The wind pays off for towns in southwest Kansas

By Scott Aust Staff writer saust@gctelegram.com

The wind has been so good for Wichita County, residents they celebrate it every year with a Wind and Wheels Festival.

From transporting parts for construction to the sprawling wind farms that dot once-sprawling pasture land on the high plains, wind power has been an economic boost to landowners, libraries, hospitals and fire departments in communities across southwest Kansas.

Kansas now ranks third in the nation for wind as a share of total evergy production and fifth for capacity of installed projects, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Southwest Kansas, especially, is benefitting from the wind with big local impacts:

GRANT/HASKELL COUNTIES

Facility: Buffalo Dunes (2013), operated by Enel GreenPower (Italy); 250 megawatts, 135 turbines.

Econmic impact$440,000 per year in payments for Grant County, called PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes).

Wind farm in Montezuma

Wind turbines in a field Monday, Feb 8, 2016 in Montezuma.

GRAY COUNTY

Facilities: Four wind farms, all owned by NextEra Energy Resources

  • Gray County Wind Farm, near Montezuma (2001), generates 112.2 MW from 170 turbines.
  • Cimarron I (2012), 72 turbines, 165-MW.
  • Cimarron II (2012), 57 turbines, 131.1-MW .
  • Ensign Wind project (2012), 43 turbines, 99 MW.

Economic impact: Gray County estimates a $1.3 million impact in 2018 for libraries, schools, hospitals and fire departments. Gray County's 2017 budget alone listed $658,592 in revenue from wind energy companies.

wichita co wind farm2

The sun sets behind a row of turbines on a wind farm in Wichita County. Once built, mainly on wind farms, turbines are becoming an economical source of energy for schools.

Wichita County

Facility: Central Plains Wind Farm (2009), Westar Energy, 33 turbines, 99 MW on about 6,000 acres of land near Marienthal.

Economic impact: Westar Energy pays about $500,000 per year in royalties to landowners and another estimated $250,000 per year in payment in lieu of taxes to the county. Diana Kirk, Wichita County economic development director, said Westar helps promote community events and works with local EMS and firefighters to practice extraction and rescue at the wind farm.

Quote: "I do know there are people who would love to have more of it out here. It's a good deal," Kirk said. "We have an abundance of wind in our area."