By Deb Hadachek – Telescope News
A wind farm project first proposed in Republic County four years ago has picked up speed.
Dan Scheffler, lead project manager for NextEra Energy Resources in Kansas and Missouri, told Republic County Commissioners Monday that the company has representatives in eastern Republic County gauging landowner interest in a 600-megawatt wind farm, transmission line, and substation.
“We’re a little more bullish on this project, because we have access to transmission (line),” Scheffler told the board. The company’s first interest is to build a 50-mile transmission line to the east that would connect to a line that services wind farms in Marshall and Nemaha counties, he said, although there are other options.
The wind farm is targeted to be in operation in 2022 or 2023, Scheffler said. “That’s pretty ambitious for a project of this size,” he said. “We won’t know until we get the landowner piece ironed out.”
He did not identify a potential buyer for power generated in Republic County.
“We made a business decision to take a step back from some of our current leases,” he said. “Some were terminated, but now we’re back, and we’re going to start the process all over again.”
Scheffler said some of the properties leased for the project four years ago will not be pursued because of restrictions by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense.
In general, the company is primarily interested in properties in an area that includes Fairview, Farmington, Richland, Jefferson, Grant and Elk Creek Townships, he said. However, the project is not limited to those townships, he said.
The wind farm could include 200 turbines that are larger, with longer blades, than originally proposed for this area.
He projected the wind farm would employ 15 to 23 people.
“We do not exercise eminent domain,” Scheffler said. He said the company negotiates contracts with landowners who are willing to participate.
“Some folks are completely not interested. We work with everyone, and take calls from (anyone with questions), not just landowners,” he said.
Any tax benefits the county might gain from the wind farm will be discussed in coming months. Scheffler said the company will provide the county an agreement to cover the county’s legal costs to explore its options.
Scheffler said NextEra plans to erect meteorological “met” towers to gather wind speed data in the next month.
Commissioner Edwin Splichal suggested NextEra coordinate a public meeting to discuss the project similar to one that was held in Cuba when the 2016 wind farm was proposed.
“Some people are really excited, some people aren’t sure if they want a tower next to them,” he said.
Scheffler said NextEra owns and operates eight wind farms in Kansas, the oldest built in 2001. Several are in southern and western Kansas; two are in Nemaha and Marshall Counties. The company also operates the Steel Flats wind farm in Jefferson and Gage counties in Nebraska, as well as two projects in Webster and Franklin counties in Nebraska.
NextEra is based in Juno Beach, FL and operates wind and solar energy projects across the US. (www.nexteraenergy. com).
In 2019, the Kansas Department of Commerce said that 12,000 jobs in Kansas are created by wind energy. Projects brought in $12 billion in capital investment and generate $28 million in state and local tax payments. Wind developers paid $20 million in land lease payments in 2018.