Fort Hays State University has been attempting to harness the wind for at least eight years. Sited in Kansas, the nation's third-ranked state in terms of wind energy potential, the school would appear well-positioned to take advantage of the abundant natural resource.
But FHSU is located in Ellis County. While commercial wind farms have been sprouting like weeds elsewhere in the state, the traditional economic powerhouse in northwest Kansas has been unable to flip the switch on alternative energy. Great organization and targeted tactics in the political arena have rendered the best economic and environmental approaches ineffective.
Fort Hays State has attempted solo pursuits and joint ventures in hopes of expanding its educational offerings as well as reducing its energy bills. Time after time, the efforts have failed. Both the City of Hays and Ellis County have let the wind out of FHSU's sails for a variety of reasons.
But if FHSU President Edward Hammond has demonstrated one prevailing characteristic in his 25 years at the helm, it would be perseverance. Once he's convinced a particular project or program could benefit the school, Hammond will make it happen one way or another.
So we're not surprised the university will be in front of the Ellis County commissioners once again. This time, FHSU seeks permission to place two 450-foot tall turbines on private property some 3.5 miles south of the school. The structures are about the same size as previous proposals, but they are outside the 3-mile buffer zone that only allows 125-foot turbines. The proposed 2.1-megawatt Suzlon turbines will be connected via underground cable. The turbines will provide virtually all of the school's electrical needs and deliver an educational component as well.
The project already has won approval from the county's planning and zoning commission. We'll have to wait and see what the county commission will decide when it hears the request July 16.
We would hope the commission approves the project. If it does, the county will be able to say it didn't blow another chance to take part in the alternative-energy revolution.
If the request is denied, the commission should expect another proposal to surface. President Hammond is persistent.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry