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Fickle winds blow on wind farm project

The Diamond Vista Wind Farm, stretching from Roxbury to Dickinson County, received heavy approval in November, but the opinion of some has soured since then.

Diamond Vista was originally financed by Tradewind Energy, LLC, but was acquired by Enel Green Power in early 2018.

This will be the sixth Kansas wind farm owned by Enel, the most in the state. Diamond Vista will have 95 3.15 megawatt (MW) turbines, producing a total of 300 MW.

“We’re right in the middle of where all of this is taking place and it’s kind of disheartening,” Roxbury resident Sarah Crum said.

Crum did not mind the sight of turbines and even used to enjoy watching them from afar. Now that they will be on her doorstep it is a different matter, she said.

“It’s more an aesthetic thing than it is a daily activity for us,” Crum said.

One creative alternative would be to paint the turbines so they are more appealing, maybe like the sky, Crum said.

The problem is that there are strict safety regulations and very limited options, Enel’s business development manager Conor Branch said.

The only addition to the turbines is a light placed at the top of each for safety relating to aviation, he said.

Another major concern for Crum is the roads, which cannot always handle the additional traffic of the company trucks and semis.

Still, others along the routes say the company actually improved their roads and repaired any wear and tear from company vehicles.

“I live on the haul route and actually, they’ve been pretty good,” Yvonne Cushenbery said.

Cushenbery, who lives between Tampa and Roxbury, said that any time she calls with concerns, the company quickly sends someone to spray down the road or remove any obstacles.

According to Branch, Enel has a road maintenance agreement with the county, guaranteeing to leave roads in the same condition or better than when the project started.

While some of the roads are already improved, others will be improved later depending on use, he said.

For Yvonne and husband, Larry Cushenbery, how they feel about the turbines is a day-to-day matter and it depends on which aspects they look at.

“It’s like ‘what’s your favorite color,’ that’s the kind of question it is to me,” Larry Cushenbery said. “Some days it’s red, some days it’s blue.”

The Cushenberys see several advantages to the wind farm, such as the industry it could introduce and a source of clean energy, but there are several risks too, they said.

“They’re not really self-paying, self-sufficient without subsidies put into it,” Larry Cushenbery said.

This perception could be due, in part, to the longevity and individuality of the project.

“We negotiate leases individually with the land owner of each project,” Branch said.

With nearly 200 leases, the turbines are long-term investments that will hopefully benefit landowners for more than 20 years, he said.

Another worry that was talked about was the distribution of the energy. Crum was skeptical about it being used locally and others reflected that concern.

As it turns out, this questioning is well deserved.

According to Enel’s company website, the 300 MW generated by Diamond Vista wind farm will be sold to three external companies. The companies are cited in three separate power purchase agreements; with 100 MW sold to global manufacturing company, Kholer, 100 MW sold to City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri, and 84 MW sold to the Tri-County Electric Cooperative of Oklahoma. The remaining 16 MW help supply energy to Kansans.

Despite the Cushenberys’ skepticism, they did sign up as a possible site for a turbine.

“I signed the lease, I’m available,” Larry Cushenbery said. “They’re not gonna put any right on me, but they’re all around me.”