Wind developer says it may lease more land here than first planned
By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor
County commissioners learned a tantalizing piece of information in a phone call Monday morning with the development manager of a proposed wind farm in Republic and Washington counties.
Sam Massey, development manager in Kansas for NextEra Energy, told the board the company has 40,000 acres under lease, and another 13,000 acres near agreement. “But they also said they may be able to get up to 100,000 acres leased between the two counties, best case scenario,” said Luke Mahin, Republic County economic development director. “Most 200 megawatt wind farms are situated on about 40,000 acres, so that means they could be thinking a bigger project for this area.”
Commissioners said NextEra’s land acquisition efforts are equally divided between Republic and Washington counties, and that leasing agents are having a hard time keeping up with finalizing contracts.
“The only complaint I’ve heard is that someone is upset because their neighbors have been offered a lease and they haven’t,” said County Commissioner Ed Splichal. Massey said the company will have a full year’s data from meteorological towers by July.
The company has made application to the Southwest Power Pool, an alliance of 11 regional utilities, the first step to find a buyer for electricity that might be generated here. Kansas Gas and Electric is one of the members of the pool. The pool regulates how much power is needed in the grid. Once the company has power pool approval, it can begin seeking a power purchase agreement.
A buyer for the electricity, and a transmission line to get power to the customer, are necessary pieces for the wind farm to go forward, Massey said. Massey said 2019 or 2020 are target dates for construction of the Republic-Washington project.
Whether the county might receive a payment in lieu of taxes, or whether a wind farm will be taxed as a utility is yet to be determined. “A county agreement is probably premature until we get a purchased power agreement,” Mahin said. “We’re in a holding pattern right now, but from what (Massey) said, it all sounds positive.”