The Florida-based company proposing an 84 to 88-turbine wind farm in eastern Reno County is close to securing the acreage needed to move forward.
At Friday’s Reno County Commission meeting, NextEra Energy Project Manager Spencer Jenkins told commissioners the renewable energy company announced it had secured a purchase agreement to sell the energy from the proposed wind farm.
Jenkins would not disclose how much acreage the company had secured with lease agreements or what company agreed to buy the proposed energy. He referred those questions to Communications Manager Bryan Garner who did not return a call or message from The News.
After the meeting, Jenkins did say the company does not announce an agreement to sell energy unless it’s close to securing all the needed land.
Commissioners discussed in length their thoughts about zoning an area around Cheney Lake that is currently in an unzoned area and, therefore, does not require the energy company to meet any zoning requirements.
Jenkins told the three-person commission one option is for the county to enter an agreement that requires NextEra Energy to meet the requirements of zoned areas.
However, commissioners favored sending the idea of a county-wide zoning that only pertains to wind and solar farms as well as hazardous material to the Reno County Planning Commission.
The planning commission had a standing-room-only crowd on Thursday night to vote on allowing NextEra Energy to put up a 197-foot tower to measure winds in the proposed area.
The measure passed 6-1 with Steve Westfahl dissenting.
Reno County Planner Mark Vonachen said Westfahl didn’t say why he voted against the tower.
The tower proposal goes on to commissioners for final say on Nov. 13. Commissioner Dan Deming said the conditional use permit for the tower is good for up to three years.
Vonachen said the tower would go back where NextEra Energy put the last one up earlier this year without a conditional use permit. The Laura Yowell Trust owns the property at the southwest corner of Mayfield and Irish Creek roads.
It was removed in August after county officials notified NextEra Energy that the tower violated county zoning regulations, Vonachen said.
At the Nov. 13 meeting, commissioners will also consider a comprehensive plan the county has been working on since the wind farm proposal came up in 2017.
The 32-page comprehensive plan outlines land use in the county. The latest version is available at renogov.org.
Commissioner Ron Hirst said he traveled down to the NextEra Energy wind farm in Kingman County over a month ago.
Hirst said he couldn’t hear much noise, if any, from the wind farm in Kingman County. However, he did see the shadow the wind turbines cast, which is known as shadow flicker.
Hirst asked Jenkins if NextEra Energy had reached an agreement with a Kingman County man that complained of shadow flicker.
Jenkins said they couldn’t come to an agreement. He would not speak anymore about the situation. Jenkins said engineers investigate the possible shadow flicker during the planning process.
Jenkins said NextEra Energy is planning a town hall meeting in November. The details of the meeting, he said, would be published in The News.
NextEra Energy has been in Kansas since 2001 and currently operates six wind projects in the state.
The most recent developments were the 208-megawatt Ninnescah Wind Farm and 206 megawatt Kingman Wind Farm, in Pratt and Kingman counties, respectively, which went into operation at the end of 2016.
Landowners can make about $4,500 a year per megawatt of power produces on their property a year, a Nextera Energy spokesperson told The News last year. Landowners can also be paid for transmission lines running across their property.
The lease agreements in Reno County have been for as long as 96-years.
Hirst proclaimed Oct. 22-31 to be Red Ribbon Week in Reno County. Red Ribbon Week is to raise awareness about drug prevention. Communities that Care was there to receive the proclamation.
Commissioners approved a conditional use permit to change the zoning at 10709 S. Yoder Road from rural residential to industrial. The request came from Harry and Edith Bontrager to manufacture roofing trusses.
Commissioners also approved a letter of support for the Training and Evaluation Center of Hutchinson to apply for a Kansas Department of Transportation grant for two lift-equipped buses.
Commissioners asked Reno County Health Department director Nick Baldetti to investigate the life expectancy of a possible mural by artist Brady Scott on the exterior east wall of the health department, 209 West Second Ave. Commissioners seemed to like the idea of beautifying the building, but didn’t feel comfortable spending $1,610 of taxpayer money unless the mural lasted at least a few years.