Purchase photos

Invenergy throws hat into wind farm ring

7/13/2008

By KALEY LYON

By KALEY LYON

klyon@dailynews.net

As Iberdrola's plans continue for a proposed wind farm west of Hays and two other wind farms in Ellis County, another company is pursuing plans for an operation north of town.

Denver-based Invenergy Wind LLC is working to gauge landowner support, and has been encouraged by local interest, said Mark Jacobson, director of business development.

"We've had a very good participation rate so far," Jacobson said. "We still have some more work to go, but we are very encouraged with the participation that we've had to date."

At the June 25 Ellis County Joint Planning Commission meeting, the company requested permission to install a meteorological tower for the purpose of collecting wind data in the possible project site.

Planning commissioners unanimously agreed to recommend approval of the conditional use permit by the county commission. The application will come before the county commission Monday.

Jacobson said the planning is still in the early stages, and declined to give specifics on the project location.

Invenergy, with national headquarters in Chicago, is the largest American-owned, independent wind developer in the U.S. and has purchased enough General Electric 1.5-megawatt wind turbines to generate more than 2,000 megawatts. The turbines are to be used between 2008 and 2010 in development projects throughout the nation.

"We're looking for homes for them," he said.

It usually takes between three and five years for a wind project to become a reality, and plans for the project near Hays are just beginning.

It remains unclear how many turbines would need to be constructed or how many megawatts the company hopes to produce. As with any project, however, the company hopes to produce as many as it can sell to utilities, and companies prefer to buy megawatts in blocks of 100, he said.

Jacobson said that many landowners in the area have expressed interest in entering agreements, and the company still is working to establish agreements with these individuals.

"We are excited about trying to make a project work here in Ellis County," he said. "Maybe even in a neighboring county."

The company also hopes to obtain enough acreage to allow room for future expansion, and possibly multiple phases of construction, he said.

While the company currently has obtained a project area large enough for a "good-sized project," a larger area would be ideal to ensure future growth, Jacobson said.

"We want to make sure, as all wind companies do, that we are looking to the future. We want to make sure we have enough land for future expansion too," he said.

"We don't have enough right now for all of the phases that we think this area's capable of over the next 10-20 years," he added.

"Certainly, we do have enough for a good-sized project right now, for phase one," Jacobson said. "So that's encouraging. We've got a lot of people who are interested in working with us."

The company also is eying other opportunities in the state of Kansas, but has made the Ellis County location its primary focus in the state, he said.

At this point, the company is working closely with landowners, but also plans to educate the public as the project develops, Jacobson said.

"Once that stage is completed in developing the landowner team, then we have public meetings that are open for long Q-and-A sessions to answer any questions someone might have about our company, our development plans and wind energy in general," he said. "There are usually several of those that occur during development plans."