Local winds blow in economic development

opinions

May 9, 2017 - 12:00 AM

A gaggle of hypersensitive folks in Anderson County who thought permitting a wind farm in their neck of the woods would ruin its pristine appearance got their wish. Calpine, a Houston energy company, has said sayonara.
Anderson County is running counter to a trend that has made Kansas the fifth biggest U.S. producer of wind power. Fact is, the Associated Press reported, new wind farms brought online this year or planned for later this year will quadruple wind generation in Kansas.
Allen County, if all goes well, is on track to cash in on two new wind energy companies. CDL Renewables is in the process of obtaining options on up to 20,000 acres in the northeast part of Allen; NextEra is doing the same in Bourbon and southeast Allen.
Next to no opposition has arisen during several county planning commission meetings to flesh rules and regulations CDL, Next-Era or any other energy company will have to obey. The document ensures buffers between turbines and homes — those on leased land and also on land not part of a project — as well as agreement to leave roads, bridges, fences and fields at least as well-maintained as they were found.
Those anxious about the project have said the 500-foot towers will make living nearby unbearable — both visually and from the noise they create.
Those and other arguments are valid, but there comes a time when progress can’t be derailed to the advantage of a few. It’s called accepting what is for the common good.
Economic development is a watchword at all levels of government, and even detractors would have to agree that wind farms are going to improve the economic well-being of all Allen Countians.
Construction crews, similar to those that put in the Enbridge pipeline and pumping station, will be paid good wages, and will spend money on food, lodging and undoubtedly other things sold by area merchants.
Once turbines are operating, landowners who hold leases will reap annual payments that will supplement their incomes, always a welcome aside on the farm.
Finally, the county itself will benefit.
Kansas gave wind farms a lifetime property tax exemption when they first started showing up in the state, but now it is for 10 years. Before turbines go on the tax rolls, the county will receive a payment in lieu of taxes.
In Coffey County, for a farm in the Waverly neighborhood, the first year payment was nearly $500,000. Something similar can be expected for Allen.
Fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — remain a huge part of our energy mix. As time goes on renewable fuels — wind and solar, and who knows what else — will have more of a presence.
Renewable energy doesn’t emit offensive gases that endanger the ozone layer high above Earth, and at some point in time we will pay more attention to  the hazards of global warming.
Meanwhile, Kansas is fast becoming a leader in wind power generation, and our getting in early is to Allen County’s very distinct advantage.

— Bob Johnson

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