Kansas Wind Farms

Kansas Wind Farms

While the State of Kansas offers diverse landscapes, it is often noted for its flat landscapes and open prairie lands in several areas of the state. This topography presents ideal conditions for wind farms and the ability to harness wind power for energy use. Wind farms need to be located in areas with consistent wind speeds averaging 10 mph (miles per hour) or greater to be successful. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Kansas places 12th on the list of states for wind capacity.

What are Wind Farms?

Wind farms consist of a group of wind turbines located together that gather energy from the wind as it blows. This energy is transformed into electricity and can provide homeowners and businesses with a “green” form of power to serve their needs. Green power is the preferred method of providing energy, as it does not leave a “carbon footprint” in its wake. Green power is noted as coming from “clean” or “alternative” energy sources. A carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere from utilizing traditional sources of energy, such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. These are also known as fossil fuels and their emissions into the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are detrimental to the Earth’s atmosphere; that is why it is wise to avoid using them as much as possible.

The Great Smoky Hills Wind Farm

The Great Smoky Hills wind farm, located just 19 miles west of Salina, was built by Enel, the Italian renewable energy developer. Enel sells power and gas to a huge market throughout 22 countries, including Europe and Latin America, as well as North America. The plant in Salina is expected to produce 250 MW (megawatts) of wind energy, which is enough to provide power to 85,000 homes.

Phase I of the wind farm became operational in January 2008. This first phase involved 56 turbines that were capable of providing 101 MW of energy. Phase II provided 99 additional turbines, with a further capacity of 149 MW of energy, beginning in December 2008. The plant did experience a setback, however, when a transformer failed at the same time that Phase II was set to become operational. These transformers are unique enough that a replacement was not readily available. It took a few months, therefore, to get the new transformer ready to go. Operations were back online and running smoothly in May 2009.

A New Factory in Hutchinson

Siemens Energy Company, based in Germany, recently announced plans to build a factory to manufacture equipment parts for wind farms in Hutchinson, Kansas. This new factory will bring many employment opportunities for the citizens of Hutchinson as well as the surrounding areas. The estimated $ 50 million wind turbine parts plant is expected to employ 400 people. The main function of this wind farm will be to manufacture a component of the wind turbine called nacelles. Nacelles are the oblong pieces, located at the top of the wind towers, containing gears, electronics, and generating components.

Siemens chose to place this factory in Hutchinson because of its central geographic location in the United States and its efficient transportation access. The total capacity of the plant is estimated to be 650 nacelles per year, which equates to 1,500 MW. The first nacelle is expected to be shipped from the plant in December 2010.

Other Kansas Wind Farms

Other wind farms in Kansas include Gray County (40.8 percent wind capacity factor), Elk River (44.1 percent wind capacity factor), and Spearville (47.2 wind capacity factor). Gray County Wind Farm was built in 2001 and is located in Montezuma, Kansas. The average wind speed at this farm is 20 mph. The Elk River Wind Farm came online in December 2005, and the Spearville Wind Project had its formal dedication in October 2006.

Kansas is a wise choice to build wind farms and factories producing wind turbine components. The state is poised to be one of the leaders in the nation to utilize and provide renewable energy sources.

Sherry J. Irvin, staff writer for Unreel Media

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