As the turbine blades turned in the background, Buckeye Wind Energy Center was declared officially online.
Gov. Sam Brownback and other state and county leaders attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning at the center northwest of Hays.
Alvin Armbrister owns land where some of the turbines are located, and he’s been looking forward to this day for some time.
“It’s the best thing that’s happened to Ellis County. It brings revenue into the county,” he said.
The county and Buckeye signed an agreement for payments in lieu of taxes. The county will receive $600,000 for each of the first two years, increasing to $800,000 for the third year, and increasing 1 percent annually after that, according to a previous story in The Hays Daily News.
During the next 20 years, Invenergy expects “to pay out $30 million to the landowners and $17 million to the county,” said Kelly Meyer, Invenergy vice president of development.
The county already has received its first payment, Ellis County Commission Chairwoman Marcy McClelland said.
“It’s a long-awaited day for over 100 property owners in Ellis County,” she said.
Landowners also receive a semi-annual payment from the energy company.
“The way the prices are right now, it’s a godsend,” Armbrister said.
The 25,000-acre center developed, owned and operated by Invenergy, includes 112 GE 1.7X100 turbines and has a 200-megawatt capacity.
The project began in 2008, and “it’s been a long road. The community support here does stand out,” Meyer said.
It’s a challenge to get big investments in rural areas, and wind energy is a good fit, Brownback said.
The state is growing rapidly as a wind energy state and needs to develop more transmission lines.
“Twenty-one percent of the energy produced in Kansas is through wind, and the number is going up. Wind is a great opportunity for Kansas,” he said.
“We’re very proud to have Invenergy right here in Ellis County. Ellis County is the state’s largest oil producer, and we now have a substantial investment in the future of renewable energy,” said Rep. Sue Boldra,R-Hays.
The number might not be large, but wind energy does bring jobs and families — which also helps school districts, said Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell.
The center could have as many as 12 full-time employees. Approximately 350 jobs were needed during peak construction.
“There’s so much interest in wind energy,” Ostmeyer said.