Plans for wind farm in south Nemaha moving forward

Wind farms are sprouting up in communities across Kansas and in some cases they have become hot-button issues.

Not so, apparently, in neighboring Nemaha County, according to a recent report in the Courier-Tribune newspaper at Seneca.

A proposed wind farm in south Nemaha County - one of Jackson County’s neighbors to the north - is in the late stages of development, representatives of Next Era Energy Resources told Nemaha County Commissioners recently. The Courier-Tribune newspaper reported on the meeting.

Nothing is official until an agreement for the purchase of wind-generated electricity is negotiated, but four land agents have been working in the area recently to sign up property owners, associate project manager Spencer Jenkins told commissioners.

The Soldier Creek Wind Farm would generate 300 megawatts of power from 110 to 120 wind turbines, all located in Nemaha County.

“We are very confident” of the wind farm’s development, Jenkins said.

The company’s site team is exploring properties as far north as the Oneida area in Nemaha County, but the wind farm will primarily be located south of Goff and Corning, in Reilly, Red Vermillion, Wetmore, Harrison and Neuchatel townships, it was reported.

“Everything is volunteer. It takes landowner cooperation 100 percent,” associate project manager Jeffrey Bryce said.

Because Next Era already has an agreement in place with the county, negotiated in December 2016, it won’t pay property taxes on the wind farm for the life of the project, it was reported.

Tax legislation that went into effect Jan. 1, 2017 reduces the tax-free time period to 10 years.

Instead, the company offers payments in lieu of taxes. Next Era is currently building a wind farm in Pratt County that will pay the county $1 million annually for the project’s 20-year life span, Jenkins said.

In addition, the company will negotiate road use and road maintenance agreements with the county and affected townships.

“Usually we end up upgrading the roads for our own equipment, then provide maintenance for the life of the agreement,” Bryce said.

Jenkins estimated the project could be a year or less from getting under way.

Next Era is currently in negotiations for the purchase of its wind power. Once finalized, the purchase agreement has to be approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission.

An environmental survey is under way on Soldier Creek Wind Farm and internal engineering work has started, the Seneca paper reported.

Next Era, which owns six wind farms in Kansas, has more of a “utility mindset” and hopes to stay in the area and operate the wind farm, Jenkins said.

The wind farm would create 15 to 20 jobs that would last for the life of the project. Construction will employ 250 to 300 skilled welders, concrete workers and skilled laborers. The company will hold a job fair.

Land agent Mark Woods said he’s met very little resistance when visiting with property owners.

“Everybody wants to talk about it. They’re excited about the opportunity,” he said.

County commissioners’ resolution requires 1,400-foot setback from property lines for turbines unless neighboring landowners consent. Depending on suitable sites, three to four turbines could be located in a single section.

It will be interesting for everyone in northeast Kansas to see how this proposed wind farm in Nemaha County.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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