Local News

Residents air concerns over proposed wind project

Date: 7/21/2010

Posted by City of Garden City (electric/water/sewer) on 7/26/2010

The Garden City Telegram

July 21, 2010
Section: Local News

Proposed $14M wind farm project picking up speed

   Shajia Ahmad



Garden City commissioners have agreed to look further into a $14 million community wind project, proposed at a site about six miles south of Garden City, just west of U.S. Highway 83 and directly north of Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.


The three-turbine wind project could generate up to 6.3 megawatts of power -- enough to power about 2,000 homes annually -- and would offset energy that otherwise would be purchased from Wheatland Electric. The project would create a $4 million cost savings to the city over the next 20 years, according to Greensburg-based BTI Wind Energy officials, who were hired to complete a feasibility study for the project earlier this year.


Commissioners who met during a regular meeting Tuesday said they would like to see the project further explored by city staff and possibly even travel themselves to nearby cities such as Greensburg or Lamar, Colo., that own and operate their own wind power facilities.


Commissioner Reynaldo Mesa, who praised the community wind project, said city officials would need to verify much of the information presented because of the nature of the large investment.


City officials hope to build a new transmission line between the golf course and the city that would allow them to tie in seven water wells along Old U.S. Highway 83 and the golf course to the city's electricity grid; both entities now purchase electricity from Wheatland as separate retail customers, and tying them in would allow the city to purchase electricity for the wells and the golf course at city rates.


Andrew Trapanese, a BTI Energy project development director, told commissioners Tuesday that several benefits to the project include having a city-owned site far away from residential areas, significant wind in the area -- the average wind speed at the site is 18.25 mph, according to the study -- interconnection to the city-owned grid, and no identified permitting obstacles. All of that outweighs small challenges, such as sandy soil in the area, Trapanese said.


Trapanese said the city would need to develop the project and negotiate a long-term financing agreement in order to move forward with it, though his company already has secured a letter of interest from Parkland Financial Partners to fund the project.


In addition, the city may be eligible for federal grants to help offset up to 30 percent of the costs.


At least one resident, Duane West, who has served as a former city commissioner, expressed his desire to see the project move forward and said he believed reducing fossil fuel dependency was important.


"This wind energy's been around a long time, and we need to take advantage of it," West told commissioners. "I commend you for taking on this project."


Another resident, James Carlson, submitted a letter to city commissioners, asking them to scrutinize the project's financial impact. Carlson, from Plymell, said he lives about half a mile south of the proposed site. "At the end of the day, will the wind project really provide $4 million in savings?" Carlson asked commissioners Tuesday.


About 0.3 MW of the state's 1,014 MW of wind energy produced annually is community-owned wind, according to Windustry, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis, Minn.


Community wind projects are those where local individuals or municipalities have a significant financial stake in the project, according to Windustry.


In other business, the city also discussed the following items or took the following action:


* The commission will host a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 3 for the proposed 2011 city budget, about $77 million total, which includes a proposed 38.856 mill levy.


The figure is a mill higher than last year's rate, 37.856, which generated about $5.7 million for the 2010 budget.


Other sources of tax revenue for the budget include sales taxes and various licenses and fees.


The estimated amount of city taxes owed on a home appraised at $100,000 would be about $447 at the new mill levy rate. At last year's mill levy rate, the city tax bill was $435 for a $100,000 home. Those estimates do not include property taxes levied by other taxing entities.


* City commissioners unanimously approved July 20, 2010, as Pete Olson Day in honor of the outgoing Finney County administrator. Olson, who will end his tenure this month, is completing a 35-year career in public service that began with the city of Garden City in 1978.


Olson, who was present during the proclamation by the mayor, said the designation was an honor.


"In retrospect, one of the things I learned from my predecessors from the city and county was a willingness to work together on a cooperative basis," Olson said. "When I go around the state to meetings, (the city and county) get a lot of credit for communication, and we're always looking for the opportunity to work together."


* The city commission unanimously approved a resolution requesting that Finney County commissioners consider allowing the city to annex land that is not adjoining city limits.


Planning and Community Development Director Kaleb Kentner said Cecil O'Brate, the property owner of a tract of land at the northwest corner of East Mary Street and a yet-to-be-relocated Jennie Barker Road, is looking to annex his property to make it available for retail development.


The K-156/Mary Street/Jennie Barker Road intersection is the site of a planned realignment and four-lane construction project that may begin in the late fall, according to the city officials.

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