It was announced last week that Sunflower Electric Power Corporation and Infinity Wind Power LLC signed a 20-year contract to purchase renewable energy from a proposed wind farm to be constructed in Kiowa County. (Greensburg is the Kiowa County seat.) The wind farm, called Shooting Star Wind Project, will be located about 10 miles west of Greensburg near Mullinville, Kansas. The project, which will cover 11,000 acres of farmland, is designed to use 65 wind towers provided by GE. Each turbine will generate 1.6 megawatts (MW) of electricity with a total production output of 104 MW, enough electricity to power 30,000 homes.
Sunflower Electric is a generation and transmission cooperative that serves communities in central and western Kansas. Some parts of Kiowa County are members of the cooperative while others are not, although there are economic benefits for the whole county associated with the project. Sunflower Electric estimates that $44 million dollars will be invested into the local economy over the course of the 20-year contract, including $10 million in royalty benefits paid to local landowners who are leasing their property for the towers. According to a Hutchinson News report, construction of the farm is expected to create 160 temporary jobs as well as 10 permanent positions to operate and maintain the turbines.
Greensburg is a member of the Kansas Power Pool and receives 100% of its electricity from the Greensburg Wind Farm located 3 miles south of town.
The Greensburg Wind Farm under construction in 2009
According to a press release from Infinity Wind Power, the developer behind the project, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback had this to say about the increasing development of wind farms in the state:
"Wind development continues to be a tremendous opportunity for our rural communities. There is no better time than right now to invest in Kansas wind and take advantage of clean, reliable, and affordable renewable energy. The Shooting Star project is yet another example of how we can grow the economy to create jobs, protect the environment, and meet our energy needs at the same time.”
Kansas has incredible potential for wind power generation, ranked second in the nation behind Texas. Kansas has the potential to generate 952 GW of electricity (952,000 MW). According to Wikipedia, that's enough energy to cover nearly all the electricity generated from coal, natural gas and nuclear combined in the United States in 2008. Currently, there are only 8 wind farms operating in Kansas generating a total of 1,028 MW. To put it another way, the state is only harvesting .001% of it's potential.
This map shows wind potential in Kansas. Click to enlarge.
The process to build a wind farm can be quite long and complicated. The Shooting Star Wind Project has been in progress since 2001 and has gone through various development companies and approval processes. According to the Kansas Energy Information Network, there are 54 proposed wind farm projects across the state and ten more listed as "Status Unknown". The contract between Infinity Wind Power and Sunflower Electric has allowed this project to move forward and construction is expected to begin later this year.
To view an interactive map of existing and proposed wind projects in Kansas, click here.