As the second windiest state in the United States, Kansas has seen an influx of wind energy development in the past few years and Cloud County is no different.
Founded in 2003 and now one of the largest and most successful developers, Tradewind Energy, based in Lenexa, Kan., announced its intentions at the June Cloud County Commissioners meeting to develop a wind farm in the southwestern corner of Cloud County.
Tradewind Energy Development Manager Nick Coil noted that this isn’t usually the order in which Tradewind goes about its development.
“Tradewind will usually engage landowners first to discuss land rights,” Coil said, “but we engaged the county first and the message was overwhelmingly positive.”
Although the support for the development and construction of another wind farm in Cloud County is great, Coil advised caution because the process is a long one.
“It’s a five year average development process,” Coil said, “It’s a slow burn and we’re only in the early stages.”
Coil noted that he has already begun fielding phone calls and emails from farmers and developers eager to be involved.
The stages for developing a wind farm start with assessing the feasibility of a project, determining the windiness of the area and the proximity of a transmission line and its capability.
Next steps include securing land rights of 20,000-50,000 acres, completing mineral, oil, and gas studies, creating engineering designs, issuing cultural and environmental surveys, and finding a buyer for the energy.
By the time all the steps are completed, Tradewind has created a packaged product which they then sell to a company who will build it.
This particular project, called the Skyview Development, would range between 200-300 megawatts, which is approximately 100-150 turbines, on 30,000 acres.
Meridian Way Wind Farm, owned by EDP Renewables, is the 201 megawatt wind farm currently operational in Cloud County.
When Tradewind began investigating the area for development, Meridian Way was an encouraging feature.
“The fact that you already have one wind farm shows community involvement and support,” Coil said.
Originally attracted to Cloud County by a wind ridge, Tradewind was happy to find two transmission line possibilities as well, though a study still needs to be completed to determine each line’s capacity.
The project, if it goes through all of its stages, will provide the county with more money through taxes, but without putting stress on the current infrastructure through increased use.
A state bill recently signed into effect has put a ten year cap on property tax abatements for projects such as wind farms, which had previously enjoyed complete tax exemption as long as they remained operational, unique to the state of Kansas.
While some feared the change would injure the burgeoning wind industry in the state, the $8 million foothold the industry had already gained has thus far proven significant enough to continue statewide development.
With projects throughout the Midwest, Tradewind has developed four wind farms in Kansas—Buffalo Dunes in Grant, Haskell, and Finney Counties, Cimarron Bend in Clark County, Smoky Hills in Lincoln and Ellsworth Counties, and Caney River in Elk County.
Although the early stages are a waiting game, Coil feels optimistic about the project and the new relationship between Tradewind and Cloud County.
“I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be a while before there’s anything to report, but it’s been great to get information to the public and we want to continue to stay in contact,” said Coil.
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