Kansas wind moving in the right direction

Wind power continues to sweep across the United States as one of the fastest growing sources of electrical generation. And while Kansas ranks as the top three in wind potential development in this nation, our state ranks twelfth in actual wind production.

In today?s wind energy game, states like Minnesota, Iowa, Oregon and Texas remain the clear leaders.

?Kansas is moving in the right direction however, we?re a little behind at this time,? says Mike Irvin, Kansas Farm Bureau Legal Foundation.

Irvin continues to chart and research the growth of U.S. wind power.

?We?re finally starting to say ?yea? wind affords us a great economic and rural development opportunity,? Irvin says.

Others see wind energy projects as one solution to bolster sagging rural communities or an option for farmers seeking to hedge their bets in the risky business of agriculture.

Wind energy can stimulate the local economy by creating new jobs, new business opportunities and bringing new investment to a community. These projects can also produce more involvement from community members.

Such economic development allows investment dollars to remain local.

It also has the potential to build a new industry for rural communities that is compatible with agricultural.

For farmers and landowners, wind energy production is somewhat of an unknown commodity. Many have been inundated with development companies seeking to secure land for wind development.

Before entering into an agreement or contract with such companies, Irvin recommends landowners consult an attorney. Such agreements tend to be long term ? between 20 and 150 years.

?You have to be concerned about the present value of money being offered by wind developers,? Irvin cautions. ?A lease price today, for example, may amount to very little in the future.

?You also have to understand that the contract you draw up today will impact your children, grandchildren and even your great grandchildren.?

There are lots of dollars that go into these wind farms?projects range from $150-$250 million, Irvin says.

?It?s critical for landowners to enter into a contract only after they?ve done their due diligence to ensure the contract is a good one that will pay you fairly throughout the lifetime of the contract,? Irvin says.

Wind energy development comes with its own set of challenges, Irvin says. One of the main hurdles is electrical transmission. Large-scale development of wind energy is dependent on the availability of power lines to transport the electricity to urban areas such as Topeka, Wichita, Kansas City and even going across the border and possibly supplying Denver and Colorado Springs.

This presents a real challenge for wind energy because most of the country?s best wind resources areas are in rural regions that have little need for large amounts of new electricity generation. The current transmission infrastructure was not built to move large amounts of electricity from rural windy areas. Upgrading this transmission system can be a slow, expensive and contentious process.

Currently Kansas does not have any state regulations regarding wind energy development. This is left entirely up to local governments and counties. They decide how, when and where wind energy will be developed.

One Kansas county has banned wind energy development after several years of planning to secure such a project by landowners in the region. Additional local action like this in other parts of Kansas has the potential to scare away some developers in the future, according to Irvin.

Developers want to know what they can expect and the guidelines before they come into a county. This is where it?s vital that landowners come together and talk about the rules for development of wind energy in their county.

?Typically farmers and landowners are very independent and private with information concerning their operations,? Irvin says.

?This is one of those situations where producers should work with other landowners as well as their attorneys and gather everyone together to hammer out expectations for an agreement that will best serve everyone and their community.?

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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