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After long wait, wind farm development turns forward

Unlike seven years ago, when opposition in the county prevented a commercial wind farm project, another wind farm proposal for Ellis County breezed through the application process in 2013.

Buckeye Wind Energy, which will have turbines located north of Interstate 70 between Hays and Ellis, will have the project spread out over 28,500 acres. The turbines collectively will be able to produce 200 megawatts of renewable energy.

“This has been in the works for seven years,” Ellis County Commissioner Swede Holmgren said. “Finally, to come in on the 25th of November and say you’re now clear to sink a spade in the ground and start construction.”

As part of the agreement, the county and Buckeye signed an agreement regarding payments in lieu of taxes. The county will receive $600,000 each of the first two years, increasing to $800,000 for the third year and go up 1 percent annually after that.

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund said he couldn’t hazard a guess when some of that money would be in county coffers.

“Long ways off,” he said.

“There is no money” now, Holmgren said. “We hope there will be some money at some point. That decision is so far down the road, the public will be acutely aware where the money is going.”

Sund said Buckeye first needs a power-purchase agreement.

“It sounds like Southwest Power Pool is changing their policies and eliminating the need for a power-purchase agreement,” Sund said. “Probably the downside of that, wind companies, if they try to sell it on the open market, it’s not as predictable.”

Commissioner Barbara Wasinger wants the money from the wind farm to be put away and used for contingency purposes, rather than dedicate it for a specific purpose.

“I don’t want a budget for it, is what I’m trying to say,” Wasinger said. “I want to put it in an emergency contingency fund.”