Commission addresses wind protest petition

Karen Mikols
Hays Daily News, June 12, 2007

The clock continues to tick for protesters of the proposed Ellis County wind project as no additional time was granted to file a protest petition.

John Schmeidler appeared before the Ellis County Commission on Monday morning, requesting an additional two weeks to file the protest petition, citing technical concerns.

"The reason I ask for it is because we had already begun collecting signatures at the time of the second public hearing," Schmeidler said. "At that time, Mr. Davidson said they would have to be acknowledged."

Schmeidler said the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission procedural guide does not mention the need to have the protest signatures notarized.

"The form itself did not have place for a notary stamp," Schmeidler said, acknowledging it makes sense to have the signatures notarized. The procedural guide, however, does not make that stipulation.

"I don't think there's any dispute that Article 32 of the zoning regulations requires that the protest be signed by the landowner and acknowledged by a notary public," said Russell attorney Dennis R. Davidson, who is acting as county counsel for the wind-farm application.

Commissioner Perry Henman said he thinks the request to extend the time until the protesters could get the finalized list from a certified abstractor was reasonable.

Davidson suggested the commission adopt a "wait-and-see" attitude regarding possible protest petitions.

"I think maybe you're getting a little bit ahead of yourself talking about extension and time," Davidson said.

Henman asked about the purpose of protesting the recommendation of the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission.

"Wouldn't it make more sense for people to protest until we make a decision they don't like?" Henman said. "Because they are just protesting a recommendation, not a decision. I thought this was putting the cart in front of the horse a little bit."

Davidson said the protest petition, if landowners from at least 20 percent of the area within 1,000 feet sign the petition, would mean the conditional-use permit would need to be approved via a unanimous vote by the Ellis County Commission.

"The only people that would protest are those that would like to make it more difficult for this county commission to adopt that recommendation," Davidson said. "Therefore, the protest requiring unanimous vote might help accomplish that goal if that's their goal."

Schmeidler requested clarification regarding who is eligible to protest, pointing out there is confusion regarding how the project area pertains to zoning regulations. Davidson said those eligible to sign a protest petition are landowners within 1,000 feet of the affected area.

"Those people have all received written notice of this application because they're within 1,000 feet," Davidson said. "So they all know who they are, and they have known since that notice was sent out.

"The list of those people has been at the zoning administrator's office for weeks and weeks. I don't think there is any question about who those potential protestors are and their address is not a secret either."

"All the things the law requires in terms of due process, I don't see any lack of it," Davidson said.

Schmeidler took an opposite stance.

"I don't believe it has occurred," said Schmeidler, adding he is concerned the county was using lists from the tax appraiser's office, which doesn't necessarily disclose landowners, he said.

He also asked if he could schedule speakers to address the commission in the next few weeks.

"I have two attorneys who would like to address the commission before you make a decision," Schmeidler said.

Commission Chairman Vernon Berens said he does not want to rehash the public hearings.

"We heard both sides of it," Berens said. "I'm not going to say how I'm going to vote, but I've heard enough."

Schmeidler said the protest petition will be filed by 5 p.m. June 20.

Reporter Karen Mikols can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 143, or by e-mail at kmikols@dailynews.net.

Group forms to support wind farm plan

The Hays Daily News
Hays Daily News, June 11, 2007

A group supporting the construction of a wind farm in Ellis County has formed a group called Ellis County Supporters of Wind and has scheduled a series of events touting the proposed project.

The wind farm, proposed by CPV Wind Hays and parent company Iberdrola, received its first official nod this week when the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of a conditional-use permit that would allow agricultural land southwest of Hays to be outfitted with turbines.

The final decision for the wind project now rests in the hands of the Ellis County Commission.

According to a press release, more than 1,350 responses in support of the project have been gathered, prompting the organization of ECSW.

The move counters the creation of a group of opponents, the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition, that includes several landowners in the proposed project area.

"The opportunity is staring us right in the face," said organizer Dylan Bryant, Hays. "With this project, we can support a healthier environment with clean energy, and our state and county benefit greatly by being the wind project's host."

Bryant, Rachel Johnson and Taylor Bemis are listed as contact points for the organization.

A series of three information meetings have been scheduled by the group, all at 7 p.m. at the Tupperware Building on 41st Street in Hays.

On Thursday, Matt Heck of Iberdrola is scheduled to speak on the wind-energy industry; on June 21, two landowners from existing wind farm projects are scheduled to speak; and, on June 28, the topic will be "Wind Energy in Kansas," with a speaker to be announced later.

CPV Wind Hays, the wind project developer, is renting the building for ECSW and is expected to play host to the new group's Web site at www.hayswind.com/ecsw.


Wind farm gets nod

Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News, June 6, 2007

After two public hearing meetings and about five hours of public presentations, the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the conditional-use permit and development plan for the proposed wind farm southwest of Hays following less than 20 minutes of discussion Wednesday night.

The recommendation of approval, which passed 6-1, now will pass to the Ellis County Commission for a final decision.

This closes the planning commission's public hearing regarding this permit, which was filed by Competitive Power Ventures on March 3. The public hearing began March 28.

Barb Anderson, acting as chairwoman for the application, was the only opponent.

"I think that, under our purpose, our zoning regulations need to be considered to promote the health, safety, comfort and general welfare of the citizens of Ellis County," Anderson said. "I think this needs to be considered extensively."

A spectator requested a roll-call vote, which was not granted.

The other six commissioners voted in favor of the conditional use permit public deliberation, however, was limited.

Planning commissioners heard two other zoning requests at the Ellis County Environmental Office at 7 p.m. The meeting reconvened at 9 p.m. in the Ellis County Fairgrounds Gold Building, and commissioners opted to recess to executive session immediately after calling the meeting to order.

"To start this session, I'd like to move for a recess into executive session for the purpose of deliberations regarding the application of Iberdrola for a conditional-use permit and that the open meeting resume at 9:30 here in the Gold Building," said planning commissioner Charlie Rohr.

The Hays Daily News and other local media entities protested the motion, questioning compliance with the Kansas Open Meetings Act, and requested an explanation from Dennis Davidson, the county's counselor for the application.

Davidson said Kansas law justified the closed session.

Provisions of the open meetings law do not apply to administrative bodies exercising "quasi-judicial" functions when the body is deliberating matters relating to a decision involving such quasi-judicial functions, according to the statute.

While it was stated that the executive session was for deliberations, all of the actual discussion was done in public, Anderson said this morning.

The executive session had been recommended by Davidson to discuss legal procedures, she said.

"There was nothing discussed as far as what was discussed outside," Anderson said. "The attorney was just giving instruction on what had to be done for it to be legal."

Anderson said Davidson also recommended that the commission's discussion be done in public.

Even during public deliberation, however, debate was limited. Discussion was based on guidelines listed in Article 32 of the Ellis County Zoning regulations, which consist of 10 specific considerations seven of which were deemed relevant to the Iberdrola application and opened for discussion by the acting chair.

Only two commissioners expressed an opinion on any one of these specific guidelines, and two considerations were passed over without any deliberation, though Anderson requested discussion several times.

One issue discussed was whether granting the permit could adversely affect property in the specified area.

"I think that this could very easily affect property values, and I think that needs to be taken into consideration," Anderson said.

Planning commissioner Gene Bittel also acknowledged property values is a potential concern.

"In reading the editorial in The Hays Daily, I think a point was made that county commissioners should recommend setting aside, possibly, some money to address that issue," Bittel said.

"We just don't know what the property values are going to be five years from now or 10 years from now next to this project."

After the guidelines had been addressed, the table opened for general discussion.

Anderson expressed a concern about the risk of the nearly 400-foot towers catching on fire. She asked commissioner Dick Klaus, who also serves as Ellis County Rural Fire chief, if the county would be able to fight such flames.

Klaus said there would be no need to fight a fire high in the air.

"All it is, is electrical wiring that can burn inside that. It will burn down," Klaus said. "If it starts a grass fire we fight them all the time. So I'm not worried about fires."

Commissioner Gene Jacobs spoke in favor of renewable energy.

"I strongly feel that this is the right direction," Jacobs said. "It might not be the right place, but it's the right direction."

Planning commissioner Charlie Rohr expressed concern about property rights.

"Last year, the zoning process got many people in the same room that were very concerned about their rights of their property, that they could do whatever they want on their ground and didn't worry about the neighbors," Rohr said. "Now many of these same people have made a 180-degree turn and say no, my neighbor can't do what he wants on his property, and that concerns me.

"I'm a property right advocate, and that is part of why I voted no for zoning last year," he said. "Not the whole reason, but I'm taking that into serious consideration."

Bittel, who moved to approve the application and development plan, also spoke in favor of protecting landowners' property rights.

"It seems like the people next to this project feel like they have a right to the land adjacent to them, and I guess that disturbs me," Bittel said. "As somebody who grew up in Ellis County and the third generation who lived where I do, it disturbs me that somebody can treat my land as public land rather than land that has been in my family for generations."

Bittel, who represents the Ellis community, said he felt it was his duty to support the project the Ellis City Council has adopted a resolution in support of the proposal.

Bittel also recognized local concerns and offered recommendations to the Ellis County Commission in planning commission discussion, though the motion of approval was not amended to include these conditions.

He reiterated that the county commission should consider allocating funds to reimburse for potential property value deflation and recommended that a solid financial and decommissioning agreement be established.

"At the same time, this is a project that will bring in millions and millions of dollars to this county, and I just don't feel like we can pass up this opportunity," Bittel said. "If we say no to this opportunity, we're going to say no to every development that comes to this county from now on. We just as well lock the doors so nobody will open them. And you can't have future growth with that mindset."

The discussions began after the executive session closed at 9:30 p.m. the meeting adjourned at about 9:50 p.m.

As expected, public sentiment ran high throughout the meeting. Attendance, however, did not match that of earlier meetings about 100 people had gathered to hear the deliberation.

Because the public comment portion of the hearing ended May 23, Wednesday's discussion was meant only for the board. Anderson had to maintain order more than once when audience members applauded or challenged commissioners. There were two sheriff's deputies on hand, and a near quarrel was broken up as spectators left the building.

Also as expected, approval was not the decision many in attendance had hoped to hear.

"I think I was disappointed at the discussion, or the lack of discussion," said Pat Bittel, a member of the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition, a group formed to protest the wind project. "I mean if they're going to vote on something so controversial, they should at least have the professionalism to say why. The only one that spoke, really, besides Gene (Bittel), is the single woman and the one person who was voting against it. There was at least one commissioner that said absolutely nothing."

Other spectators, however, left smiling. Iberdrola project manager Krista Gordon said she believes the decision is reflective of the county's majority opinion.

"I was very pleased that it passed with as strong of a majority as it did," Gordon said. "Six to one, I think, is a strong statement. I think this is a reflection of the view of Ellis County, I really do."

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081 Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.


Opponents air wind concerns

Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News, May 3, 2007

There was an air of excitement in Fox Pavilion on Wednesday evening as about 300 people gathered for a free community presentation - "The Truth about Industrial Wind Energy."

The presentation, which started at 7 p.m., was produced and presented by the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition.

"These people are not politicians, they're not promoters of corporate business interests, they're not even experienced public speakers," said coalition member J.P. Michaud. "They're simply citizens ... who feel this is an issue of intense public importance and one deserving of very careful consideration."

A variety of concerns and research was presented by 12 residents.

That was followed by three news clips filmed in U.S. locations with existing wind-development projects. The presentation was well-received; the audience applauded after each speaker.

The television station tower located at 27th and Hall is about 800 feet tall - about twice the size of one turbine, Bittel said.

"One of the conclusions I've read during some research is that almost all developers accept one fact: There is no way to soften the visual impact of these massive structures," he said.

To help the audience visualize the project, photos of the proposed project area were taken west of Hays from the U.S. Highway 183 bypass bridge, 41st Street, and the Commerce Parkway overpass.

Several turbines were then added into the photos, based on generator locations from a tentative project map.

"This is going to be in all of our backyards," Bittel said. "There is no doubt."

Environmental matters also were discussed. Geologist Glenn Diehl discussed effects the proposed project could have on native wildlife..

A significant concern has been deterring the population of greater and lesser prairie chickens, both of which have been noted in the Hays area, Diehl said.

Research has suggested these endangered fowl tend to avoid large structures, he said.

"The majority of the west portion of the project area is like the Flint Hills - too rocky for farming," Diehl said. "That's the area still native grassland - perfect habitat for prairie chicken."

However, prairie chickens might not be the only creatures affected, he said. There is concern the development could cause disruptions to the local ecosystem.

For one thing, birds could collide with the towering structures or waste energy trying to avoid them. This could reduce their breeding success, Diehl said.

And if winged predators such as hawks and owls begin avoiding the project site, the rodent population could increase, he said.

"Even bird species of low risk for collisions can be deterred from nesting and roosting in their normal habitats by unnatural noises and disturbances," Diehl said. "For us hunters, where we find all those pheasants that we have right now."

Audience members could sign up to receive a free DVD of the presentation, or endorse a moratorium petition. More than 100 signatures were collected at the event.

However, not all spectators oppose the proposed project location. Several proponents of the wind farm also were in attendance.

"It hasn't changed my opinion of the project," Taylor Bemis, who lives on Old U.S. Highway 40 near the project site, said of the night's event. "I think a lot of the data they gave was either outdated or the technology has changed since some of those projects that they cited were developed."

Also in attendance were representatives from Midwest Energy and Sunflower Electric, Competitive Power Ventures project manager Krista Gordon, and Barb Anderson, vice chairwoman of the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Committee.

"I thought it was an awesome presentation and very informative, and I think all of the board members should have come to this. I think the county commissioners should have come," Anderson said. "I think we need to show support for the Ellis County residents. After all, they are the taxpaying people of this county."

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.


Location selection due to wind surveyss

Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News, April 30, 2007

Wind resource was the primary reason the 11,000 square-acre section of land about 3 miles southwest of Hays was selected as the location for a proposed wind farm, said Krista Gordon, Competitive Power Ventures project manager.

Distributed Generation Systems, CPV's predecessor, began conducting wind studies in 2003. A data-collecting instrument was attached to a communication tower south of Golf Course Road, she said.

Since then, two additional meteorological towers have been constructed on the project site, one in 2005 and one in 2006. Data still is being collected from these structures, which are located in the north half of the project area and stand 50 and 60 meters tall, respectively.

According to the data collected, the specific project location offered some of the best sustained wind speeds, she said.

The wind studies are confidential information and will not be publicly released at this time, Gordon said.

Proximity to the power grid was another important factor, Gordon said.

From the project site, energy could travel only 4 miles to the South Hays substation, a Midwest Energy-owned facility. An interconnection request filed by CPV is pending.

The $300 million to $400 million project can produce 200 megawatts at maximum capacity, but the project will not constantly create this much energy, she said.

"This is common to every wind project installed everywhere," Gordon said. "We know that the project will not operate at full output all the time. But based on wind data we've collected, we've been able to quantify how many megawatt hours we think it will produce."

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081 Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.


Tests to determine wind farm's effect on power grid

Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News, April 28, 2007

The proposed Ellis County wind farm could produce a maximum of 200 megawatts of energy - however, at this point it does not appear that the energy would have an effect on local power bills.

"If the power goes outside of Ellis County, there won't be one bit of change to the electrical bills of people in Ellis County," said Competitive Power Ventures project manager Krista Gordon. "If Midwest Energy purchases some of the energy, I don't know if that will have any effect on the bills or what it would be, but that is their call to make."

Midwest Energy, which provides energy to almost 46,000 customers in 41 Kansas counties, already has agreed to purchase 25 megawatts of wind energy from the Smoky Hills Wind Project, located in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties.

The company has sent out requests for proposals for wind energy contracts and could acquire a total of 50 megawatts by 2010.

However, even if a wind project is constructed nearby, this doesn't necessarily mean that the company will purchase its energy from the development, said Bob Helm, Midwest spokesman.

"The energy from wind farms needs to be competitive," Helm said. "Just because there's one sitting close to town doesn't mean they'll be as competitive as another wind farm somewhere else."

While Midwest Energy could someday enter negotiations with CPV, the company has no current plans to solicit bids, said Bill Dowling, vice president of energy management and supply.

Midwest Energy already has some experience with renewable energy - the company's three-year contract for 10 megawatts of energy from Montezuma's Gray County Wind Farm expired in September 2005.

The goal in purchasing renewable energy isn't necessarily to decrease customers' power bills, but rather "to break even," Dowling said.

"Our general guidance is that procuring that wind energy should not increase our average cost of energy," he said. "We weren't looking for (bills) to decrease significantly - we don't think that's likely - but we wouldn't buy it if it appeared we were going to increase it."

Overall, Midwest Energy has been satisfied with its wind energy experience. Wind farms, however, don't always produce at maximum output, Dowling said.

"As a general rule, you only are going to get half or less of the available energy," he said. "It's half of what the machine would be capable of producing if they could run at maximum output all the time, (but) the wind doesn't blow all the time."

However, wind energy does offer advantages, Dowling said.

"It's certainly beneficial from an environmental standpoint. There's no emissions. It's a clean resource," he said. "From a public policy standpoint, it makes good sense to have some amount of clean resource in your supply mix."

At this point, Midwest Energy's primary role in the proposed development is to make sure the transmission system will continue to operate reliably, Dowling said.

The Ellis County wind turbines will be constructed in groups and connected by an underground collection system. The energy will flow from this collection system to an on-site substation, which will be constructed by CPV.

This facility likely will be located in a central area of the project, but an exact location hasn't yet been determined, Gordon said.

This substation will house a step-up transformer, where the voltage will be changed from collection system voltage to transmission voltage, which is necessary to transport the power.

This voltage will amount to about 230 kilovolts, Gordon said.

These kilovolts will then flow to the Midwest Energy-owned South Hays substation, located on Mount Pleasant Road, then be fed into the Southwest Power Pool.

To gain access to this connection point, CPV has filed an interconnection request with SPP, a transmission system that provides electricity to Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and New Mexico.

Before access can be approved, a series of tests must be conducted to determine whether the connection could have a negative effect on the power grid.

"One thing raised as a concern is that somehow the wind farm will destabilize the grid," Gordon said. "Part of interconnection studies is to determine whether there will be any negative impacts and how to correct them."

These tests still are being conducted by SPP. Upon completion, SPP and Midwest Energy will review results and decide whether access should be granted.

The distance from the project to this substation is about 4 miles, Gordon said.

The shortest route to the South Hays substation will be to use transmission lines located on Fort Hays State University-owned property. However, the university's consent is necessary before these wires can be accessed, she said.

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081 Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.


Wind farm talk gaining more speed

Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News, April 24, 2007

Plans for a wind-energy development project a few miles southwest of Hays could bring a blast of change to Ellis County. If the proposed wind farm development is approved, about 135 turbines will be spread over about 11,000 square acres of land.

According to information obtained from the Ellis County Appraiser's office, there are about 50 landowners in this area - 20 of whom have entered a memorandum of easement agreement to have wind turbines placed on their property.

The majority of these memorandum agreements, which are on public record in the Ellis County Register of Deeds office, were ratified in 2003 when Distributed Generation Systems Inc. first began making plans for an Ellis County wind farm.

In terms of the overall project, little has changed since then, said project manager Krista Gordon.

"I know a concern has been that we're expanding the project, and I want to make it very clear that, except for a very limited parcel in the (Fort Hays State University) grounds, we're not expanding the outer boundaries at this time," Gordon said.

Landowners who have entered agreements can receive annual payments in one of two ways - either by a fixed percentage of the project's gross revenue or a base per-megawatt payment.

Whichever of these two methods produces the highest payment at year's end is how compensation is distributed, Gordon said.

While it's unknown how much compensation each landowner will get, payment likely will be "a few thousand dollars per turbine, per year," Gordon said.

Disgen sold interest in the Ellis County wind development to Competitive Power Ventures in 2006. Earlier plans for a local wind farm had been contingent on a bid to Kansas City Power & Light, an energy company that was in the market for 100 megawatts of renewable energy.

When KCPL opted to purchase their energy from Spearville's wind development project in 2005, plans for the Ellis County wind farm never were eliminated, Gordon said.

"When the project was originally proposed in 2003, the land we signed up for is almost exactly the same as what we have today," Gordon said. "The total footprints have always been the same with a target of 200 megawatts. The smallest plan circulated before was in response to specific market opportunities."

However, there will be expansion in the project's inner boundaries, which include limited sections from 220th Avenue to 170th Avenue, east to west. According to a map provided by Ellis County Public Works, the project's southern boundary is Munjor Road and the project extends north to Fairground Road.

Since the March 28 Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, two more landowners have signed easement agreements, and a third has given verbal consent, Gordon said.

This brings the total of landowners who likely will have turbines on their property to 23.

Because these agreements still are being processed, they are not yet public record, and names won't yet be released, she said.

Wind turbines will be located a minimum of 2,000 feet from personal residences, however, in most cases this distance is "substantially greater," Gordon said.

Several landowners, however, have entered agreements that would allow turbines to be placed closer than 2,000 feet to their homes.

The project now is in the hands of Pennsylvania-based Iberdrola Renewable Energies USA, Ltd., a division of the Iberdrola parent company based in Madrid, Spain. The European giant purchased CPV's wind power unit earlier this month.

The proposed wind farm would be designed to generate up to 200 megawatts of renewable energy; however, the amount of energy produced depends on how many megawatts are sold. Before selling to Iberdrola, CPV filed a bid with Westar, an energy company in the market for up to 500 megawatts of wind energy, and is waiting to hear back.

KCP&L also is back in the market. The company hopes to add a minimum of 100 megawatts of wind energy in 2008, and a maximum of an additional 300 megawatts by 2012, according to the company's Web site.

Iberdrola is reviewing this request for proposal internally, Gordon said.

If all 200 megawatts are produced, it's likely the company will provide Ellis County with a $600,000 annual stipend, which will benefit the county's general fund. The company also will fund road maintenance issues, Gordon said at the March 28 Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing.

If not all 200 megawatts are produced, however, the annual stipend will be less than $600,000. For example, if 100 megawatts are sold, the county's reimbursement will be $300,000. This was the plan for the 2005 proposal, Gordon said.

"The rationale of donation to the county for this project has always been about the same," Gordon said. "We're making it consistent with other wind projects installed in Kansas."

The prospect of more than 130 wind turbines moving into a location near Hays has not been well-received by all. A group of about 80 Ellis County families, many of whom live near the project area, have been organizing opposition since the end of March.

This group of residents, now organized as the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition, will host a presentation at 7 p.m. May 2 at Fox Pavilion, 1202 Main.

This presentation will address up to 16 issues, including a variety of health and economic issues, said John Schmeidler, co-chairman of the organization.

"Most of it's going to hit not on wind energy or wind farms, but this is a bad place for it," Schmeidler said. "We have one of the biggest cities in western Kansas within a few miles of the project area."

"I don't think a lot of people realize how close it's going to be," he said.

Another environmental group, Fort Hays State University's Student Environmental Organization, has taken an opposite stance. This organization of about 25 undergraduate and graduate students also is hoping to prepare a public project, but this one would be a statement of support.

"Compared to many other types of energy generation, wind energy has a minimal environmental impact," said Lance Rack, president of the group. "And while opponents have every right to be concerned about possible impacts on the land and wildlife, research has shown any effect will likely be small."

It's possible that an additional three or four turbines will be located on Fort Hays State University property. Because the land is state-owned, countywide zoning does not apply.

"I do think it's an excellent idea and this way FHSU can, in the future, integrate this with classroom curriculum," Rack said. "It's another opportunity for Fort Hays, and an opportunity that a lot of other universities don't really have."

FHSU owns property extending south and west of the main campus, most of which is used for agricultural research facilities. The wind equipment likely would be located at the southern-most portion of this property, said FHSU President Edward H. Hammond.

"We would be very interested in augmenting our generation capability with wind energy power," Hammond said.

This would be economically beneficial for the campus; electricity costs are charged by peak-load billing.

Payment rates are based on the maximum amount of energy the campus uses in any 15-minute period in August or September, which are the two months requiring the most electricity for air conditioning, Hammond said.

"If we can keep those peaks low, it reduces what we pay for electricity throughout the year," he said. "To do that, we have what we call peak-shaving strategies, and one of the strategies is to generate power."

FHSU has invested in two large diesel power generators, which are used at the beginning of every fall to help keep costs down.

Campus officials also have considered purchasing three wind turbines of their own to reduce the amount of energy purchased from Midwest Energy. However, as a state agency, FHSU wouldn't be eligible for most of the wind energy tax benefits.

"We looked at just building three generators and running it ourselves," Hammond said. "Given what we are paying per kilowatt hour, it didn't work, it wasn't financially advantageous. That's why we haven't done a three-windmill field ourselves."

So when FHSU was approached with the idea of a partnership with Disgen/CPV/Iberdrola, officials were happy to oblige. There have been discussions, but not much headway has been made so far regarding these negotiations, Hammond said.

No papers have been signed, but the university has expressed a willingness to enter legal proceedings when the time comes, he said.

"That's why we're interested in the project - from the standpoint that it could provide us with inexpensive electrical power," Hammond said.

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.


CPV Wind sold to new company

Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News, April 11, 2007

Competitive Power Ventures has sold CPV Wind Ventures LLC - the company responsible for developing an Ellis County wind farm - to Iberdrola Renewable Energies USA, it was announced Wednesday.

Iberdrola is a company based in Madrid, Spain, with international wind interests that amounted to 4,434 megawatts in renewable energy capacity at the end of 2006, according to the company's Web site.

Also according to the Web site, www.iberdrola.es, the company is encouraging investments of about $1.5 billion on new projects formerly affiliated with CPV Wind Ventures. This brings Iberdrola's project pipeline in the U.S. market to about 8,500 megawatts.

"In terms of the project, and in economics, this does mean a very positive thing," said Krista Gordon, CPV project manager of the Ellis County wind farm.

"Iberdrola is going to have more competitive economics than CPV would, which makes the project more competitive, and that's a very good thing."

This transfer of ownership should have no effect on the potential Ellis County development, Gordon said.

"The very important message here is that the people of Ellis County now and in the future should notice no change in the project at all," she said.

"The obligations remain the same."

However, this transaction, which is expected to close in May, will bring an increase in the budget capacity and make the proposed wind farm more competitive in the market, she said, because Iberdrola is the world leader in wind energy development.

The company entered the U.S. marketplace in 2005.

"It means that since the project would be more competitive than when we market the power, the project has a greater likelihood of getting developed," she said.

While it's too soon to speculate on numbers or whether the proposed $600,000 annual payment to the county will fluctuate, it is safe to say there will be more room in the budget, Gordon said.

CPV had been recapitalizing its wind program for several months, but originally did not intend to sell the wind projects. However, that changed when Iberdrola made the company an attractive bid and offered "a promising future" for the projects, Gordon said.

The transfer of ownership regarding wind farm developments isn't unusual - while projects in Spearville and Elk River were in the works, they also were transferred to a different company, Gordon said.

"This is a fairly normal thing to have happen," she said. "The other wind projects in Kansas went through transactions similar to this. It's not uncommon at all."

Furthermore, all legal steps taken by CPV regarding the Ellis County project, such as filing for a zoning permit and a bid CPV recently submitted to Westar Energy, which announced in February it was in the market for 500 megawatts of wind-generated electricity, still stand.

At this point in negotiations, it also appears that Gordon will continue her role as project manager, she said.

County officials, including Ellis County commissioners, have been notified of the change. Ellis County Commissioner Vernon Berens said he was made aware of the pending sale in a phone call Wednesday.

"The timing is unfortunate," said Berens, referring to the ongoing talks between CPV and the county for the wind farm.

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.


Jeter resigns from wind farm counsel

Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News, April 9, 2007

Ellis County Counselor Bill Jeter has decided to withdraw from offering the county legal advice regarding the potential development of a wind farm southwest of Hays, citing a conflict of interest.

"It occurred to me Friday that Jeter Law Firm has clients in the project area, and the surrounding area, some for and some against," Jeter said. "We have not canceled any of them in regards to CPV (Competitive Power Ventures), but it has the appearance of a conflict."

Jeter discussed this matter with Ellis County Commissioners at Monday's meeting during executive session.

While Jeter no longer will be offering advice on this issue, he will continue to serve as county counselor in all other facets.

"I thought it best that maybe county commissioners find another counsel to advise them in regards to that application of CPV," he said.

The executive session was an insert to Monday's meeting agenda because this matter needed to be addressed promptly, Jeter said.

The process of appointing someone else to act as counselor will not interfere with the date of the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, which is slated for May 23, Jeter said.

County commissioners will need to appoint another individual to provide legal guidance regarding the wind farm and related zoning issues. While no replacement has been appointed, Jeter will help commissioners fill the spot as quickly as possible, commissioner Perry Henman said.

"There was some question over whether or not he could represent the county, with some of their past work done for other people," Henman said.

"And every attorney in town might have that same problem. I don't know."

Suggestions for a replacement likely will be an item for discussion on a future meeting agenda, Henman said.

Because this item was discussed in executive session, county chairman Vernon Berens was hesitant to release details.

"I'm not really going to say anything about it because it was in executive session," Berens said. "I think that what was in executive session should stay there."

During the consultation, which lasted about 10 minutes, commissioners and Jeter briefly discussed who best could fill Jeter's shoes, said commissioner Dennis Pfannenstiel.

"He said he's going to step away from this particular issue, and so we discussed it and trying to find another lawyer who could assist the county as our representative on this particular issue," Pfannenstiel said. "But all the names that surfaced were local attorneys. Many local attorneys and firms are associated with landowners in that particular area."

A possible solution would be to hire an attorney from the Russell area, because firms in Ellis County are more likely to have conflicting interest, Pfannenstiel said.

Furthermore, Russell County also has countywide zoning, which means area law firms could be familiar with the policy, Pfannenstiel said.

However, nothing has been finalized, and the main objective is to find a replacement as quickly as possible.

"I don't know if this will surface next week already, but the sooner the better," he said, "because he's going to have to sit down with zoning laws and regulations and get himself familiarized."

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.


Commissioners hear wind farm feedback

Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News, April 2, 2007

The heated debate concerning a potential wind farm wafted into Ellis County Commission chambers Monday morning, as resident John Schmeidler presented concerns regarding county procedures.

"In going through the town hall meeting that we had last week, as well as talking to some of the administrators, it seems to me there are several procedural problems that need to be addressed," Schmeidler said.

"Since ultimately this is going to end up on your plate to decide, and perhaps even to the district court to decide, there are some things I'd like to bring to your attention."

He said public notices only were distributed to individuals residing within 1,000 feet of the project area.

"We're talking about a huge project, probably the biggest project that's ever been proposed in Ellis County," he said. "In my opinion, if this were to go to district court, and we only notified people within 1,000 feet, that is not including all the people who are going to be affected by this project."

The district court might find that to be inadequate due process, said Schmeidler, who lives at 2169 Locust Grove, about 4 miles north of Catharine.

Schmeidler asked commissioners to extend the notification area to at least a 5-mile radius around the project site southwest of Hays.

Another concern he presented was that the county has no official recording of the public hearing.

Furthermore, according to the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission Procedural Guide, everyone at a public hearing should be informed of their right to submit signed protest petitions.

"Needless to say - we were all there - nobody was informed of that right," Schmeidler said. "Nor was it explained what the protest petition consisted of."

If at least 20 percent of the notification area endorses the document, which must be filed in the office of the county clerk, the application shall not pass except by a three-quarter majority vote of commissioners.

Protest petitions must be filed within 14 days after the public hearing's conclusion and are available in the office of the zoning administrator.

Schmeidler also expressed concern that only eight of the nine commission positions currently are filled. However, according to KSA 19-2962, the board of zoning appeals shall have a minimum of five and a maximum of nine members.

He also asked for legal clarification on KSA 79-201, which states that property used to generate renewable energy shall be exempt from taxation.

"I think we need to ask our county appraiser to do a fiscal analysis of what impact this project is going to have on Ellis County," Schmeidler said. "We've got $400,000 homes out there. It's inconceivable that this commission would not believe that would not decrease the value of those properties."

The application process for a conditional use zoning permit also was discussed. Schmeidler was not sure the applications had been signed appropriately by property owners, because Competitive Power Ventures had authorized certain documents.

CPV project manager Krista Gordon was on hand to address the concern. Landowners ratified easement agreements that authorized the company to seek necessary permits, thus enabling the company to sign the documents, Gordon said.

"That substantiated the permission needed," she said.

"It made us the authorization."

Those easements are recorded with the county, she said.

The consensus among commissioners was to have Ellis County Counselor Bill Jeter investigate the procedural issues and visit with Schmeidler. Jeter will report back at a later date.

"This is a large project, and we need time to expand on all of this," chairman Vernon Berens said.

In other business:

[deleted].

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.


Wind farm debate blows into Hays

Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News, March 28, 2007

As plans for an Ellis County wind farm continue to kick up dust, a heated debate has blown over the city of Hays, particularly the southwest part of town.

While 20 property owners in the Yocemento Road area have entered lease agreements with Competitive Power Ventures, a Maryland-based power industry development and asset-management company, other locals strongly oppose the idea of neighborhood turbines.

The issue

According to CPV project manager Krista Gordon, the project, if approved by the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission, would consist of 130 turbines in a 10,000-acre stretch of land. The development also would create about 15 long-term, good-paying jobs for skilled technicians, Gordon said.

"The project could be a huge source of economic development to Ellis County," she said.

Hays was selected as the site for this project as the result of intense research in western Kansas, Gordon said. CPV was looking for a location with attractive features - most notably, a stiff breeze.

"The wind research here has proven to be excellent," she said.

This project began about four years ago, and CPV has provided "extensive public outreach," including a public forum at Fort Hays State University a couple of years ago, she said.

Gordon will deliver a presentation on behalf of CPV, which is applying for a conditional use zoning permit.

"I hope any remaining questions the public has can be answered at that time," she said. "This project is extremely important to me personally and to the other people involved."

"It's been a long time in the making, and we really want to see it succeed," Gordon said.

If approved, the issue will go to the Ellis County Commission for final approval.

The opponents

Tim Davis found out about the wind farm project about two weeks ago. He purchased a home and several acres of land near 210th Avenue about a year ago and is afraid the development would diminish the value of his property.

"I paid more money than (the property) was worth because I wanted to live in the country," Davis said. "If I'm going to be losing a lot of money and my neighbors beside me are making money, how is that equitable and how does that not warrant some kind of discussion?"

Davis has researched the topic and found several studies suggesting his concerns are well-grounded - the closer property is to such a development, the more values are affected, he said.

According to a recent map of the development, Davis, practicum coordinator/assistant professor of social work at FHSU, predicts that he will have at least two turbines within 1,500 feet of his home.

He had not received prior notice from the zoning commission or CVP, he said. He learned of the development from an e-mail sent by a friend.

Since then, he has received information from the commission and been contacted by Gordon, he said.

He's also been communicating with other concerned neighbors, sharing research and concerns.

However, deflated property value isn't even his primary "selfish" concern. His foremost fear is the health and well-being of his family.

He's been swayed by studies he's found that suggest nearby wind farms can trigger epilepsy, migraines and depression, he said.

On a larger scale, he's also concerned about how this project could affect the entire community.

"My big concern on a community level is that this appears to have been poised to slide in, without any kind of study about how this is going to affect the Hays community at large," he said. "What kind of economic impact are we going to see long-term, what kind of social impact, what kind of environmental impact? And we haven't looked into those questions at all."

Lyle Johnston, whose family has owned property located at 170th Avenue and Vineyard for generations, has concerns of his own.

His family runs a ranching and farming operation of about 150 cattle, and some of their pasture will be in close vicinity to at least two turbines, he said. His parents live on the family farm about a mile west of this location.

While Johnston currently resides in Ellis, he owns some of the property and will be the family farmer for the next generation.

He and his family decided to investigate the issue after receiving notice of the public hearing from the zoning commission, dated March 6, and were surprised at the size of the project, he said.

"That first part was what really kind of scared us, because this is really quite, for lack of a better term, a back-door situation here," Johnston said. "It totally amazes us and the people we talk to how a project of this size has run under the radar this long."

Among Johnston's other concerns are property devaluation, potential noise issues, visual dominance and the risk of a 400-foot tall mechanical tower catching fire.

Environmental contamination is another concern. The turbines will be rooted deep underground, and there is fear of contaminating well-water supplies, he said.

County funding is another concern.

"If this company does not secure some sort of bond or something for these roads, the county's going to get stuck with the bill," Johnston said. "My final real concern is the taxes for Ellis County. What can the county tax on these? They can't tax the power, they can only tax the money the landowners get as a lease, and how much of that will stay around here? It's a whole bunch of questions."

Both Davis and Johnston are planning to present their concerns at tonight's meeting.

"I just hope that everyone can get out, or at least know what's going on," Johnston said. "Once that passes the commission, it's almost a done deal."

The proponents

Harold Kraus has no objection to his potential new neighbor. He has entered a lease agreement with CPV, and about six turbines could be erected in his half-section of property, located at the project's southeast corner.

"We're not in for theatrics, we're in for the business. But it's all business as far as I'm concerned," Kraus said. "It's a good business plan and has the potential to be a very solid neighbor in our neighborhood."

Kraus, a retired farmer, has owned this property for about 40 years. While he does not live in the project area, his son is renovating a home on the property.

Kraus shares none of his neighbors' concerns.

"Technology has changed, and a lot of the things that they're fearing about were with the early wind farms in California, and those were 20 years ago or more," he said.

In fact, he's so confident he and his son plan to request a variance, which would allow a tower to be built less than the recommended 1,000 feet away from the home.

Despite an intensive construction process that could take between eight and 10 months, Kraus foresees no glitches in the proposed project.

While environmental distress is high on people's list of concerns, there is no need to worry about well-water pollution. The same cannot be said about the oil industry, he said.

Turbines will be cemented under ground, and there is no contaminating factor in concrete, he said.

Improved technology also has reduced the amount of noise generated by the towers, though they weren't loud to begin with, he said.

Economically speaking, the wind farm will benefit Ellis County in several ways, Kraus said.

For one thing, CVP likely will compensate Ellis County for needed road repair, and the loads of equipment will be of legal weight limit, because they will be traveling on the highway, he said.

"I think people, before they make up their minds, need to realize that there will be a considerable sum of money given to the county to repair for the loads coming in," Kraus said. "I haven't read what's going to be presented so I'm not going to speculate, but I know the county wanted compensation two years ago when this first came up and the company agreed to it."

Even if the profits from this industry are shipped outside of Ellis County, it will benefit the local economy because it will bring new money into the area, he said.

"The idea that the money, the product will be shipped out - that's good, because it will bring new money back to the area from a far-away place," he said. "That's what we're short of in western Kansas. We're short of new money."

Taylor Bemis also has no objection to sharing his homeland with a number of wind towers. His mother, Dorothy Bemis, owns property in the project area, and Taylor has lived on his ranch near Old U.S. Highway 40 for about 50 years.

His ranch, which consists of about 200 head of cattle, will be at the north end of the wind farm. One tower likely will be closer than 1,000 feet to his home, provided a waiver is approved by the zoning commission.

While Bemis sympathized with fears of property devaluation, he does not believe those concerns are valid, other than the fact that the view of the horizon will be changed, he said.

"There have been studies done on property values around other wind projects, and those studies have found that property values do not decline and normal market conditions prevail between properties," Bemis said.

Environmentally, wind farms are one of the cleanest ways to produce energy, and the decision would be economically sound as well, he said.

"I'm very in favor of answering any questions that anyone has about the project," Bemis said. "Nobody's trying to hide anything or distort the facts on what's going to happen with this project."

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.


Developer files application in Ellis County for wind farm

Mike Corn
Hays Daily News, March 5, 2007

As expected, the application for a wind farm southwest of Hays was filed Monday.

That was the filing timetable that was needed to allow for a public hearing on the conditional-use permit being requested by CPV Wind Hays, the developer of the project. That hearing will be at 7 p.m. March 28, but its location will change from its normal venue and instead will be in the main courtroom at the Ellis County Courthouse.

Zoning administrator Dale Wing this morning was just working his way through the 2-inch thick filing but said it appears that details he requested were included.

The wind farm essentially had gone dormant until late last year when engineers started combing the countryside, detailing the area for possible development as a site for location of wind turbines.

Those turbines, according to project manager Krista Jo Gordon, would be about 400 feet tall. There could be as many as 129 towers in the project area, located southwest of Hays.

CPV has nearly 10,000 acres of land under lease for the development.

That leasing agreement was reached several years ago, when CPV's predecessor, Distributed Generation Systems, was pursuing the area at a time with KCP&L, which was looking for wind energy. The Kansas City-based utility instead constructed its site near Spearville in southwest Kansas.

Gordon said Monday's filing reiterated that no electricity from the proposed farm has been sold. The filing offered few new details from what already had been known.

Turbines would located at least 1,000 feet away from any household, as required by the county's zoning regulations.

Despite that, the filing said that several landowners that live in the area want "to voluntarily reduce the setback requirement between turbines and their individual homes in order to allow a greater portion of their land to be used for the placement of wind turbines."

Landowners on whose land the turbines are located on would receive a percentage of the sales of electricity from the turbines. Although it's unknown how much each landowner would get, earlier discussions suggested the amount might range from $5,000 to $7,000.

In its filing, CPV generally detailed the area where the turbines would be located and the routes that would be traveled by the trucks hauling the turbines. For the most part, turbine parts would arrive via Interstate 70 and travel down U.S. Highway 183 Bypass to Golf Course Road. From there, they will travel to Yocemento Road where the turbines generally would be located.

Special-projects coordinator Mike Corn can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 129, or by e-mail at mcorn@dailynews.net.


Editorial: Wind's Still Here

Mike Corn
Hays Daily News, October 14, 2005

An Ellis County location appeared to be a winner in the competition to land a wind farm for Kansas City Power & Light. But a Denver-based company that wants to build it was informed last week that the location on the southwest outskirts of Hays did not make the short list.

That should not discourage wind farm plans, either for the Hays site or for any potential location in northwest Kansas.

Hays' bid seemed like a strong candidate to serve KCP&L's need for 100 megawatts of wind power. The wind developers said our wind was "good," and community support was solid.

The latter was a key factor. Breezy western Kansas competes with the Flint Hills in the eastern part of the state for wind potential. But Flint Hills projects have been beset by local opposition, one of the objections being visual disruption of the vistas.

We have more vision in western Kansas and most definitely the wind.

KCP&L will get its wind power elsewhere - the winner has not been announced - but other opportunities to develop wind power remain.

Distributed Generation Systems Inc., the wind power developer working on the Hays project, has not given up on Hays. It will resume discussions with Hays-based Midwest Energy.

And other utilities are possible operators and buyers. KCP&L, in fact, will be looking to add another 100 megawatts of wind power to its portfolio later down the road.

And Hays is not the only potential wind farm location. Other northwest Kansas communities need to explore the possibilities.

Wind is a natural resource. It should be used for some benefit and not simply be relegated to a nuisance.

Wind farms are not huge employers. But they represent an opportunity for rural western Kansas. And they present a new income opportunity for farmers.

One opportunity is lost, but others will come. Counties that have wind and access to transmission lines should be actively pursuing wind farm projects.

Editorial by John D. Montgomery
jmont@dailynews.net.

Wind farm won't happen

Mike Corn
Hays Daily News, October 10, 2005

Hays will not be home to a new wind farm operated by Kansas City Power and Light.

No winner has been chosen, but the electric utility has notified bidders that are no longer in the running, according to a spokesman for KCP&L, based in Kansas City, Mo.

Distributed Generation Systems Inc., the firm that put together a proposal for a wind farm southwest of Hays, was notified Friday that it was no longer in the running, said Eric Simons, director of business for the Lakewood, Colo., firm.

"We did not win," Simons said this morning, "which was a shame."

Disgen was notified Friday that it would not be on the short list of proposals that are still alive in KCP&L's quest to purchase a wind farm with the capability to generate 100 megawatts of electricity each year.

KCP&L spokesman Tom Robinson said the winner has not yet been selected. That, he said, likely won't take place until later this month or in early November, a date that has been pushed back slightly. The selection should follow on the heels of the firm's earnings report.

Robinson said the notification was made to firms that had submitted proposals but were no longer being considered.

Robinson said he was not aware of the locations still in the running and "they said they weren't going to put out a short list," he said of the firm.

"Somebody else had better wind than us," Simons said of the decision cutting the Hays wind farm from the list. "Everything else was in shape.

"Somebody came in with a higher wind capacity."

That came as something of a surprise to Simons, who said it was his understanding that none of the Flint Hills projects offered were selected.

Instead, he said, it appears that a southwest Kansas proposal might still be in the running.

There is at least one wind farm proposal in southwest Kansas, located near Spearville. That farm is part of a proposal made by EnXco, a California company that has other wind farm developments. The Ford County Commission already has granted a permit for the wind farm site.

Attempts to contact EnXco this morning were unsuccessful.

Simons said he was unsure who remains on the list.

"They wouldn't tell us," he said. "I don't know. I'd be surprised if any project east or north of us would have better wind."

Given that Disgen has been dropped from the KCP&L list, Simons said the company will renew discussions it had with Midwest Energy concerning the development of a wind farm.

Disgen had been talking with Midwest Energy prior to KCP&L's announcement that it was seeking development of a wind farm.

"We'll continue working on it," Simons said. "We'll continue discussions with Midwest Energy."

Still, Simons said he was disappointed given the excellent data that was being generated locally for wind resources.

"It's unfortunate. I wish we had better news. But you can only do what you can do."

Managing editor Mike Corn can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 129, or by e-mail at mcorn@dailynews.net.


Talks not just hot air

Mike Corn
Hays Daily News, August 30, 2005

The foam-backed photographs of turbine-topped towers didn't raise a ruckus at a generally friendly public meeting organized by developers who hope to build a wind farm west of Hays.

Instead, questions Monday evening centered on the size of the towers and the blades that will be attached to them. There were even questions concerning how the towers will stand up to adverse weather.

Monday's meeting, sponsored by Distributed Generation Systems Inc., was something of a repeat of what has been discussed elsewhere.

Nearly 50 people attended the meeting, including representatives of city and county government, Fort Hays State University President Edward Hammond and the farmers on whose land the towers ultimately could be placed.

All are key players in a proposal that is being developed that could result in the placement of 40 to 50 wind towers on land west of Hays. Those towers would generate nearly 100 megawatts of electricity.

"What I want to do is talk to everyone about what our project is," said Eric Simons, director of business development for Disgen, the Denver-area firm that is developing the project.

The project is being put together for a project sought out by Kansas City Power & Light.

Disgen's proposal must be submitted to KCP&L by Sept. 9. The utility company is expected to select a project by Oct. 7. The developer will then have until Oct. 1, 2006, to build a site that would send power eastward to the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Simons told those attending that Disgen is a wind energy developer and that they have several projects in Kansas.

"I happen to like this one the best," he said.

Simons provided details - but not the specifics - on the wind readings that have been taken for nearly two years now.

But the big issue is "you've got to have a market. You've got to have someone to buy the power."

The Hays project is a bit different than most, in that a developer would build the wind farm and then KCP&L would purchase it, part of a Kansas Corporation Commission mandate on an overall plan by the utility company.

Simons passed around photo simulations of the wind farm that is being proposed, pointing out the small specks that would be visible from Interstate 70.

From the western edge of Hays, however, the towers would be more visible.

"We think the shading is too dark," Simons said of the photo depicting what the towers would look like from the overpass near the intersection of U.S. Highway 183 Alternate and Eighth Street. "The towers will be lighter and less visible."

During the meeting, Simons gave a broad sweep of the project, including the economics of wind energy.

"Yes, wind is competitive," he said, noting that it costs $1,300 to $1,600 per kilowatt to produce wind-driven electricity. Coal-power electricity costs about $2,000 a kilowatt, he said.

Wind energy supplements other sources of electric generation.

"Wind is an intermittent resource," he said. "It doesn't blow all the time."

And they are quiet.

"When the wind is blowing, the background noise from the wind itself is louder than the turbines," Simons said.

If the project can be built, he said, it would be oriented east to west. Likely, there would only be five turbines for each linear mile. Rows of turbines would be at least a half-mile apart.

Simons also said that wildlife is an issue in the construction of a wind farm.

"They used to call these things bird Cuisinarts," he said. "But they aren't that way any more."

Preliminary ecological surveys have indicated few endangered or threatened species in the area.

"This site may be one of the most benign environmental sites that we've seen all along," he said.

So far, there are few animals that are a concern. Both greater and lesser prairie chickens have been cited, but there are only a few nesting sites in the 10,000-acre area included in the project, Simons said.

During the construction phase, he said, the project would be a boon to Hays. Afterwards, only five to 10 jobs would be needed. Construction would only take about six months once the project gets under way.

Managing editor Mike Corn can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 129, or by e-mail at mcorn@dailynews.net.


Wind power potential

Mike Corn
Hays Daily News, August 21, 2005

For the past two years, Distributed Generation Systems Inc. has been quietly accumulating considerable data about an area west of Hays.

That all changed this month when Kansas City Power and Light put out a call for proposals on a 100 megawatt wind farm.

Disgen isn't so quiet anymore. Now, officials from the Lakewood, Colo., company are hastily putting together meetings with Hays and Ellis County officials, hungry for the community support that KCP&L said is necessary.

There's also a tight schedule that must be followed, up to and leading to construction of a wind farm.

KCP&L has mandated that proposals be submitted to them by Sept. 9. The utility company will select a winner Oct. 7, followed by a contract two weeks later.

The winner will then have until Oct. 1, 2006, to get a wind farm up and spinning, sending electricity into lines that will eventually feed the KCP&L system in the Kansas City area. KCP&L is part of the larger Great Plains Energy, which includes the Pittsburgh-based Strategic Energy, a supplier of energy in 10 states.

Because of KCP&L's request, said Eric Simons, Disgen's director of business development, "We're in a hurry-up mode."

Before that, he said, the company had been in the middle of talks with Hays-based Midwest Energy about the possibility of selling electricity.

"We're trying to move fast," Simons said of the efforts to put together a proposal for KCP&L. "They key thing here is community support. KCP&L is certain about a couple things.

"They want it built in a certain time frame. And they want community support."

Disgen, incidentally, has a project in the works in the Flint Hills near Junction City.

But Simons said he doubts that it will be offered to KCP&L because of opposition that has followed wind farm proposals in the Flint Hills.

Besides, Simons said, the locations are comparable.

"Windwise, it's going to be fairly equal," he said. "I think some of the areas are going to be a bit better. Some will be worse."

Old wind maps, he said, have suggested that wind potential in the Flint Hills is better than in the area surrounding Hays.

"What we're seeing is the wind here is at least equivalent to what you have in the Flint Hills," he said.

Having a supportive community would greatly enhance the prospects.

"What I'd like is the people's support," he said.

He's already visited with the Ellis County Commission and is awaiting a letter of support from them. While in Hays last week, he visited with Fort Hays State University President Edward Hammond, North Central Kansas Technical College President Clark Coco, the Hays City Commission and the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce.

Simons said he thinks Disgen could work in tandem with FHSU in its quest to construct two or three generating towers to supply power to the school.

FHSU could take advantage of the bigger purchasing power and perhaps lower construction costs, considering that crews would be on site to construct the larger wind farm. Should the university move ahead with a small wind project, it could work with the technical college on development wind energy classes.

Having the two schools supporting the project could be a benefit.

"And I think it it will be an important fact to KCP&L," Simons said.

The cost of the project will ultimately be somewhere between $135 and $150 million, plus or minus $20 million.

"There's a lot of variables that we don't know about," he said.

Already, they have made requests for bids on two turbines, the 2.1 and 2.5 megawatt generators. Likely, they will ask for bids on smaller turbines as well.

Turbines are not readily available and as a result are as much as 30-percent higher in price.

That's because of a federal tax credit - amounting to 1.9 cents per kilowatt.

"This tax credit expired a couple years ago and Congress didn't renew it," he said.

So when it finally did extend the credit last October, a number of projects were ready to go and the supply of turbines was exhausted.

That's why a number of bids are being solicited, given that KCP&L is wanting the project up and running by the end of 2006.

Another benefit to the Ellis County wind farm is that a high capacity power line is located at the eastern edge of the area.

That line, owned by Midwest Energy, is capable of carrying 230 kilowatts of electricity. But it is only energized to about 115 kilowatts.

"We've been told it can take the full 100 megawatts," Simons said, although he acknowledged that some work would have to be done on the line to ensure its carrying capacity.

Once on the line, it would then have to travel across Westar lines before it reached the KCP&L lines.

But all three utility companies are in the Southwest Power Pool, so much of the transfer would effectively be completed on paper.

Despite the rush to wrap up loose ends to submit the proposal, Simons is hopeful.

"I think we have a very good chance of being very successful."

Managing editor Mike Corn can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 129, or by e-mail at mcorn@dailynews.net.


More than dust in this wind

Mike Corn
Hays Daily News, August 21, 2005

The 40 to 50 wind generation towers that might be planted west of Hays could produce as much as 100 megawatts of electricity worth nearly $8 million.

Not unlike any other lease agreement, landowners would receive a percentage of the electricity harvested from their land.

Disgen director of business development Eric Simons said landowners would likely split somewhere in the neighborhood of $276,000 in royalties each year.

Disgen - the Lakewood, Colo., developer that hopes to win a contract with Kansas City Power & Light for the wind farm - hopes to plant 40 to 50 towers on the wind farm.

With that estimate, each tower could annually generate between $5,500 and $7,000 for the farmers on whose land they would be located.

"They get paid based on a megawatt capacity," Simons said.

Landowners would also get a one-time per-megawatt payment, which would be designed to cover construction processes.

Landowners wouldn't be the only ones getting money from the wind farm. The county would as well, receiving payments in lieu of taxes.

Although he said it's still uncertain exactly how much will be paid, it likely would be comparable to what was paid in the case of the Montezuma wind farm in Gray County. There, payments amount to about $300,000.

"We're just running our economics right now," he said. "I can't give you a final figure right now."

Simons said the numbers are just estimates.

"It is not the oil business," Simons said of declining reserves. "It pays you a reasonable amount of money but it does not go down."

The 10,000 acres of land under lease by Disgen, he said, could generate as much as 200 megawatts of electricity. KCP&L is only seeking proposals for a 100 megawatt farm, but keeping an eye on the future.

KCP&L, based in Kansas City, Mo., could move ahead with additional wind-generated capacity later, perhaps as early as 2008, Simons said.

Land included in the proposed wind farm is generally located west of Hays. It does not include low-lying land because of the inability for reaching high enough to produce adequate electricity.

Income for landowners can vary as well, given that the output can rise or fall with the wind.

"The agreement with landowners will go with the project to KCP&L," Simons said, if, in fact, the utility company selects Disgen's proposal.

While he wouldn't disclose the amount of the royalty agreement with landowners, he did say that the same rate applies to everyone.

Disgen, he said, has asked for bids from two companies, generally seeking 2.1 or 2.5 megawatt turbines.

Those turbines generally are about 80 meters tall - about 264 feet. Rotors on the turbines would have a diameter of between 80 and 88 meters, which would put the blades about 140 feet off the ground.

Towers would be situated a half-mile apart and likely would be in something of a east-west row, following the higher ridges.

Disgen has been measuring wind speed and direction for almost two years from three anemometers located on a communication tower southwest of Hays - at 30-, 60- and 80-meter levels.

Two weeks ago, the company moved in a meteorological tower from a site in Texas, and it was erected about 3 miles south of Yocemento.

The communication towers are better because they generally are taller, Simons said, and can provide data close to where the turbine will actually be located.

Simons would not provide details on wind speeds but he said prevailing winds in the area are from the south and southeast during the summer months and from the northwest during the winter.

Data cards have been retrieved from the site monthly and shipped to Disgen. That data will be analyzed by a meteorologist for inclusion with the proposal to KCP&L.

Simons said Hays residents should be able to see the towers, but they would be about 3 miles west of town. The string of east-west aligned towers would be visible from Interstate 70.

"They tend to become a tourist attraction," Simons said, noting that the tower heads will turn with the wind. "Kinda like a kinetic sculpture."

Managing editor Mike Corn can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 129, or by e-mail at mcorn@dailynews.net.


Editorial: Let It Blow

Mike Corn
Hays Daily News, August 21, 2005

Northwest Kansas might have its first solid opportunity at developing a wind farm<, and if all goes well it could be generating electricity in little more than a year.

If it happens, we will have capitalized on a virtually untapped natural resource here and have sparked a little nontraditional economic development in the process.

Distributed Generation Systems Inc., or Disgen, is a Denver-area company that has been scouting a potential wind farm location and collecting wind data in Ellis County for nearly two years. Disgen has nearly 10,000 acres of land under easement starting about 3 miles to the southwest of the Hays city limits.

That exploratory process was going along when it suddenly was put on the fast track. That is because Kansas City Power & Light just put out a request for proposals for a 100-megawatt wind farm. KCP&L's urgency to invest in wind energy stems from Kansas regulatory approval of the utility's plan to add to its coal-fired electricity generation.

KCP&L wants the wind energy online by Oct. 1, 2006.

That short schedule potentially puts Disgen and the Ellis County project in a favorable position. Disgen already has done considerable preliminary work and rates the wind here as excellent. (Of course, we could have told them that.) Absent significant local objection, Disgen could get the wind farm done on KCP&L's schedule.

If it were to win the bid, which would be announced Oct. 7, Disgen would construct a wind farm of from 40 to 50 turbines. KCP&L would own the wind farm.

Wind farms are a winning economic development in Ellis County and for anywhere in western Kansas for several reasons.

First is the effect on the economy. It would not be huge, but construction of the wind farm would provide a short-term benefit. Long-term a wind farm would create seven to 10 jobs, though relatively high-paid ones.

Second is revenue into local government. Wind farms are exempt from personal property tax in Kansas, but typically they make payments in lieu of taxes as a gesture of good citizenship. Disgen is proposing a wind farm here make payments to Ellis County on par with the $300,000 a year that Gray County collects for a similar-sized wind farm near Dodge City

Third is the benefit to landowners. They negotiate a payment when the turbines are constructed and then receive royalties. Meanwhile they can continue to farm or ranch around the towers. It is a new value-added revenue stream to supplement farmers' and ranchers' base.

Finally important is the value of developing a clean, renewable energy source.

While the unrelenting wind here can sometimes be a nuisance, energy generation turns it into a natural resource. When we live in what has been called the Mideast of windenergy, we should capitalize on the economic opportunities wind offers.

Not everyone looks at it that way, which is why wind energy projects are stalled in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas, where more people are objecting to it. They think that wind turbines disrupt the visual environment.

That's fine. We'll take them.

We have some broad vistas that would require a lot more than a cluster of 50 wind turbines to clutter the landscape.

Some people, on the contrary, find them to be fascinating, even elegant. They seem more so than the oil wells that dot our landscape now.

Actually, the Ellis County location could be ideal. Some of the wind farm likely would be visible looking to the southwest from the edge of Hays but not so close that they could possibly spoil the sunsets.

Fort Hays State University might even benefit with a couple turbines of its own to help power the campus.

Pending agreement on a fair payment in lieu of taxes with the Ellis County Commission, we cannot see any negatives to this proposal. It is positive, nontraditional economic development that local leaders should support and encourage.

Editorial by John D. Montgomery

e-mail at jmont@dailynews.net

 


Wind farm a prospect

Stacie R. Sandall
Hays Daily News, August 9, 2005

Not long from now, Hays might have a breath of fresh air.

A Lakewood, Colo., company has been working on planting a wind farm west of Hays for two years, and Director of Business Development Eric Simons thinks the company finally is close to making it a reality.

Representatives from Disgen, or Distributed Generation Systems Inc., made a presentation of their proposal during Monday's Ellis County Commission meeting. The background and plan also were presented at a noon meeting of the Hays Rotary Club.

The meteorological tower for their research is 3 miles south and 1 mile west of Yocemento, which is west of Hays, and the wind farm would be in that general area.

"The actual data shows that there is wind here in Hays. The project itself is capable of being approximately 200 megawatts," Simons said.

The current project can be anywhere up to 200 megawatts, but the company is focusing on a 100-megawatt project for now.

Krista Gordon, manager of power engineering for Disgen, said requests for proposals will be sent out by a regional utility for 100 megawatts of power. Once that request goes out, wind power developers have 30 days to respond with their proposals. The utility will analyze the proposals and select a developer.

Disgen came to the county commission for its support in the endeavor, and that is what the company got.

Simons said wind power is one of the cheaper and cleaner forms of energy. Wind is a free and inexhaustible resource, he said.

"Electricity is produced at wind speeds greater than 8 miles per hour. When the wind turns the blades of the turbines, a generator attached to the turbine's main shaft rotates and produces electricity. It is delivered to a utility system through a substation," Simons said during his presentation.

The structures cause little disturbance to plants or animals, he said. They put out noise at about 45 decibels, or just above a whisper. They are usually arranged in strings and have no overhead wire. The total height to the blade tip measures around 400 feet.

"The number of turbines we put up depends on the size of the turbines we select for the project," Gordon said. "The largest turbine is a 3-megawatt. We will chose the best turbines for the site."

Simons said the company's "rule of thumb" is to locate the turbines at least a half-mile from any residence.

Simons told the commission there are many advantages to establishing a wind farm west of Hays, the primary benefit being the economic development of rural areas.

Landowners potentially can bring in close to $10,000 during the 35-year life span of the project, he said. Electricity generated in a year could amount to $7,884, and the landowner's annual royalty would be an estimated $276.

Other revenue to the area would come from construction jobs generated from the project; operation and maintenance jobs; increase in sales at restaurants, motels and recreational vehicle parks; and the turbine fuel usage.

The project would benefit local governments with payments in lieu of taxes.

"Kansas has exemptions for wind projects from property taxes, but economic development is something the wind industry takes pride in. We're not out to pillage the local community. We would make a payment to the county instead of pay taxes," Gordon said.

Simons also said wind energy is in the national interest.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather be producing energy from our own resources than be reliant on foreign sources of energy. I believe that's in the national interest," he said.

The cost to install the 100-megwatt project is estimated at $150 million.

If the deal is closed by the end of 2006, the project would be eligible for tax credits.

Because the land would not change from agricultural use, a land-use change would not be required.

Reporter Stacie R. Sandall can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 136, or by e-mail at ssandall@dailynews.net.


FHSU looks into wind farm

Mike Corn
Hays Daily News, August 15, 2005

A proposed wind farm west of Hays could include one or more wind generators that could help supply power to Fort Hays State University.

That partnership would make FHSU one of the first - if not the first - university in the Midwest venturing into the business of wind generation.

And likely, the university would develop a curriculum, possibly in concert with either a vocational-technical school or a community college, on wind energy management or technology.

The shape of the project, however, depends on a number of factors, according to FHSU President Edward Hammond.

Most likely, the university would purchase one or more turbines to supply the electricity.

The most pressing issue is the "request for proposals" for a wind generation facility by Kansas City Power and Light. That Kansas City, Mo.-based entity has developed an energy plan that calls for the expansion of coal-fired generation capabilities and the development of a wind-generation facility.

Disgen - Distributed Generations Systems Inc., a Lockwood, Colo.-based firm - has been working behind the scenes for two years now to determine if the Hays area is suitable for a wind farm. Data obtained in that time is showing that an area west of Hays would be suitable.

That data shows the capability of producing up to 200 megawatts of electricity.

The company, however, is currently looking at a 100-megawatt project, the size of the project that KCP&L is looking to purchase.

The scope of the project for FHSU will in part depend on what KCP&L decides to do.

That RFP and the extension of the federal utility act - ensuring the continuation of tax credits for wind-generated electricity - put the project on the fast track, Hammond said.

Disgen's response to the request from the Kansas City utility company is due Sept. 9.

"They believe having the university involved will help the RFP," Hammond said this morning.

For Hammond, it's also an issue of being able to hold the line in terms of utility costs for the university.

He said the university about three years ago started looking at alternative sources of energy after changes were made in how Midwest Energy charged for electricity. FHSU installed diesel generators to help with peak loads, but continued to search for alternative solutions.

"We thought wind energy was the best," he said.

The university was prepared to strike a deal with investors for the construction of wind turbines when it learned that Disgen was working to lease land in the area.

FHSU has land in the immediate vicinity of the wind farm, a higher ridge of land that is relatively unobstructed.

Today, the university is talking with Disgen concerning a possible extension of that group's wind farm.

Electricity generated by the university's turbines could either feed directly into the university system or feed into the electricity grid that supplies the area.

If KCP&L signs off on the plan, it could provide another option in terms of what could be done with any excess electricity generated. Hammond said he has already been in contact with Midwest Energy concerning the project.

There's been no official discussions with the Kansas Board of Regents concerning the possibility of FHSU putting up the turbines, but Hammond said he has been discussing the possibility of a project with the state department of administration. He said the Regents were aware of his interest in wind-generated electricity.

Likely, Hammond will broach the issue when the Regents meet in September.

"We don't have a plan to propose to them at this time," he said.

For now, Hammond said they have to ensure that embarking on such a project is in the best interest of the university.

"And I think it will be," he said, noting the steady increase in energy costs.

Managing editor Mike Corn can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 129, or by e-mail at mcorn@dailynews.net.