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County approves new wind farm

Staff writer

After more than 10 years of proposals and hearings, the wind farm between Aulne, Peabody, and Florence received final approval Tuesday from county commissioners.

A handful of people attended to oppose the conditional use permit (CUP), mainly the recent expansion of the wind farm south of US-50. But the commission’s 3-0 vote brings to rest the controversy over whether Windbourne Energy’s wind farm would be built in the prairie grasslands.

“It’s beautiful out there,” said Tom Britain, who lives near the project. “I don’t know why anyone would want to change it.”

The farm will include at least 73 turbines, depending on the proper spacing between the turbine towers, said Rex Savage of Windbourne Energy. An additional 20-25 turbines might be added to produce a maximum of 200 megawatts, Savage said.

At one time, 118 wind turbines had been proposed, but the number was reduced to provide proper spacing, which ensure greater energy capture.

The wind farm, which began leasing the land in 2009 and installed three turbine pads in 2013, must produce at least some energy by the end of 2016 to comply with tax credit laws, Savage said.

Savage has defended the wind farm for years against opponents, including a group of farmers that call themselves the Tallgrass Ranchers.

Before the commission’s vote Tuesday, Savage acknowledged the opposition has taken a toll.

“Frankly, I’m getting very tired of dealing with some of the folks in here,” Savage said. “I assure you the next (wind farm) won’t be in Marion County.”

Commissioner Dan Holub questioned the arguments made by those who oppose the wind farm.

“Grassland or towers, what’s it about?” Holub said. “I don’t see any consistency in the argument we’ve been hearing.”

The wind farm is located in a wind energy overlay district that was created by the county in 2004. It is bounded by 140th Rd. to the north, Pawnee Rd. to the west, and US-77 to the east. The southern boundary is 70th Rd. between Pawnee and Remington Rds. and 50th Rd. between Remington Rd. and US-77.

In other business:

  • Commissioners approved the expansion of the Florence Rock Quarry, which is owned by Dewy Stevens and operated by Harshman Construction.
  • The commission also contracted with Treanor Architects of Kansas City to provide a cost analysis of replacing the windows on the courthouse building. The windows, which need restoration and replacement, could cost as much $1.2 million to update. Each of the four sides of the building would likely take a year to complete. Commissioners said they might decide to fix the drafty windows on each of the sides of the courthouse every other year, depending on the final cost estimates. “It’s needed,” Commissioner Randy Dallke said. “I don’t think people understand how much it’s needed. I want it done right.” Vance Kelley of Treanor Architects said the city would be eligible for a 25 percent tax credit through the state historical society to upgrade the windows. Kelley’s report is expected to be completed by this summer.

Last modified Feb. 19, 2015

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