Kansas's Largest Wind Energy Farm Dedicated to Power on the Prairie
Public officials and energy industry representatives joined hundreds of local schoolchildren and their families in central Kansas to dedicate on May 11, 2006 the state's newest wind energy farm, the Elk River Wind Power Project. The "Power on the Prairie" ceremony also included the announcement of $100,000 in funding for prairie chicken research at Kansas State University (KSU).
"The Elk River wind power plant represents a major step forward in the development of renewable energy in Kansas," said Raimund Grube, vice president of PPM WindPower. "The benefits of projects like Elk River are immense -- contributions to rural economies, jobs, and above all, clean, cost-competitive wind power."
Owned by Portland, Ore.-based PPM Energy (PPM), ScottishPower's (NYSE:SPI) competitive U.S. energy business, Elk River uses 100 GE 1.5 megawatt turbines to produce approximately 550,000 megawatt-hours of energy annually -- enough to power 42,000 homes.
The energy generated by Elk River is sold to Empire District Electric Company. "Our customers have enjoyed the benefit of the Elk River wind farm since we began receiving test energy last October," said Brad Beecher, vice president-energy supply, The Empire District Electric Company. "During the two and one-half months of 2005 when energy was available, Elk River provided our system about 75,000 megawatt-hours of power at a cost about 64 percent lower than we would have paid for purchased power from the market. That drove a reduction in costs of about $3.3 million. In the first quarter of 2006, a period when the plant was fully commercial, Elk River generated 142,595 megawatt-hours and contributed an estimated savings of about $4.2 million. The impact of Elk River has far exceeded our expectations and our customers and shareholders have enjoyed the financial benefits. We look forward to our continued relationship with PPM and the Elk River Wind Farm."
The impressive white wind turbines, standing in neat rows on cattle grazing land, take up less than two percent of the total land leased for the project.
"I am the fourth generation to ranch on this property," said Peter Ferrell, a local landowner. "My family has been here since 1888 and that weighs heavily on my decision to engage in practices that can be carried on generation after generation without depleting the resources. Both the grass and the wind will be here for generations."
Butler County Commissioner Mike Wheeler noted that many members of the next generation were in attendance and eager to learn. "I am excited to see the participation of more than 400 Butler County students today at the ceremony," said Wheeler. "They will be touring not only the towers, but also learning a little bit about the history of Beaumont. The Bluestem (Elementary) journalism class is capturing all the events with photography."
Dr. Robert Robel, a professor emeritus from KSU and an expert on prairie-chicken populations, praised the project parties for their cooperation. "This collaborative research effort is unique," said Robel. "Very seldom do you see developers, wildlife ecologists, federal agencies, state entities, and preservationists working together to examine a perceived problem. No matter what the outcome of the research effort, society will benefit from the scientific approach to the questions being addressed."
Greenlight Energy, the original developer of the Elk River Wind Farm, is pleased that the initial vision for the wind farm was fully realized when the project began generating power in December of 2005. "When we first began developing the project in 2002, we knew this was going to be a special project," said Matt Hantzmon, managing director of Greenlight Energy. "It was only through a team effort, which included the project landowners; Butler County, HMH Resources, and PPM Energy, among others, that we were able complete a project of this scale and quality."
Jeff Schlichting, president of HMH Energy Resources, Inc., summed up the significance of the day and of the project: "With the completion of the Elk River Wind Farm, Kansas became one of the top ten states in the US for renewable energy generation capacity. This project represents the culmination of efforts by many individuals and organizations, propelling Kansas into its rightful position of leadership in wind energy."
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