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Activity picks up as moratorium ends -- Two up, one down

Two Kansas wind projects received the go-ahead in February, but a third was denied by a local county commission because it failed to meet the county's long term plans. Of the two successful projects, a 30 MW wind farm near Leoti by Sunflower Electric Power Corporation is the most immediate. The 100 MW Elk River wind farm proposed by Greenlight Energy Inc and approved by commissioners on a three to two vote, is set for completion in 2004.

Sunflower, a publicly owned generation and transmission organisation with six member co-operatives in western Kansas, expects its project to be online by the end of the year. Being developed by Central Plains Power LLC, a subsidiary of Renewable Energy Systems (RES) North America, it could be expanded to 100 MW as additional customers sign on. RES, a British developer, must still gain regulatory approvals from the Rural Utilities Service and the Kansas Corporation Commission.

"After a thorough analysis, we believe this is in the best interest of our ratepayers," says Sunflower Electric's Steve Miller. The cost of wind is not only lowered by the production tax credit (PTC), but by a Kansas incentive that exempts wind facilities from property taxes.

committing to more

Sunflower currently owns 595 MW in generating resources, including 360 MW of coal and the rest natural gas. Miller says Sunflower will have to assess how well wind integrates into its generation and transmission system before committing to more. "This is the most we can deal with now until we deal with it in real time and determine the real price," he says.

The Elk River project is in the southern Flint Hills of Butler County, a remote area but one with easy access to transmission. Approval is for 100 turbines to give better flexibility in siting them, says developer Jeff Schlichting.

Meantime, on the south east side of the state, Butler County commissioners voted four to one against a request by Kansas Windpower LLC, a company devoted solely to developing wind power in Kansas, and Padoma Windpower to build their 102 MW Leon wind farm. According to one commissioner, the project is located in an area closed to development by the county's long term plan.

The interest in building in the area occurs as the county lifts a moratorium on wind power development. Once a project is denied, however, it is prohibited from reapplying for a permit for one year, according to Kansas Windpower's Mandi Rudd, who adds that the company does not know why the permit was denied since it worked closely with county staff to meet county requirements. Kansas Windpower has at least one other project in the works that could still be completed by the end of 2003 to take advantage of the PTC.

Meanwhile, the fact that the proposed Leon project was within sight of housing spurred a state legislator from Butler County to introduce in February a bill that would remove the exemption for property taxes on turbines in the state. While there is little chance the bill would be seriously considered, its passage would certainly harm Kansas wind power.

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