OwnEnergy, Farmers Union explain community wind projects at Kansas meetings

26 07 2010

FRANKFORT— Kansas Farmers Union and OwnEnergy hosted three wind energy workshops in Kansas in July.

“We’ve formed a pretty unique relationship between National Farmers Union and OwnEnergy,” Guy Rusche, Project Development Specialist for National Farmers Union, said. “With that unique partnership, I think there’s some long term incentives not only for us but for the state Farmers Union organizations to talk about wind with community members and advance our cause to discuss completion of development of a lot more community wind projects.”

The first meeting was in Courtland on July 13 with about 30 in attendance. Then in Dodge City on July 14, which was unsuccessful. The last meeting was held on July 15 in Frankfort with 40 in attendance.

“The meetings were successful in getting landowners excited about wind development in their back yard,” Christine Karlovic, Senior Business Manager with OwnEnergy, said. “We learned that there are many misconceptions about wind development and hope we can address them and bring clarity to communities.”

The meetings included wonderful meals from local restaurants, courtesy of National Farmers Union and OwnEnergy, and a presentation by Rusche, Russ Laplante and Nathan Vajdos, both Project Developers for OwnEnergy.

OwnEnergy focuses on developing community wind projects, instead of absentee-owned wind, which allows land owners and their communities to become involved with the project and receive more profits in the long run.

“We have local partners who are actively involved in the development process and have an ownership interest in the project in addition to the traditional wind lease,” Laplante said. “We involve more locals in the development process and keep more of the economics in the local community.”

Laplante said wind projects bring economic development, promote rural economic development, fight climate change, create greater energy security and independence and create stability in our energy prices.

“In addition to agriculture, now landowners have a new crop and its wind energy, and there are landowners that are making a lot of money off this, which is a good thing,” Laplante said.

Kansas utilities have been mandated to buy a percentage of their electricity from wind power, Laplante said.

“One reason we’re doing a lot of business here is because we think there’s going to be a lot of opportunity in the state of Kansas over the next 10 years,” Laplante said.

In 2009 Kansas utilities bought 1,000 megawatts of wind power or 10 percent of Kansas’ peak load.

By 2020 Kansas will have to double its amount of wind power to meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

“You (Kansas) have the potential to have a multiple of 12 of that, so that’s a heck of a lot,” Vajdos said. “That’s good for Kansas because you can develop it in state and people outside the state get to buy your power. So that’s good news for everybody, if you like keeping dollars in your state.”

During a typical project for absentee ownership creates 10,000 jobs during construction period and $1.7 billion of economic impact, Laplante said.

“We’re going to generate close to two times the amount of jobs and create two times the amount of economic benefit from doing the community wind style project,” Laplante said. “Community wind keeps more jobs in state and more economic benefits in state because we hire local folks.”

Vajdos said about 50 to 100 acres per megawatt is needed, although the wind turbines only take one to two acres out of production.

Another qualification for a wind project is wind speed. Vajdos said 18 mph wind measured at 80 meters is considered “competitive wind.”

Another crucial part of the development process is finding someone to buy the power the wind turbine creates.

OwnEnergy wants to insure someone will buy the power before building a wind energy project.

“We’re going to begin with the end in mind,” Vajdos said. “We’re comfortable in our ability to get it done, we just want to know that it makes financial sense when we get to that point.”

During the development process and before construction begins, which is typically 3 to 10 years, OwnEnergy will “compensate” land owners “on a per acre basis,” Laplante said.

KFU President Donn Teske highly suggested that land owners looking at entering a legal agreement for a wind project have a lawyer look over all lease agreements and other documents before signing.

If a land owner is interested in a community wind project, Laplante said OwnEnergy can perform a desktop study by sending him a map of your land.

“We can take a look at it for wind and transmission access to see if it’s a potential viable place for a project,” Laplante said.

Vajdos and Laplante stressed that wind energy is very different than the oil and gas industry.

“Its really hard to compare the two. Its a much higher risk profile for oil and gas,” Laplante said.

“In the wind business it doesn’t take 2 to 3 million dollars to get total depth. In the oil and gas business you only have 20 to 30 percent success rate, even if you’re good,” Vajdos said. “Wind power is not always more expensive, its just not. Wind is a real solution long term for our country because its not just always more expensive.”




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: