One step forward for Ellis County wind development was taken by the county’s planning and zoning commission Wednesday night when it voted unanimously to approve a conditional-use permit for two wind turbines.
Met with no audience protest, but a small outburst of applause from approximately 25 people, the vote, contingent upon completion of insurance certification and a final transportation plan to be included in the development plan, will allow for construction of two 670.5-foot tall wind turbines on Brian J. Staab’s property, pending approval by the Ellis County Commission. The generators will provide energy for Fort Hays State University.
Located approximately 3.5 miles south of FHSU, the proposed 2.1 megawatt Suzlon turbines will be visible only slightly from a campus perspective but interconnect with underground cable to the university providing 97 percent of its electrical needs.
Throughout the last eight years, FHSU has fostered an initiative to own and operate its own power plant, beginning with installation of two diesel generators. Wind energy, according to Wayne Hilbreth of Wind Energy Consulting and Contracting, who represented FHSU before the joint planning commission, is one component of the initiative.
The projected annual savings to the university of $367,000 in energy costs is only one of the reasons FHSU officials have worked for a number of years to put together a project.
“Turbines will be made available for learning purposes … with a partnership with Cloud County Community College, who is active in developing wind energy curriculum,” Hilbreth said.
Ellis County resident Harold Kraus was the only audience member to provide input during the public hearing portion of Wednesday night’s meeting. In support of the project, he pointed out two recent medical reports that concluded wind turbines do not cause adverse medical conditions to those living near them.
He urged the joint planning commission to move ahead with a positive vote during the meeting.
“Time is of the essence,” he said. “I would say, act tonight. … Let’s get it on the road.”
FHSU’s preliminary development plan does not include a certificate of insurance and final transportation plan because those pieces of the plan will be the responsibility of the project’s contractor, who will be selected through public bid should the project receive approval by Ellis County commissioners at their July 16 meeting.
“Those two items are contractual obligations of the people who are buying the equipment,” said FHSU President Edward H. Hammond. “The people delivering it are the ones making that decision.
“And I give you my word that if you approve this, we will work it into the contract that they have to submit that plan and work with the county on that issue.”
A July 11 deadline was set for filing protest petitions.
Wednesday’s joint planning commission decision came nearly two years after Hays city commissioners voted to deny a request from FHSU to erect two wind turbines taller than 125 feet in the 3-mile radius surrounding Hays city limits.
The turbines proposed are to be located at the southeast corner of Victoria Road and 200th Avenue, outside the 3-mile radius.
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