Planning is in the air

Company's in talks with developers on wind farm expansion

By Kathy Hanks , The Hutchinson News, Friday, August 21, 2009

SPEARVILLE - An idle crane stands amid sections of white cylinders and aerodynamic blades that are piled on the ground along U.S. 50.

Just west in the horizon are the colossal towers of the Spearville Wind Generating Facility spinning in the Kansas wind.

Motorists traveling along the highway, about 17 miles east of Dodge City, might think a wind farm expansion is about to take place.

However, while the components are on hand for a future project, that's months down the road, said Katie McDonald, spokeswoman for Kansas City Power and Light, owner and operator of the facility.

Currently, enXco, a California company that developed the wind farm, oversees the spinning turbines for Kansas City Power and Light. When operating at a full load, the 67 towers produce 100.5 megawatts of electricity per hour.

When the new towers do go up, it will be a separate project, McDonald said.

"We plan to increase by another 100 megawatts by the end of 2010, pending regulatory approval to proceed," McDonald said. "We do own the 32 wind turbines on the ground and are currently in discussion with multiple developers on how to proceed."

Kansas City Power and Light is also evaluating transmission obstacles the company must overcome, she said.

As wind farms sprout up nationwide, a shortage of components is a concern for many developers.

McDonald said purchasing the towers ahead of time gives the utility company the flexibility to proceed with another wind project down the road.

The tower parts will remain in the field just off the highway for now. Meanwhile, the particulars of a new wind project must be worked out before Kansas City Power and Light can proceed.

Spearville wind turbines up and running

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, August 25, 2006

SPEARVILLE - The 67 turbines of the Spearville Wind Energy Facility are up, and some are even generating electricity.

Now all that's left to do is to commission those that aren't yet churning electricity and work out any other kinks.

"There's just little nitpicky stuff," said Phillip Duncan, project manager for Kansas City Power & Light, the wind farm's owner. Weather permitting, he said the work could be completed by early- to mid-September, two to three weeks ahead of the scheduled Oct. 1 finish date.

Work started last April on the 100.5-megawatt wind farm, which will generate enough energy to power more than 30,000 homes. The tall, white towers with their long blades quickly sprouted, and the last one was completed amid little fanfare Aug. 19.

Still, the project hardly is going unnoticed. Locals have watched closely as the work has progressed, and, in contrast to criticism by some in the Flint Hills area to the notion of wind farms there, most seem to like the new vista north of town.

"I think it looks nice to have all those windmills turning," said Ken Domer, Spearville's mayor.

Duncan said more than 20 windmills are already generating power and that the number will steadily increase as workers complete wiring and take care of the other tasks to formally commission them. In the meantime, the massive cranes that helped put the towers together are being taken apart.

"Now it's just a matter of cleanup and disassembly," Duncan said.

The Spearville wind farm, Kansas' third, complements the 110-megawatt Gray County Wind Farm near Montezuma and the 150-megawatt Elk River Wind Power Project in Butler County.

A ceremony to formally dedicate the wind farm here will probably take place in the fall..


Five wind farm towers up in Spearville

By Charlene Scott, Dodge City Globe, June 29, 2006

SPEARVILLE -  Five of the wind farm towers are up and scraping the skies over Spearville, and by the end of next week 12 will be installed, several of them actually in operation by week’s end.

"It's exciting for us too," said Phil Duncan, project director for Kansas City Power & Light, when informed of the growing excitement of Spearville residents as each turbine is completed.

One turbine - including its three rotors or blades - was finished by Sunday evening, and by Monday at sunset, four more towers and their blades had been erected all in a row with the first turbine.

"When they top them off, it doesn't take very long to put them together," Duncan said of the towers, which are composed of two posts - one on top of the other - until they are "topped off" by several pieces of equipment.

"The third piece is the top of the tower, then comes the nacelle, and then the rotors," Duncan explained. "They turn the blades until they're vertical, and it takes something like 12 to 15 minutes to do the entire job."

Pushed by the wind, the mammoth propellers of the Spearville Wind Energy Facility - the wind farm's official name - twirled slowly Wednesday, despite the fact that they are not in service yet.

"They have to work inside to make all the connections before the turbines are operational," Duncan said. "Hopefully, we will have units going and generating next week."

Several trucks transporting gigantic parts of the turbines park for the night in the town of Kinsley east of Spearville.

"I believe the transport of these oversized loads cannot be done at night," Duncan said. "So since they can't drive at night, the drivers stay in Kinsley where they won't have to sleep in their cabs."

Two large cranes and a smaller rotor crane are in operation at the wind farm site north of Spearville and Highway 54. The turbine nearest to Spearville is located less than half a mile from the highway.

The second row of towers will include seven turbines; the third row will have eight. The number will vary, depending on the location, Duncan said.

"I think we are on schedule," he ventured optimistically. “The weather has only affected the work on one Tuesday when we had high winds. The workers make up any lost time on the weekends. Crews are ready and waiting to come into work at any time."

The newly-completed towers are clearly visible from the town of Wright 10 miles away, but they disappear from view in Dodge City.

"We still hope to be finished by October," Duncan added. "We are planning a dedication ceremony for the entire facility after all the turbines are installed and in service."

A total of 67 General Electric turbines, each producing 1.5 megawatts, will be installed by October. The entire project will generate 100.5 megawats.

Sprint Nextel will purchase the Spearville wind-generated electricity for its Overland Park corporate campus near Kansas City. Company officials estimate the wind power will save more than 175 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere annually.


Powered by Wind

High winds greet wind farm inauguration

By Charlene Scott, Dodge City Globe, June 17, 2006

SPEARVILLE - Kansas City Power & Light orchestrated the inauguration of the Spearville Wind Energy Facility on Friday, and the wind section of that orchestra cooperated with gusts that reached 50 miles an hour, spitting dust into the shaking tent where Gov. Kathleen Sebelius spoke.

"I think it's fitting to have high winds today," said Sebelius, who once during the ceremony had to wipe her eyes when a whirlwind blew clumps of dirt her way.

The governor spoke to more than 100 politicians, farmers and Spearville citizens gathered in a field north of town littered with turbine parts for the wind farm.

"Even when the Legislature is not in session, Kansas is the second windiest state in the country," she said with a grin.

Sebelius was serenaded by a group of Spearville grade school students, and she sang along with their rendition of "This Land Is Your Land." Earlier, she had passed out candy to the youths, asking them, "Do you like school?" And she added, "Keep getting smarter; you are going to be running this state some day."

Sebelius joined officials from KCP&L, a subsidiary of Great Plains Energy, in unveiling a "nacelle," a turbine generator that fits behind the tower’s blades and stands 200 feet high. The KCP&L logo was on one side of the nacelle, and the Spearville School Royal Lancers mascot on the other.

The woman whose father, John Gilligan, served as Ohio’s governor - making them the first father-daughter governors in the nation - was one of the first to sign her name to a 121-foot-long silver turbine blade that rested on bales of hay behind the tent, reflecting the hot noon sun.

"I am delighted to be here on behalf of the citizens of Kansas to say congratulations to the Spearville community," said Sebelius, named one of the top five governors in the country by Time Magazine. "Kansas has always been an energy state, traditionally oil and gas, but now we also have the opportunity to use wind, ethanol and solar power."

Kansas farmers for years have harnessed the wind with their windmills, the governor noted, pointing out, "It is good for national security to produce our own energy and to have control of our energy in the future."

Reminding her listeners that last year she supported the Kansas Transmission Authority, she explained that "having the transmission lines that get the winds to market where they are needed is a challenge."

"We are not willing to wait for the federal government to upgrade the grids, so we have stepped up and will have the transmission lines," she said.

Sebelius called Kansas City Power & Light "a leader not only in the state, but in the country," and she added, "I am eager to continue to partner with them. Kansas City Power & Light and Greater Plains Energy is a wonderful company, but they also are businessmen and women looking for a good work force, a receptive community and good partners. They would not be here unless they knew they would be successful in the future."

The governor praised KCP&L for "stepping up to put $15 million into the community" in coming years, and in his talk, Ford County Commission Chairman Kim Goodnight said the wind farm initially would generate $220,000 for the county and $108,000 for the Spearville school district.

"These amounts will increase by 3 percent a year for the school district and by 2.5 percent for the county," he reported. "This is a great day and a great time to be living in Ford County."

Mike Chesser, chairman and CEO of Great Plains Energy, said, "We are honored to be part of the governor's vision. The governor called for 1,000 megawatts by 2015, and these turbines will produce 100.5 megawatts."

Chesser cited rising energy costs, increased environmental requirements and new technical opportunities as reasons for harnessing the wind’s energy.

"We believe this (the wind farm) will help us deal with these problems," he said. "Composite energy is the way we are going to have to go in the future."

The $166 million Spearville wind farm is the first large-scale wind facility in Kansas to be owned and operated by a regulated electric utility. Each turbine will be placed into service as soon as it is erected and certified. Sprint Nextel will be the end user of a significant portion of the wind-generated electricity.

Mike Zamzira brought greetings to the gathering from U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, noting that "last week, Moran joined in introducing a renewable fuels resolution in the House."

The bipartisan bill, called the Renewable Fuels Act of 2005, contains provisions similar to those in the comprehensive energy bill passed by the Senate.

"This ceremony represents a real milestone for our company," said Bill Downey, president and CEO of KCP&L. "This is the first project out of the chute. There is a lot of equipment on the ground, and all 67 foundations are in place right now."

It took 1,822 truckloads of concrete to build the 67 foundations for the wind towers, and each foundation required 272 cubic yards of concrete. The height of each tower will be 262 feet, compared to the tallest building in Kansas, the Epic Center in Wichita, which is 325 feet.

Two grade school boys practiced saying "Oh, my God" together in anticipation as they rode a shuttle school bus to the site for the inauguration ceremony. And when they finally saw the enormous turbine blades up close, they looked at each other and uttered "Oh, my God!" simultaneously.

"It's unbelievable," said Tom Feist, a Spearville gentleman who is quite a bit older than the schoolboys. "I'm sure they will make a success of it, one way or the other. I hope it's a harbinger of things to come. We have plenty of wind, and they might as well use it."

"This is an exciting day, and it's going to be so great to see the towers go up," added Bev Temaat, president of the Spearville School Board.

Bruce Vierthaler, Spearville City Council president who welcomed guests to the ceremony, presented the governor with a T-shirt from the Spearville Township Library, saying, "We are going to have some towers in the horizon that are going to be around here for a long time."

Downey echoed those sentiments, adding, "We are looking forward very soon to see things moving skyward."


Sebelius inaugurates wind energy facility

By Tim Vandenack, Hutchinson News, June 17, 2006

SPEARVILLE - Scanning the wind turbine parts awaiting assembly amid the fields north of Spearville, farmer Kermit Froetschner experienced a sense of exhilaration.

"It feels good," he said. "When it gets completed, we'll be just as excited."

Officials from Kansas City Power & Light, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and a host of others on Friday inaugurated the Spearville Wind Energy Facility and touted the importance of developing renewable energy resources.

Components for the 67 turbines continue to arrive and the 100.5-megawatt complex is expected to be fully operable by Oct. 1.

"We are well-positioned in the state to be leaders in the new fuel age," said Sebelius, alluding to efforts around Kansas to develop ethanol and solar power.

But for residents in and around Spearville, Friday's ceremony had particular significance because it represented the culmination of years of efforts. The event occurred, fittingly enough, amid wind gusts of 30 mph.

"Everything's going great," said Froetschner, a cheerleader for the project from the get-go. "I think it's a good day for Spearville."

Bev Temaat, head of the Spearville USD 381 school board, said residents about four years ago started debating strategies to spur Spearville forward. Community leaders discussed the possibility of trying to lure an ethanol plant or a dairy processing firm, and finally zeroed in on wind.

Froetschner initially tried to interest the developers of the Gray County Wind Farm near Montezuma in pursuing the Spearville site. Then officials from enXco, an Escondido, Calif., wind energy company, came knocking, leading to KCP&L's decision last December to develop the wind farm here. EnXco heads up efforts to build the $160 million complex, though KCP&L, which is based in Kansas City, Mo., will own it.

"A lot of people have told me it's the most exciting thing to happen here in the last 10 to 15 years," Temaat said.

The wind farm will spread over a 5,000-acre agricultural expanse north of U.S. 56. It will produce enough power to light 33,000 homes, though Bill Downey, chief executive officer for KCP&L, said Sprint Nextel has contracted to use a portion of the energy it generates.

Whatever the case - and notwithstanding the excitement of Friday's ceremony - a lot of work must be completed before the first kilowatts of energy hit the wires. The wind farm will be Kansas' third.

As of Friday, unconnected tower lengths, humongous blades and nacelles - which help covert untamed wind into energy - sat scattered amid cropland. All the concrete foundations are complete, and Phil Duncan, KCP&L project manager, said the first turbine towers could start sprouting up next week. The first completed tower, meanwhile, could take form by the end of June.

Froetschner, drawn to the forlorn look of a wind turbine turning in the wind, dreams of yet more wind farms.

"Hopefully," he said, "in a couple years there can be another one."


Wind farm, company to energize county with $9.73M

By Tim Vandenack, Hutchinson News, June 10, 2006

The planned wind farm near Spearville will be generating more than just energy.

For Ford County, Dodge City Community College, Spearville USD 381 and four other taxing entities, it also will mean cold, hard cash - nearly $15 million in all over the next 30 years.

Authorities from Ford County and Kansas City Power & Light finalized a pact this week specifying how much the power company will distribute to the local taxing entities. Wind farm operators do not pay property taxes under a state incentive aimed at fostering development of renewable energy. The money is meant as a gift, in lieu of the taxes KCP&L otherwise would have to pay.

"I'm elated," said Kim Goodnight, chairman of the Ford County Commission. "I think we've got a great partner that's coming into Ford County."

Under terms of Thursday's accord, KCP&L will dole out $221,628 in 2007 to Ford County, Dodge City Community College, Spearville Township, the Spearville Hospital District, the Ford County Fire District and the Pawnee Watershed District. The total will increase by 2.5 percent each year, reaching $453,541 by 2036, the last year of the agreement, and resulting in an overall gift over 30 years of $9.73 million.

USD 381, governed by a separate accord, will get $108,372 in 2007, according to Ford County officials. That number will increase by 3 percent per year, reaching $255,386 in 2036 and resulting in an overall inflow of $5.16 million.

"We hit a home run," Goodnight said.

Of the total going to those entities aside from USD 381, Ford County is getting the biggest chunk, 39.7 percent. It will get $87,986 in 2007 and $3.86 million over the life of the agreement.

Goodnight said the money will allow the county to do a measure of long-range planning - maybe even help with the long-standing dream of building a new Ford County Jail.

"I don't think we can build a jail with it, but we're getting closer," he said.

Next on the list is the community college, recipient of 30.8 percent of the funds. It will get $68,262 in 2007 and $3 million over the 30 years.

The agreement with KCP&L parallels an agreement between Gray County and FPL Energy of Florida, which owns the Gray County Wind Farm near Montezuma. But the Ford County agreement is more generous.

FPL agreed to dole out funds to various Gray County entities over 10 years starting in 2003, also in lieu of the property taxes it does not have to pay on the wind farm there. For 2005, the gift total was $335,859, but it varies from year to year depending on the property tax levies in the impacted taxing districts, according to Sheryl Plotner, the Gray County treasurer. Gray County and Montezuma USD 371 get the lion's share of that money.

The Spearville plans call for construction of a $160 million, 100.5-megawatt wind farm - the third in Kansas - to provide energy for KCP&L customers, who are clustered around Kansas City, Mo. Work started in April, and an inauguration ceremony is set for next Friday, which Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is to attend. The plant is to be fully operational by Oct. 1.


Construction begins on Spearville wind farm

Project should be fully operational in October

By Tim Vandenack, Hutchinson News, April 13, 2006

SPEARVILLE - Work on a planned Ford County wind farm has commenced, and the first turbine could be generating power by the end of June.

Phil Duncan, project manager for Kansas City Power & Light, said Wednesday that work on a power substation and construction of a series of gravel roads started unceremoniously last week north of Spearville. The substation will ready the wind-generated power for transmission to KCP&L customers, while the road system will provide access to the planned network of 67 wind turbines.

"If you go, you'll see that there's a lot of activity going on," said Duncan, who traveled to Ford County this week from company headquarters in Kansas City, Mo.

Oversized trucks carrying the General Electric windmill parts should start rumbling into Ford County by mid-May, and the 262-foot towers will start sprouting by June. Duncan expects the first kilowatts of power will buzz out of Ford County by the end of June, and the $160 million, 100.5-megawatt project should be fully operational by early October.

EnXco, an Escondido, Calif.-based wind power company, has been developing the project, and KCP&L decided last December to go with their proposal after investigating sites throughout the state. KCP&L, aiming to address growing energy demand in its coverage area, will own the wind farm, called the Spearville Wind Generating Facility.

Though the road leading to the decision to actually build was at times fraught with uncertainty, Duncan said construction should be a relative snap, even easier than assembling a toy on Christmas Eve.

"You'd much rather put these wind towers up," he said. "There are much fewer parts, and they go together easier."

As the wind farm access roads are completed - the complex is being built on a 5,000-acre expanse of cropland and pastureland - the massive concrete bases for the towers will be poured. Then the towers and turbines - nearly 389 feet from the base to the tip of an extended blade - will be put in place with the help of a pair of giant-sized cranes.

"On a good day, they can put up three turbines," Duncan said. "It's literally an assembly-line process."

About 100 workers will be employed at the peak of construction, and the wind farm will employ five or six full-time workers when it is finished. It will generate enough energy to power an estimated 33,000 homes.

KCP&L, eligible for a property tax break on the value of the wind farm equipment under a state law aimed at encouraging wind power, plans to make payments to Spearville USD 381 and other taxing entities here as a goodwill gesture. Negotiations to determine the amount of the gifts, however, still are under way.

The wind farm will be southwest Kansas' second and the state's third. The 110-megawatt Gray County Wind Farm near Montezuma started operating in 2001, while the 150-megawatt Elk River Wind Power Project in Butler County started last year.


Spearville gets wound up for construction of energy farm

Building of $160M wind farm expected to get started in April

By Tim Vandenack, Hutchinson News, March 24, 2006

SPEARVILLE - For now, you could say Spearville is in lull-before-the-storm mode.

"I haven't seen anything happen yet," quips Ken Domer, the town's mayor, "but I think it's going to be happening pretty quick."

Kansas City Power & Light late last year tabbed California-based wind energy company enXco to build a $160 million, 100.5-megawatt wind farm - Kansas' third - amid the wide-open fields north of town. The various players have been hashing out plan details ever since, and now officials say construction on the long-anticipated project could be two weeks off.

"I'd say the first week of April," said Nancy Tronsgard, a project coordinator at enXco's regional office in Minneapolis.

That'll mean hundreds of oversized trucks rumbling through Ford County in coming months on their way to the construction site and a flurry of work as the 67 giant turbines that'll sow the wind's power are erected. EnXco is under contract to have the Spearville Wind Energy Facility, as it's been dubbed, finished and generating power for KCP&L customers by Oct. 1.

"It's going to be pretty hectic," said Ed Elam, the Ford County administrator and a participant in some of the advance planning.

On the upside, the workers putting all the wind farm pieces together will buy gas, food and other goods at Spearville outlets and stay in area motels and rentals, boosting the local economy. Elam said their numbers will blossom to about 40 as the project proceeds.

"If we get 20 to 30 percent of that, that'll be great," said Jose Flores, owner of Spearville's only eatery, the Windmill Restaurant.

However, officials also are bracing for increased vehicle traffic. Eight to 10 trucks will be needed to bring in each windmill, which adds up to 536 to 670 vehicles in all, most of them oversized, according to Elam. Another 18 tractor-trailers will be needed just to haul the two jumbo-sized cranes that'll lift each 264-foot wind tower into place and install the 127-foot blades.

"We're going to have a lot of semis jockeying around for position," Elam said.

Ford County Sheriff Dean Bush plans to assign extra patrols to the work zone, at least initially, as a precaution. Still, he isn't anticipating any problem in particular, though he worries about gawkers. Elam notes that the truck traffic will be spread over the span of the project.

As for the construction itself, Elam said workers will start with the concrete bases where the towers will sit, each one 6 feet thick and 50 feet across. As those dry, other crew members will place the towers and blades while the concrete workers continue with additional bases.

"It's just going to look like an erector set, one right after the other, right after the other," Elam said.

The towers themselves will sit in an agricultural area measuring about three miles by four miles, with the southernmost ones sitting about a half-mile off U.S. 50. With a blade fully extended, the towers will stand 391 feet tall, and Domer said they will be visible from Dodge City, 15 miles to the west. The towers at the Gray County Wind Farm near Montezuma stand at 294 feet.

The Spearville project, which will generate enough energy to power up to 30,000 homes, aims to address growing demand among customers of Kansas City, Mo.-based KCP&L.


County commissioners reappoint chairman, approve beer licenses

By Rebecca Aistrup Gerber, Dodge City Globe, January 10, 2006

[...unrelated info deleted...]

In other business:

The commission discussed the first and second phases of a proposed wind farm north of Spearville.

The wind energy company EnXco has provided the development and planning of the wind farm and has sold the power generated by Phase I of the project to Kansas Power and Light, said Ford County administrator Ed Elam.

Plans for Phase I include a 10-square mile area north of Spearville, in which more than 100 turbines will be constructed to produce about 100 megawatts of energy. EnXco is also working Phase II, which includes adding additional wind turbines to the farm.

The commission’s next regular meeting will be on Tuesday, Jan. 17 due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Reach Rebecca Aistrup Gerber at (620) 408-9931 or e-mail her at rebecca.gerber@dodgeglobe.com.


Company selects Ford Co. site for new wind farm

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, December 14, 2005

SPEARVILLE - Let the wind blow.

Kansas City Power & Light said Tuesday that it had selected a site near Spearville in Ford County for construction of a 100.5-megawatt wind farm, generating excitement and glee from local leaders.

"I think it's just a wonderful thing to happen to Spearville. Maybe one of the greatest things to happen to Spearville in recent history," said Ken Domer, the town's mayor.

EnXco, the Escondido, Calif.-based firm that has been developing the project, will build the farm on a 5,000-acre agricultural expanse north of Spearville starting next spring or summer, with an estimated completion date of Oct. 1. The wind farm would be the third in Kansas.

"As part of our diverse energy generation portfolio, the Spearville Wind Energy Facility will help provide a clean, affordable source of energy for years to come," KCP&L CEO Bill Downey said in a statement.

The Kansas City, Mo., company announced a long-range plan last year aimed at meeting growing power demand, and the wind farm, which would serve the firm's customers, is part of the effort. The project has an estimated price tag of $160 million.

KCP&L examined eight sites around Kansas, but the broad backing in Ford County seemed to weigh heavily in the Spearville project's favor. Wind power projects in eastern Kansas, particularly the Flint Hills area, have been the target of criticism by foes who say wind turbines would mar the zone's natural beauty.

"Spearville is an ideal location for this facility because it offers strong wind resources, meets our environmental guidelines and has the support of landowners and the community," Downey said.

Nancy Tronsgard, an enXco project coordinator, called the Ford County locals "great" to work with.

The Spearville wind farm will join the 110-megawatt Gray County Wind Farm near Montezuma as the only large-scale wind power generators in southwest Kansas. Portland, Ore.-based PPM Energy is building a 150-megawatt wind farm in Butler County in southeast Kansas, to be operable by year's end, and numerous other projects around Kansas are being considered.

"We're excited about all the possibilities and the economic development it will create," said Ford County Commissioner Kim Goodnight.

He and Domer note the construction jobs to be created by the Spearville project and the impact on the local economy. When completed, Goodnight estimates the wind farm will employ 10 to 15 full-time workers.

What's more, enXco has been in talks with Ford County officials about a payment to some of the local taxing entities in lieu of property taxes. Wind-generating equipment is exempt from taxation in Kansas, a perk aimed at fomenting development of wind energy.

Goodnight said he suspects the total payment to Spearville USD 381, Ford County and three other smaller taxing entities could approach $300,000 per year, about what the operators of the Gray County wind farm dole out there. Still, details have yet to be worked out.

Aside from locals, the wind farm plans generated praise from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Audubon of Kansas Executive Director Ron Klataske, who said the proposal doesn't appear to pose any major environmental threats.

Sixty-seven towers in all are to be put up, according to Tronsgard, each generating about 1.5 megawatts of power and each measuring 389 feet from the ground to the tip of a fully extended blade.



KCP&L picks developer

By Steve Everly, The Kansas City Star, December 14, 2005

Kansas City Power & Light has picked the developer and location for a 100-megawatt wind energy project in Kansas.

The $160 million wind farm will be built by Enxco Inc. near Spearville, Kan., which is just northeast of Dodge City. Bill Downey, chief executive officer of KCP&L, said it would be the first project in KCP&L’s plans to meet increased demand for power — plans that include a new coal-fired power plant near Weston.

The wind farm should be in service by Oct. 15 next year.

The Spearville Wind Energy Facility will consist of 67 General Electric turbines spread out over 5,000 acres. The site is expected to have wind sufficient to power the turbines about half the time and provide electricity for 33,000 homes.

The decision to build in Kansas furthers the state's efforts to be a prime location for wind energy. Only North Dakota and Texas are considered to have more potential in generating wind power. According to the Kansas Energy Information Center, the state has 253 megawatts of wind power in operation or under construction, and more than 2,000 megawatts of wind power had been proposed.

"Kansas is one of the top wind-producing states in the country, and KCP&L's investment in this project is a giant step toward Kansas harnessing our considerable renewable energy resources," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

The Spearville facility will be built by Enxco, a California company that is affiliated with EDF Energies Nouvelles, a French company. Enxco has been in business since 1987 and is the fourth-largest owner of wind energy installations in the United States. The Spearville facility will be owned and operated by KCP&L.

An Enxco executive said Tuesday that the company had been working with the Spearville community for a couple of years to develop a wind project and looked forward to capitalizing on the wind resource with KCP&L.

"Enxco is delighted to have been awarded with this milestone project for KCP&L," said David Corchia, Enxco's chief executive officer.

Wind energy is generally favored by environmentalists as a renewable source for power, but wind projects have created controversy, in part for disturbing sensitive sites such as wetlands and bird nesting areas. KCP&L had meetings with groups discussing potential locations, and the utility said Tuesday that the Spearville site does not include irreplaceable prairie landscapes, wetlands or critical wildlife habitat, nor does it appear to be a major stop for migratory birds.

"I can't give enough accolades for how KCP&L has gone about this," said Ron Klataske, executive director of Audubon of Kansas.

The Nature Conservancy also praised the company's wind project. The Sierra Club in Missouri said it is still opposed to the 850-megawatt coal-fired plant that KCP&L plans to build near Weston, but it supports the wind facility.

"We would encourage them to do more of that," said Wallace McMullen, the group’s clean-air chairman.

Unlike some utilities, KCP&L will own and operate the Spearville facility instead of buying wind power from another owner. And KCP&L plans call for the possibility of a second 100-megawatt wind farm.

Mike Chesser, chairman of Great Plains Energy Inc., KCP&L's parent, said a decision on a second wind project hadn’t been made. But he said it would be seriously considered, including a look at sites in Kansas and Missouri.

Great Plains’ stock closed Tuesday at $28.97, down 17 cents.


First glance

- The Spearville Wind Energy Facility will consist of 67 General Electric turbines spread out over 5,000 acres. The site is expected to have wind sufficient to power the turbines about half the time and provide electricity for 33,000 homes.


To reach Steve Everly, call (816) 234-4455 or send e-mail to severly@kcstar.com.



Dodge City willing to go with the wind - Weighs power play

School district might examine wind power as way to cut high school's energy costs

By Tim Vandenack, The Hutchinson News, January 12, 2005

DODGE CITY - Dodge City school officials are looking into the possibility of setting up a wind turbine or two to help power the high school here and trim energy costs.

An energy consultant looking into the matter still needs to clarify a few points before school officials formally consider a plan to carry out a feasibility study. But it already has piqued interest among some.

"Given the high energy consumption of that building, I think we would be remiss if we didn't look at all possibilities to save money," said Mark Orebaugh, a member of the Dodge City USD 443 school board. "To me, it's a no-brainer."

Morris Reeves, the energy manager for USD 443, said the high school consumes $350,000 worth of energy per year and accounts for half of the district's power use.

"Once you've recouped the initial cost, it's profit from there on," he said of a wind generator.

Nonetheless, Reeves still must study whether any special city or Kansas Corporation Commission rules would apply to such a venture before the board signs off on a feasibility study, perhaps at its Jan. 24 meeting. And, assuming a green light, a cost-benefit analysis would have to be conducted to make sure wind power is, indeed, financially viable.

Whatever the case, wind power probably only would supplement energy provided by Aquila, not replace it.

Olathe school officials and the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center, or Greenbush, near Girard in southeast Kansas, also have investigated implementation of wind energy, said Jim Ploger, the KCC energy manager.

But studies at those locales indicate wind resources are insufficient while Dodge City, like western Kansas in general, sits in a relatively windswept zone. Reeves added that Dodge City High School sits on a high point geographically, increasing project potential that much more.

"It's exciting to see people thinking outside the box," said Ploger.

The study here, which would be carried out by the Mid-American Manufacturing Technical Center, a unit of the Kansas State University Engineering Department, would cost $3,730 and take five weeks, according to the project proposal.

Such things as the number of turbines that would be required would have to be determined. But Donna Johnson, a wind energy consultant with Pinnacle Technology in Lawrence, estimated one "good-sized" windmill could handle the high school's energy needs, perhaps two.

Lack of transmission lines has hindered construction of large-scale wind farms in western Kansas similar to the one in Gray County. But because of the smaller size of the Dodge City proposal, such an absence would not figure as heavily.

The "best models" for wind energy at the school district level are in Iowa, owing to support among at least one local utility there and the general public, said Johnson. Aside from providing energy, she said, turbines can serve as teaching tools in math,