On the Saturday following our March program in which we viewed “Kilowatt Ours” ten Southwind Sierrans and one guest toured the newest wind farm in the state. Pete Ferrell, whom some of you know through our weekend backpacking trips on his ranch in the Flint Hills, was our host. His 8,000 acre ranch is located in ButlerCounty, just south of the town of Beaumont, outside of the “heart of the Flint Hills area” as defined by Gov. Sebelius. After meeting Pete, we drove to a spot where an old cabin had once stood and sat listening to him talk about his project and what it means for his land and for the surrounding area.
There are some 100 wind turbines in the project, half of which are on Pete’s property and the other half on his neighbor’s properties. Pete is committed to the environmental integrity of his property which has been in his family for three generations. He talked with a number of wind energy developers with the intent of finding one who would listen to and agree to his conditions for protecting both habitat and the land. Pete had surveyed his land for both wildlife and wind speeds for a couple of years prior to seeking a wind developer. As a result he knew where the prairie chicken leks were and stipulated that they had to be avoided. He and the site crew that maintains the turbines continue to monitor the area for wildlife and especially for dead birds. He also demanded bonding for the decommissioning and removal of the turbines at the end of their useful life. Pete does not believe that the presence of the wind turbines has had a negative effect on the local ecosystem though he does acknowledge that some will continue to be critical, if for no other reason than the impact on the viewscape.
The turbines have been in continuous use since their completion in February with no down time due to lack of wind. In fact, they are generating more energy than the substation can handle and so some turbines have to be shut down at times. The energy is shipped to Missouri.
Pete has had many requests for tours and expects to construct a small visitor’s center on the spot where we sat. He invited us to return. It was an enlightening couple of hours with a gracious and very articulate host who responded eagerly to our many questions.
Choose the group picture you think is the better. I like having the turbines in the background, but it’s not so good of the people – too many backs. Note the cattle grazing beneath the turbines.
Group picture with cars in background: Clockwise from left – Ellie Skokan, Pete Ferrell, Bobbie Keltner, Bill Keltner, Mary Kirkbride, Dave Kirkbride (under hat), Sean xxxx, Wally Seibel (partially hidden), Jim Mason, Jay Barnes, Helen Ehlers.
Group picture with turbines in the background: same people with addition of Jim Michaels standing at left. Dave Kirkbride’s wife is hidden behind him. [Here it's harder to know where to start in naming people.]
Picture looking at the base end of one of the turbine blades where it would be attached to the hub of the turbine. Left to right: Jim Mason, Wally Seibel, Sean xxxx. (Sorry, but neither Stuart, Yvonne, Ellie Skokan nor I can remember or figure out Sean’s last name.)