Wind energy company NextEra eyeing a Kansas County

Source: By Peter Hancock, Lincoln County Journal • Posted: Monday, December 16, 2013

NextEra Energy Resources, the largest wind energy developer in the United States, said it is in the very early stages of looking at Douglas County as a site for a future wind farm.

“We have talked to some landowners,” said Steve Stengel, a spokesman for the Florida-based company. “We haven’t really even started measuring the wind yet, so it’s a fairly lengthy process.”

Stengel said the company is currently looking for sites to place meteorological towers to measure the wind in the area and determine if it would be economically feasible to build a wind farm here. He said the company also wants to find out if there are enough landowners willing to sell easements on their land for wind turbines to make a project possible.

One landowner who said he has been approached is Gary Dick, who lives near Baldwin City and owns other land in southwest Douglas County.

“I’m probably going to do my level best to keep them out of Douglas County if I can,” Dick said. “I don’t understand why they want to put it in such a populated area. They should be in corn fields and farm fields. There are a lot of houses in this area.”

Dick said a company representative he spoke with told him the structures would be 400 feet tall, from the ground to the edge of a wind blade pointed straight up.

He said the company’s offer called for paying a $1,000 signing bonus, plus $1,000 per year to secure an option for an easement. That would give the company up to six years to execute the option, which would involve a long-term lease for the location of a tower, plus road access to the structure.

He said the company is looking at an area in southern Douglas County, generally between U.S. Highway 59 and Overbrook in Osage County.

Stengel did not confirm those details.

He said NextEra currently has wind energy developments in more sparsely populated western Kansas. But he said the company is always looking for new potential sites, and one of the factors it considers is the cost of transmitting wind-generated power to population centers where energy is needed.

Douglas County commissioners voted this week to impose a moratorium through April 30 on any development applications for wind farms to give county officials time to draft zoning regulations that would apply specifically to them.

Stengel, however, said it would probably take a minimum of two years before NextEra might be ready to submit an application.