Purchase photos

Project sails through

5/23/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Kendall Krug's motto going into Wednesday night's public hearing was to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Krug, the chairman of the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission, remembered the strong disagreement when a previous commercial wind developer wanted to put turbines in Ellis County.

This time, however, the request for a conditional-use permit sailed through the planning commission by a 9-0 vote. The development plan also was approved by a 9-0 vote. Next is a 14-day protest period, which ends June 5. Barring a successful protest, the CUP then goes before the Ellis County Commission, which can approve, disapprove or make changes to the permit.

"The job of the planning commission is to make sure (the request) complies with regulations," Krug said. "It was a very well-written development plan. Based on what I've seen so far, they've treated landowners, participating and non-participating, very well."

There were approximately 50 members of the audience Wednesday in the Ellis County meeting room at 601 Main, but only a handful spoke during the public comments portion of the hearing.

"I think everybody was civilized, and I was happy with everybody that wanted to speak, did," Krug said. "Only having five people want to make comment really surprised me. We didn't know if (spaces for) 60 names on the (sign-up) sheet was enough.

"Maybe that means there's more acceptance to wind energy in Ellis County at this point."

Invenergy LLC, a commercial developer of wind, solar and natural gas power generation projects based in Chicago, had the project manager, Allyson Sand, give a presentation at Wednesday's meeting.

Sand told commissioners the company still is looking for buyers of the electricity. Once a buyer is found, construction would take approximately eight months. There would be approximately 200 temporary construction jobs, she said.

Buckeye Wind Energy LLC is the owner of the proposed project, known as Buckeye Wind Project. Buckeye Wind Energy is a subsidiary of Invenergy Wind Development LLC.

The project would have 87 to 125 turbines, depending on the type of turbine used. GE turbines are rated 1.6 to 1.8 megawatts per turbine, according to documents submitted to the commission. The most likely Siemens turbine that would be used is rated 2.3 megawatts.

The 200-megawatt project, which would be the equivalent of powering 104,000 homes, has a total acreage of approximately 28,500 acres.

It would be north of Interstate 70, between Ellis and Hays.

"I'm happy for Ellis County; I'm happy for the landowners," Krug said. "I think it's their right to do what they want with their land.

"I feel like Invenergy did a good job presenting it tonight; they were very professional. I hope it continues to be a win-win for them and for Ellis County."