What about wind?

Informational meeting at Cuba draws several hundred listeners


By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor

What’s happening at eye-level can be deceiving.

But at 200 and 250’ in the air there are “good drafts” in Republic County, and that’s why a wind energy developer wants to explore the potential for a farm here, says Doug McKinney, director of North Central Regional Planning.

A standing-room only crowd packed the Cuba Community Hall July 6 for an informational meeting coordinated by Republic County Economic Development.

“At 200’ the wind is almost always blowing,” McKinney said. “The vultures have told us that for years–you can see them ‘rafting’ at a high elevation. The infrastructure for wind energy development has just not been up to par until now.”

McKinney said wind maps commissioned by NCRP in 2010 showed that Albion Township (Narka) has “good solid windspeeds”, and Fairview, Liberty, Farmington and Belleville Townships also show good numbers. In Washington County, Haddam, Coleman, Linn and Sherman townships top the list in the study, an area generally west and south of Washington.

Sam Massey, project director for Kansas development for NextEra Energy said the company is in the “very preliminary stages” to farm is feasible in this area. Company representatives have visited with a number of landowners in Republic and Washington counties to offer options for wind farm development.

Contracts seek to option land for three years, extendable for another three years. Officials Wednesday said it could take several years for Next Era to determine if there is a market for power generated here, and a way to transport the power to customers.

Next Era is the largest renewable energy company based in the US, Massey said.

“We got that way because we work with communities all the time–farmers and ranchers, hunters, and people who use their property for all purposes,” he said.

Massey and other officials said they were surprised at the turnout for the meeting.


Legal considerations

Mike Irvin, director of the Kansas Farm Bureau Legal Foundation walked the crowd through considerations landowners must consider before they sign a wind farm lease.

“The first thing people ask me is “how much money are they going to pay me?” Irvin said. “Let’s not concentrate too much on the money right now–there are other things that are just as important.

“You could be signing a lease for 76 years– you shouldn’t make that decision on the spur of the moment.”

Irvin said before Next Era commits to spending “millions and millions of dollars” they must have an agreement with someone to purchase the power.

“If there’s no one to buy it, they ain’t coming,” he said.

Irvin said he receives calls from landowners all across the state where Next Era is studying development. The other key component to development is a transmission line to carry the energy produced to customers.

“Next Era has been in the state for many, many years,” he said, noting the company owns a wind farm in Gray County built in 2001.

Points landowners should consider in a contract, Irvin said are:

  • Soil compaction from blades, cranes, equipment and traffic on property during construction, as well as access for contractors to make repairs to the turbines.
  • Compensation for transmission lines and substations on property. “Maybe you don’t have a turbine on your property, but you have a transmission line, or what if you host a substation? Are you getting paid adequately for that? It’s going to sit there as long as the wind farm.”
  • If an increase in lease payment is offered over time, Irvin suggests that should be linked to the Consumer Price Index rather than a flat percentage “because we’re talking about such a long time frame.” “Tell me what you paid for a pickup or a tractor 10 years ago–I’ll bet it’s double today,” he said.
  • Liability issues: for damage to wind turbines, hunting, CRP contracts and more.

“It helps you to work together as a community, share information, and work together to get a better contract for all of you,” Irvin said.

For more information: Mike Irvin – Director, Kansas Farm Bureau Legal Foundation, 2627 KFB Plaza, Manhattan, 785.587.6000 ext. 6621 irvinm@kfb.org