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Meetings will address wind farm possibility  

Credit:  By John Green - The Hutchinson News, www.hutchnews.com 29 November 2010 ~~

BP Wind Energy officials are hoping upward of 200 residents will take advantage of two open houses set today and Wednesday, respectively, in Kingman and Harper counties to learn about a potential 300 megawatt wind farm proposed for the area.

Some 15 representatives from the energy giant will be on hand, representing various aspects of the project, from siting to engineering and investor management, said Karl Pierce, director of business development for BP Wind.

“We don’t really know what to expect, but this will be one of the first opportunities that our landowners will have to see, at a public meeting, about the project,” Pierce said.

The company has more than a quarter-million acres leased for potential development in a six-county region, including land in Barber, Harper, Kingman, Pratt and Kiowa counties “and a smidgen in Ford County,” Pierce said.

“We have enough leased land to do several phases,” Pierce said. “This meeting is specifically about our next phase.”

Not all landowners the company has contracted with will end up with leases, depending on the final location and size of the farm and transmission lines and roads serving it, Pierce said.

The company jointly owns and operates the Flat Ridge Wind Farm I, a 100 MW wind farm in Barber County that began commercial operation in March 2009. BP owns half the site, which consists of 40 Clipper 2.5 MW turbines, and Westar owns the other half. BP sells all the energy it generates there to Westar.

“We hope to be able to expand northward from where Flat Ridge I is now; north into Kingman and into Pratt. Eventually, we’d like to continue to expand into Kiowa County.”

The planned farm may use 3 MW turbines, a product that will potentially be developed by the Siemens Wind Energy plant in Hutchinson.

The company is currently marketing Flat Ridge II to utility companies, both within the state and out.

“We’re also taking it to utilities outside the Southwest Power Pool,” Pierce said, referring to the nine-state region that makes up a regional power grid that includes Kansas. “The opportunity for wind coming from Kansas goes beyond local utilities. We’re marketing to a wide group of potential customers.”

Company officials declined to say whether it is a finalist for a wind energy expansion by Westar, which is expected to be announced this year.

The future phases of Flat Ridge are being developed in 300 MW blocks, but they may be sold to different utilities in smaller amounts. The company won’t actually start development until it has contracts to buy the electricity it generates.

The company has met with state and federal wildlife officials to help determine the farm’s best location.

“It’s on disturbed land, agricultural land already,” Pierce said. “It’s in locations where we don’t’ have endangered species.”

Species planners had to deal with the lesser prairie chicken, bats and whooping cranes.

“One we are paying attention to is the whooping crane,” Pierce said. “We have to do special things to make sure we’re mitigating any potential impact. Other than that, we’re fairly clear as far as that goes.”

Both Harper and Kingman counties are zoned counties, so the company will have to obtain special use permits from county officials for developments there.

This is a primary reason for this week’s open houses.

“We want to give folks the opportunity to ask questions,” he said. “Basically it will help people understand the project before we get to public hearings.”

The proposed wind farm will be similar to the existing Flat Ridge operation, with 80-meter (250-foot) towers and blades reaching a maximum 410 feet into the air.

If things progress as the company hopes, construction would begin in March 2012. The turbines would show up on site in June, with the project completed by October or November 2012, Pierce said.

“We’ll put the turbines where we get the best wind and where we have the right to do so,” he said. “It’s constantly moving as we learn new things about what potential obstructions might be, such as a house or oil and gas wells. We avoid those. We avoid sensitive areas, and we avoid creeks. As we learn more about the area and do surveys, we’ll decide where turbines will go and where roads will go.”

BP Wind Energy, headquartered in Houston, was launched at a part of BP Energy in November 2005.

“We’ve built our wind energy portfolio from zero to an installed capacity of 1,300 MW since the end of 2006,” she said. “We have 10 wind farms in operation.”

The Flat Ridge farm is its only operation in Kansas. Others are in California, Colorado, South Dakota, Texas, Idaho and Indiana. The division employs about 150 people in the U.S.

IF YOU GO What: BP Wind Energy wind farm ‘come-and-go’ open houses. When and where: 5 to 7 p.m. today, Kingman High School, 260 W. Kansas Ave., Kingman; and 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Chaparral High School, 467 N. State Road 14, Anthony.

Source:  By John Green - The Hutchinson News, www.hutchnews.com 29 November 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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