I’ve been to Frankfort many times over the years to attend high school sporting events and various other activities. It’s been nice to see evidence of a bit of community rebirth over the last several years, with previously vacant downtown storefronts getting new business tenants, improvements made to the city park and swimming pool and signs of a general pride and progress in what is otherwise a pretty typical rural small town. The Frankfort community should be proud.
But as I was leaving town after dark on Friday after a Twin Valley League tournament basketball game, something new suddenly caught my attention. I’d known the Irish Creek Wind Farm was built outside of Frankfort, but I hadn’t seen it at night.
Even though it is part of our state motto, Kansans living in rural areas tend to take our dark and star-filled night skies for granted. Millions of stars and a watercolor stroke of the Milky Way are the ornaments that adorn our view of the heavens. But not west of Frankfort. Part of the community lost the purity of its nightscape when the wind farm was built.
The flashing red lights of the wind turbines are … aggressive.
The prospect of a wind farm coming to western Washington County and eastern Republic County got me thinking about those lights. Maybe they wouldn’t be quite so bad if they were multi-colored and intermittently blinking, like a massive Christmas display of vintage C9 bulbs all around. But I assume the lights are regulated to be red and flash at a certain rate and brightness for aircraft safety reasons.
But there is a resolution to this particular issue, especially since the High Banks Wind farm is not yet built here (or even official as far as I know).
Wind farms can be built with Aircraft Detection Lighting Systems (ADLS). According to a story on the North American Clean Energy website, “ADLS radar monitors the airspace around the wind farm for aircraft. When aircraft cross a pre-set perimeter, the system signals the wind farm network to turn the lights on. When the aircraft exits the control perimeter, the system issues a ‘lights off” signal. The objective is to have the lights off as much as possible. Many rural areas have limited aviation at night, and so enjoy lights off the majority of the time.”
In essence, there are no flashing wind farm lights unless an aircraft flies into the area, at which time they turn on. But they will then turn off again after the plane or jet leaves. This is a basic explanation and there is plenty more information on ADLS on the internet, but as our county commissioners and potential landowners work with officials from NextEra Energy, the company developing the High Banks Wind Project, they should be urged (required?) to include ADLS in the plans. At 600 megawatts, this local wind farm would be the largest in Kansas. That will most definitely light up the western horizon.
The night sky is a treasure on which we don’t put enough value. ADLS technology would be an easy fix to preserve the diamond-studded blanket of dark that covers us each night.
— Dan Thalman, owner
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