At long last, Ellis County is in the wind business. On Thursday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to declare the Buckeye Wind Energy Center officially online.

Owned and operated by Invenergy, the largest independent wind power generation company in North America, the Buckeye wind farm is 112 turbines spread across 25,000 acres west of Hays. With 200 megawatts of capacity, most of which will be sold to Lincoln (Neb.) Electric System, the renewable energy produced here represents a small portion of the 9,100 MW Invenergy produces worldwide via wind, solar and natural gas.

The Buckeye farm will play no small part in the local economy, however.

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 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. The first PILOT already has been received by the Ellis County Commission.

“We’re very proud to have Invenergy right here in Ellis County,” said Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays. “Ellis County is the state’s largest oil producer, and we now have a substantial investment in the future of renewable energy.”

Gov. Sam Brownback thought enough of Invenergy’s first foray into the state of Kansas that he attended last week’s ceremony as well.

“Twenty-one percent of the energy produced in Kansas is through wind, and the number is going up,” Brownback said. “Wind is a great opportunity for Kansas.”

We appreciate Invenergy’s patience and commitment to Ellis County. The project began in 2008, and “it’s been a long road,” Meyer said.

The Invenergy executive noted the strong community support for the project, which was not always the case. Other renewable energy companies simply gave up when confronted with the numerous roadblocks that used to exist such as anti-wind commissioners, no county administrator to work with, and NIMBY activists who had a laundry list full of imaginary ill effects.

It is a new era, indeed. We welcome Invenergy to the Ellis County community, and look forward to a long and prosperous relationship.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry