As the wind farm project to the north nears completion, a second wind farm to the south is gaining momentum, and could reasonably get underway in the fall, according to information presented at the Marion County Commission meeting on Monday.
The wind farm to the south was initially started up by Rex and Carol Savage of Florence about a decade ago and was known as Windbourne Energy. In addition, SunWind, owned by Joe Craft, also was on board.
The assets and previous companies were purchased by Expedition Wind Project based in Wayzata, Minn., said Pat Pelstring, representing the company. In August 2018, the county’s planning and zoning department presented two separate conditional use permit (CUP) applications for temporary meteorological towers, known as MET towers, for Expedition Wind.
One of the CUPs was at 100th and Mustang and the second was at 140th and Old Mill Road, according to information from planning and zoning staff.
Pelstring, Troy Bushman, one of the staff members for Expedition Wind, and Trish Voth, an attorney with Foulston Siefkin Legal Group, Wichita, were available to talk with the commission at Monday’s meeting, and answer any questions they might have.
Voth added that she was born and raised in Goessel.
“We have made great progress in the last three to four months,” Pelstring said. “we carried over all Doyle leases and signing of new leases.
“We also added substantial footprint (to the original wind plan).”
The previous wind project encompassed 14,000 areas of the Doyle Creek area, and according to Savage, was an area roughly bordered west of Union Road, south of 130th, east of Old Mill Road and north of 110th.
Bushman said the new footprint is south of US Highway 50 and east of US Highway 77.
“Only 3 percent of tall grass will be affected,” he said. “It is expanded from the original wind farm layout, but not much further west than Mustang and not past 70th.”
Partnering with Expedition Wind, Pelstring said, is ARES of New York, and is providing the development capital for the project.
“ARES is a $112 billion public-owned entity, and they have about 10 gigawatts, (equal to one billion watts) around the country,” he said.
The project will have a permanent staff and office in Marion, he said. Someone needs to help manage the operations, and while it won’t be open five days a week or 40 hours a week, there will be staff available to answer questions.
The conditional use permit is targeted for Feb. 28, notice of the public hearing targeted for publication March 5, and the goal of having the public meeting March 28, Bushman said.
If the CUP is recommended by the planning and zoning board, and the commission approves it in early April, it will supersede the previous CUPs.
“We believe this is a better deal for Marion County, landowners and the project itself,” Pelstring said. “We also believe our reception has been fairly positive.”
The interconnection point is in Butler County, he explained, and the 80 wind turbines will be larger than those originally presented by Windbourne.
The commissioners asked questions ranging from how will the project affect crop spraying in the area and how will farming be for future generations to what length would the contracts be.
Pelstring said a lot of the questions posed by commissioners and some brought up by residents in that area will be answered at the public hearing in late March.
In addition, Pelstring said that Savage has no interest in the current project, but he has been helping and compensated as an agent. As for Joseph Kraft, he said, he also has no interest in the Expedition Wind Project.