Grant Co. to consider major wind farm project

2/3/2012

By JOSEPH JACKMOVICH

By JOSEPH JACKMOVICH

jjackmovich@gctelegram.com

The Grant County Commission on Tuesday is planning to consider a wind farm project that could be worth millions of dollars.

The project, developed by Tradewind Energy of Lenexa, has the potential to be a $600 million development and generate enough power to provide electricity for 65,000 homes if it reaches full capacity. The company has worked more than three years to secure long-term leases for 40,000 acres that could include 100 to 200 turbines across areas of Grant and Haskell counties, with areas of Finney County included for power transmission and interconnection.

Grant County Commission Chairwoman Linda McHenry said that she doesn't anticipate any problems with the agreement to move forward with the development. Haskell County approved the same agreement on Monday.

The size and timeline of the project following approval is largely dependent on finding utility companies to purchase the energy the wind farm would produce. Tradewind Executive Vice President Frank Costanza said that the company has sent out numerous proposals to utility companies, but a final confirmation on power purchasing is still in the works.

One benefit of the proposal for Haskell and Granty counties is that Tradewind will provide them annual payments because wind farms are exempt from property taxes. The payments, called payments in lieu of property tax, or PILOT payments, are set to deliver $3,750 per megawatt per year to the two counties. According to the Grant County Commission, that number means that Grant County will receive about $350,000 in the first year with that amount increasing 2 percent each year for the next 20 years. According to a previous article in The Telegram, the Central Plains Wind Farm in Wichita County, developed by Wind Capital Group, St. Louis, Mo., earns a PILOT payment for the county of $2,500 per megawatt per year.

"These are substantial annual payments," Costanza said.

Land owners also benefit from the proposal as they will receive rent payments for their leased land from Tradewind. Development Manager Brice Barton said that the payments depend on the amount of land leased and the amount of facilities and equipment put on the property. Those values can change as the company always looks for the best places to set up turbines before construction.

"We're always looking for the windiest places," Barton said.

Grant County Commissioner Marty Long said he is hopeful. He said that the additional construction workers in the community would spur growth in local retail establishments through the area, as well as the estimated 10 to 12 full-time workers planned to maintain the wind farm.

"I think it will be a great addition to the community," Long said. "It's a pretty good day for us."

The Grant County Commission meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Grant County Courthouse, 108 S. Glenn St., No. 2, Ulysses.

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