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Where could a wind farm go in Harvey County?  

Credit:  News Staff | The Kansan | June 14, 2022 | www.thekansan.com ~~

Brian Stucky of Goessel is not against green energy – he has had solar panels on his house for decades. He’s also not really against the construction of wind farms in Kansas, though he questions mightily why Harvey County would be a place considered.

“Everybody is in favor of alternative energy, but where? I know the whole thing is NIMBY, not in my back yard thing,” Stucky said.

“Well, yeah, not in my back yard because there is people who live here. You want to someplace … where there is wide open spaces and two place per square mile with no historic places … go. That is where you ought to be.”

The county borders three counties – McPherson, Reno and Sedgwick —- which have enacted wind energy bans, and Marion County, where a wind energy farm has been constructed after a political fight.

Harvey County is, however, being considered. In September of 2021 representatives of NextEra Energy, the largest electric utility holding company by market capitalization in the United States, told the Harvey County Commission the company was taking a look at the county for a possible wind farm.

“We are looking at an opportunity for a wind project in Harvey County,” said Fiona Bagwell, renewable energy officer for NextEra Energy.

In the months that have followed the company has looked throughout Harvey County for locations – backing away from using the Sand Hills as they researched the area and learned how difficult fire suppression and firefighting efforts have been during recent wildfires.

They have continued to look throughout the county, even as the county commission passed an ordinance that limits where a turbine can go – and placed those limits within the application of a conditional use permit.

Stucky started to research the county – starting with Alta Township where he owns land upon which the old Alta Mill sat. His research has brought forward a question – where could a wind farm go?

Limits that create issues include a moratorium for turbines being placed in a flood plain, and, a limit that “No Renewable Energy Equipment shall be located closer than 2,000 feet from an active residential building.”

The regulations for wind were adopted in 2019, by resolution by the Harvey County Commission.

Those regulations have been under review, and in front of the planning and zoning board.

“The reason we felt we needed to review the regulations was because of the Sand Hills and the challenges of fighting fires in the Sand Hills,” said Karen Rothe, director of the Harvey County Planning, Zoning and Environmental office. “The local fire chiefs had come to me and asked for a ban in that area. The air support used to fight the fires in that area could be compromised if wind turbines are put in that area. We have learned a lot about wind energy since the regulations were put in place in 2019.”

Rothe was promoted to director of the office in February after taking the position on an interim basis in December.

The planning board also has new members upon it.

“It was a good time to review what is in place. When we do get an application, we want to make sure our regulations cover what we need to cover,” Rothe said.

Stucky approached the board earlier this year, after first approaching the Harvey County Commission. He has now appeared at the Planning and Zoning Board twice.

He created a map, highlighting areas that are within the flood plan – and overlaying the 2,000 foot setbacks from residences.

What he found was there was not a lot of room left.

“I decided to take their own document and draw (a map) of what it looks like,” Stucky said.

He started with Alta Township, where he owns land. He went on to map the remainder of the county.

After a meeting of the Harvey County Planning and Zoning Board June 7, which he was able to present his findings a second time, he was handed a similar map created by Rothe. Her map looked much like the map he created.

“It is overwhelmingly cluttered and clogged,” Stucky said.

“Where would you put towers? Up in Marion county, they have 20 to 30 wind turbines per township. There is no way you can put 10 to 30 wind towers [here]. Maybe two or three.”

The planning and zoning board did not take any formal action on the wind farm Thursday, wanting to do more research into turbines, the maps and concerns raised by historical groups wanting to preserve areas of the county.

Initally NextEra was expected to begin land acquisition this year, a process that takes about one year to complete.

“We usually work with every landowner, whether they prefer a sale or a lease,” Bagwelll said.

“Wind farms are compatible with farming and ranching.

“[A turbine] takes only about one acre out of production. It is a great way for a farmer to diversify.”

Bagwell said most properties are leased. Following land acquisition, the company will go through a permitting process \u2013 working with county planning and zoning to get all needed permits.

There is a provision within the conditional use permit that can allow for a turbine within 2,000 feet of a residence – if the property owner “supplies a properly signed and executed waiver form that will be supplied to the Applicant and filed with the Conditional Use application.”

According to NextEra construction is, at least, two years away. If the project is constructed, it will take between six and nine months to complete.

NextEra has constructed wind farms in Kingman, Pratt, Ellis, Marshall and Nemaha counties.

In 2019 the company finished the Pratt Wind Energy Center in the southwest part of Pratt County. Ninety-eight Siemens Gamesa turbines and eight GE turbines, capable of generating 245 megawatts of electricity that can power 73,500 homes per year were put in place. The rotor diameter of the Siemens Gamesa turbines is 108 meters. Each turbine weighs approximately 633,707 pounds.

Construction on the wind project lasted approximately seven months and was completed in November 2018. During construction, the project created 250 construction jobs. With the wind farm is operational, 12 full-time jobs are required for daily maintenance.

All of the power from the Pratt wind project is being sold to Great Plains Energy Incorporated, a holding company based in Kansas City, Missouri that owns electric utility Kansas City Power and Light Company and Strategic Energy, LLC, an energy management company.

Pratt Wind Energy Center, is considered a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, operator of seven Kansas wind projects and the world\u2019s largest operator of renewable energy from the wind and the sun, according to Kennedy.

Source:  News Staff | The Kansan | June 14, 2022 | www.thekansan.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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