The turbines won’t be going up any time soon, but studies are underway to see if McPherson County might be a good place to set up a wind farm.
NextEra Energy, a clean energy company that has undertaken other wind farm projects in Kansas, is looking at an area near Canton as a possible site for power-generating wind turbines. The company received approval in August to place two meteorological towers near Kiowa Road and 30th Avenue, and Navajo Road and 25th Avenue, to study whether wind conditions are favorable for generating electricity.
“This is exactly how these plans start,” said Rebecca Rivera, a spokesperson for NextEra Energy. “We gather data for wind speeds. That’s one of the first and most important parts when you’re looking at a project like this.”
These towers will be in place for at least a year, and perhaps as long as 5 years, before NextEra decides whether to proceed with their wind farm plans.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Kansas ranks seventh among states for number of wind turbines, at 2,178 turbines at the end of 2015. The association also states wind energy accounts for 23.87 percent of all in-state electricity production, generating enough power to provide for the equivalent of 1 million homes.
The scope NextEra’s project in McPherson County is difficult to pin down, as the project is still in its early stages. However, Rivera said it could bring 150 turbines to McPherson County and produce enough energy to power 75,000 homes.
NextEra has completed four other turbine projects in Kansas and has two more under construction. Rivera said these projects can be a boon for local economies.
“Communities benefit from these projects because they see an increase in economic stimulus,” she said. “We bring in construction jobs, which we try to fill with local workers if we can. Anyone that comes from out-of-town is going to fill the local restaurants and hotels, as well as rent homes or spots in trailer parks.”
Rivera also said NextEra tries to source materials locally, which is a benefit to county suppliers and also reduces NextEra’s transportation costs.
Rivera said landowners also benefit when NextEra leases their land for wind projects.
“It diversifies their income, and it can also offset hard times or low crop prices,” she said.
Finally, Rivera said NextEra makes efforts to be a part of the community. She said NextEra donated $1 million to Kansas charities in 2015, and that company representatives make efforts to meet with the public, as they did on Sept. 26 with a public meeting in McPherson.
“We don’t just build. We stay here to operate,” she said. “We definitely want to be a part of the community.”
John Verssue, McPherson County Planning, Zoning and Environment administrator, said there have been no applications for wind turbines filed yet. Rivera said research and other steps need to be completed before the company decides if or when a wind farm project in McPherson County might start.
“It can take years to develop,” she said. “There’s a wide window of when something like this would get underway.”
Rivera said a completion date in 2018 or 2019 might be possible, but it depends on the data gathered from their meteorological towers and other factors.
If NextEra Energy decides to pursue a wind farm project, hearings will be scheduled with the appropriate governing bodies so that the public can learn more about the project and voice any concerns.
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