Wind farm in works for northwest Kansas

THOMAS COUNTY, KANSAS - Construction on a new 72-tower wind farm in Thomas County could begin before the end of the year.

A second wind farm is being planned for Hamilton County by Acconia Energy North America, a subsidiary of Acconia, based in Madrid, Spain.

Both projects still are on the drawing board, so details likely will change before construction actually begins, according to Eric Schneider, director of marketing and communications for Acconia. Schneider said he is a Topeka native now living in Chicago.

The proposed wind farms represent some of the green economic benefits discussed earlier this month by the Center for American Progress and heralded by the Kansas Sierra Club.

In its report, the center suggests Kansas would gain a small slice of the $100 billion in benefits that would derive from a green economy. Most of the $881 million benefit to Kansas, the group said, would go to existing groups for retrofitting buildings, mass transit and alternative sources of energy.

The group is suggesting an increase of slightly more than 20,000 jobs in Kansas would come from green jobs.

Some of those jobs would be created for projects such as the Solomon Creek wind project in the Colby area. That project would include 72 1.5-megawatt towers. The turbines would produce 108 megawatts of power.

The nacelles — the uppermost unit that houses all the generating components — will come from Acconia's own manufacturing plant in West Branch, Iowa. The towers and blades will be purchased on the open market.

The Hamilton County wind farm, called the Bear Creek project, will be slightly larger, Schneider said, with 90 towers capable of producing 135 megawatts.

The total number of towers at either location could change by the time construction begins, he said.

Schneider said Acconia is looking at the two projects because of the wind resources available in the western part of the state.

"We do have assessments all over the state and the Midwest," he said.

Specifically, the wind assessments for the area where the land is available is drawing the company to Thomas County.

"We also have to have access to transmission lines," Schneider said.

In the Thomas County case, Acconia would tap into transmission lines owned by Sunflower Electric.

Although specifics of the project likely will change, Schneider said it is a project that is far along in the planning process.

Wind assessments already have been done.

"We're getting pretty far down the path," he said. "We haven't broken ground, but we know wind capacity is good."

That leaves working with landowners and owners of transmission lines.

"We're hoping to break ground this year," he said.

The Thomas and Hamilton county projects would be the first in the Kansas for Acconia, but not the first in the United States. It has four wind projects in Canada and two in the United States.

Acconia is an international company, with much of its work focusing on renewable energy projects, such as wind, solar and hydrogen projects. The company has desalinization projects in Florida and California.

Perhaps its most visible project is the Nevada Solar One, a bank of curved mirrors that produces steam to turn a turbine producing 64 megawatts of electricity.


in Year