrete. So just the building materials have gone up in price.”
Gordon said it will cost $4 million per 2-megawatt turbine in the Hays Wind project.
Iberdrola has yet to sell the energy expected to be produced on the Hays Wind site.
“Certainly any of the utilities in Kansas would be an option if they’re open to purchasing more,” Gordon said. “Some of them already do purchase quite a bit of wind. Midwest (Energy), for example, is already purchasing more than 10 percent of its energy from wind.”
Other concerns regarded the capacity of wind turbines to handle severe weather. Gordon said the turbines are tested in up to 200 mile per hour winds.
“When the hub-height winds reach about 55 miles an hour, each blade can pitch on its own. But each blade will pitch until it’s flat against the wind and there’s no torque on the machine,” Gordon said. “It might spin slowly through a wind, but it wouldn’t have a lot of force on the machine.”
By Gayle Weber
11 July 2008
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