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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Hearing set on changes in wind development process

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  • A change in the process for British Petroleum, or any energy company to apply to develop a wind energy project in Pratt County, is ready for a public review.
    A public comment time is set for Monday, May 20 and the public is invited to attend and share opinions on the change in process.
    After the May meeting, if the new process is approved it will go to the County Commissioners for a vote for approval. If it needs more work, it will be revised and resubmitted to the Board until it meets approval and is sent to the Commissioners for a final vote.
    When BP originally applied to the Pratt County Planning and Zoning Board to develop a wind farm in Pratt County, both sides could have done a better job, said Zoning Board President Kent Moore.
    The Board approved the resolution to make the change at the April Board meeting.
    None of the county application requirements have changed but the process for developing a wind energy plan has been modified from a one-step to a two-step process, Moore said.
    When BP withdrew its application to the Board they wanted some changes made in the process. The Board instructed Pratt County Counselor Bob Schmisseur and Bickley Foster of Foster & Associates, who helped develop county zoning regulations, to prepare a restructured process.
    The new process changes the process for developing a wind farm including time for two public comment sessions instead of one, Moore said.
    Developing a wind farm in Pratt County has drawn both positive and negative reactions from not only the landowners in the lease area, about 20,000 acres for 95 generators each 400 feet tall, but from other residents in the county.
    Like any other energy source, wind energy has its pros and cons and those have been discussed in Pratt County for many months since the proposal first came to light.
    Wind farms can bring financial benefits to landowners in the form of lease agreements, said Ruth Miller, Kansas State University associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
    It can also bring economic benefits to the county and community during construction. It takes several years to get all the leases signed then it takes more time to do the actual construction.
    During that time all those workers spend a lot of time in the community eating at restaurants, buying fuel and living in motels.
    Even with the upfront construction costs, wind energy is the second cheapest new energy source after natural gas.
    Besides the financial benefits, the environment gains as well. Wind energy produces no pollution plus the wind is free. Wind doesn't go away so it will be around for many generations.
    Page 2 of 3 - "Wind is a clean energy, Miller said. "It's an insurance to your grandchildren that we will keep this world as we got it and give it to them."
    No energy source is perfect and wind has some drawbacks as well. Since the wind doesn't blow all the time, power plants that use other energy sources have to be on standby and ready to ramp up, said Greg Bacon, member of Citizens for Responsible Development, an organization of landowners in the proposed Pratt County wind farm area that seeks to make sure that all property owners are considered during negotiations and that BP follows all county regulations.
    "We just want to make sure BP follows the rules and the county protects people that don't want to participate," Bacon said.
    Since the wind doesn't blow all the time, wind generators seldom produce their nameplate capacity, sometimes reaching only 30 percent of their total capability.
    Wind generators eventually wear out. Depending on the source, the generators can last from 10 years to 15 years or 15 years to 20 years. But eventually they do wear out and they have to be taken down at a cost of $1 million per unit, Bacon said.
    Like any machine, wind turbines can break down and sometimes catch fire. Putting out that fire can be a difficult task.
    Wind turbines are tall structures. At 400 feet from ground to the top of a blade when it sticks straight up in the air, it changes the landscape for a substantial amount of time. Some do not want the view of the open expanse of the prairie interrupted with wind turbines.
    Noise can also be an issue with wind turbines although technology is making them quieter.
    Positives
    • A green energy source and doesn't cause pollution.
    • Wind is everywhere so the potential is great.
    • A renewable source and it doesn't run out.
    • Costs are decreasing with advancing technology.
    • Increased demand is driving cost down.
    • Residential kits are becoming more affordable.
    • Financial benefits to landowners.
    • Financial benefits to community during construction.
    • Small carbon footprint.
    • Works with other sources of energy production.
    Negatives
    • Requires a lot of land for a wind farm.
    • Wind is unpredictable and not as reliable as other sources.
    • Wind farm development is expensive and incentives are often required for building.
    • Noise pollution is a chief complaint.
    • Many don't like aesthetics of having wind generators across the landscape.
    Page 3 of 3 - • Flying animals can impact rotor blades.
    • Tubines only operate at 30 percent capacity.
    • Lightning can damage blades.
    • Local regulations can restrict construction.
    Source: energyinformative.org and others
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