Lenexa energy company begins collecting wind data near Tampa

Standing almost 200 feet high, this meteorological tower, is one of five in Marion County located about 8 miles west of Tampa, said Brice Barton, senior development director with Trade­wind Energy, based in Lenexa. The MET tower is alternating with red and white paint and collects wind speed, velocity and directional data. Tradewind Energy of Lenexa completed installation of five meteorological towers, also known as MET towers, more than a month ago in Marion County.

Brice Barton, senior development director with Tradewind Energy, said the MET towers, 197 feet tall with red and white alternating paint and guy wires, measures wind speed, velocity and direction.

“The towers are permitted, installed and now are collecting data,” he said. “They will collect this data for months, if not years.”

By collecting one year at least, Barton said, they will know the towers are doing their job.

Data is collected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each night the information is transmitted to a data center.

After receiving the data, Barton said a team of meteorologists working at Trade­wind Energy evaluate the information.

The Diamond Vista Wind project could span across Marion, McPherson and Dickinson counties with 130 to 150-plus landowners involved, he said.

“We look all over the state at citing criteria, wind resource, environmental, interconnection (power to the grid) and weather already developed there,” Barton said.

“Once we identify an area, we check it out and talk to four or five landowners in that area to get a feel for acceptance of a wind project in their area,” he said.

After a “kick up” leasing campaign, the ground is leased and the MET towers are started and installed, he said.

Leasing starts by marketing the project to off-takers, who can use electricity and typically are negotiated prior to building a wind farm without power being sold, Barton said.

“We ground truth it,” he said.

In states like Texas and some other markets, they build wind towers and then sell to the highest bidder.

In Kansas, Barton said, his company does a purchase power agreement, or PPA, which is a contract between two parties with one generating the electricity and the other looking to purchase it.

“That’s how we sell power to the different utilities, like the Cimarron-Bend project in Clark County,” he said. “We will sell 200 megawatts to the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities and the other 200 mega­watts will go to Google.”

To illustrate the power of 200 megawatts, Barton said the city of Hillsboro probably buys from a cooperative because small towns use maybe a couple of megawatt hours.

“We are on a lot larger scale,” he said.

The five MET towers are verifying the local wind resource, which is a guarantee of a fuel source wind farm.

“Fuel is wind, so in order to finance it and order turbines, we would have to prove how the wind blows across the site, and the wind speed which is how we get wind turbines to spin,” he said.

A public hearing with the Marion County Planning and Zoning Commission with Tradewind Energy’s request for a conditional use permit was March 2 at the Marion County Community Center.

The commission approved the MET towers, but said if Tradewind Energy wanted to consider a wind farm, it would need to request another hearing.

At the March 2 meeting, one member stated there were no guarantees that a wind farm would be approved, but Barton said that was understood.

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