Zoning board delays decision on wind energy project; Objections raised in public hearing
Credit: By Gale Rose | Jan. 22, 2013 | Pratt Tribune | www.pratttribune.com ~~
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The British Petroleum Special Use Application for the Ninnescah Wind Energy Project, a wind farm in southeast Pratt County, was tabled until Feb. 18 so the Pratt County Planning Board could assess information from BP and from public comments.
Because property issues in the area of the proposed wind farm, Planning Board members Mark Fincham and Darren Hodgkinson disqualified themselves from the board for this topic.
Over 100 attended the meeting and some shared their pros and cons about establishing the wind farm.
The proposed wind farm would have from 65 to 95 turbines, each about 400 feet tall, over 20,000 acres southeast of the Pratt Veterans Memorial Lake and produce 150 megawatts of power.
Karl Pierce, BP development, said the Pratt area was chosen because of its wind, access to high voltage lines, access to land and community support. He requested a three year period to fully develop the project including getting a power purchaser.
Landowners who participated in the project would share in $120,000 a year, Pierce said.
Several environmental studies will be conducted to determine the impact on wildlife but the past experience has shown wind generators have little impact on wildlife.
Other studies have shown that the sound of a wind generator doesn’t pose a health risk to humans. The flicker effect from spinning blades in sunlight will probably not be an issue in Pratt County because of set backs from residences, Pierce said.
Kingman, Harper and Barber Counties have wind farms and they have asked when the farms will be expended.
Greg Bacon, a homeowner in the proposed wind farm area, spoke on behalf of several other property owners in the Citizens for Responsible Development group.
He questioned whether or not BP had filled all its obligations in their application to the board. Board Chair Kent Moore said this meeting was part of that application process and they have more to review before they will make their decision. The Board had received the BP development plan in December 2012.
Bacon said BP had failed to meet several requirements when they filed their plan and their application should be rejected. Those requirements included not identifying the Pratt Regional Medical Center helipad and a small private airfield, no map that identified the location of every landowner, location of substations and other issues. He was also concerned that BP didn’t have a power purchaser.
Bacon offered four recommendations for the board during their consideration of the project: get guarantee that roads will be repaired in a timely manner during and after construction, establish a three mile buffer around areas of growth, establish a nine mile buffer around the hospital helipad and the private airfield and not accept escrow but require cash in hand.
Other landowner concerns included an exit strategy when the wind farm was no longer producing, several BP safety violations and lawsuits over oil spills, bigger buffer areas, interference with aerial crop spraying, loss of quiet, lower property values,
In response, Pierce said several issues have to be worked out, they had missed the heliport and rural airport, they had an extensive decommission plan and they would fix the roads.
Others favored the project citing the need for renewable energy and the financial benefit to farmers and the county.
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