HAYS — The Kansas wind can be unpredictable. It can change direction, it can change speed and, sometimes, it can temporarily subside. But one thing is certain. The wind will blow most of the time.
Fort Hays State University’s effort to harvest electricity from the Kansas wind has also seen some uncertainties, but the outcome was never in doubt.
“We have been working on this project for six years, from the first discussions through several twists and turns, but we never gave up because we knew it was the right thing to do,” Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president, said during a news conference Friday on the FHSU campus. “This morning we are announcing that a contract has been signed and installation of two wind turbines will begin soon. We expect the system to become operational by late June in 2013, and we are projecting annual savings on our energy bill in the range of $600,000 to $1 million.”
The president said the final cost of the project was estimated at $8.8 million to $9 million. “That is a turnkey estimate,” he said. “It includes everything necessary to deliver electricity from the turbines to the campus.”
Also, President Hammond read a statement from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback expressing enthusiasm for the project: “Fort Hays State University is paving the way for the future of Kansans. This project will give students a new avenue in education and help grow our state’s economy by adding local Kansas jobs.”
Vestas, the world leader in manufacturing wind turbines with more than 47,000 installed globally, will produce blades, towers and nacelles at its Colorado manufacturing facilities. It will be the sixth project in Kansas to use Vestas turbines since the company provided the first utility-scale turbines near Montezuma in 2002. FHSU will be the 12th educational institution in the United States to install a Vestas turbine.
“We are thrilled to deliver more clean and reliable energy to Kansas,” said Chris Brown, president of Vestas’ sales and service division in the United States and Canada. “We are supplying one of our newest models, called the V100-2.0 MW VCSS, that uses our latest technology and will be the first ones installed in North America. This turbine builds on our proven 2 MW platform with more than 9,800 installed worldwide.”
FHSU is nearing an agreement with the PNE Corporation, Longview, Wash., for installation of the turbines.
Dr. Hammond and Michael Estes, a vice president with HTWN, signed an assignment agreement at the news conference conveying the rights and responsibilities of turbine ownership to FHSU.
“We congratulate FHSU on being a pioneer amongst institutions for harvesting this natural resource in our great state of Kansas,” said Haley Estes Roberto, vice president of HTWN, a national leader in turnkey distributed wind energy solutions.
The turbines, each about 400 feet high at the tip of the blade, will be located on land leased from a private citizen, Brian Staab. It was necessary to place the turbines outside the three-mile limit of the city of Hays due to an ordinance that prohibits turbines of this height. The location is about a half-mile west and a little north of FHSU’s Super Dual Auroral Radar Network southwest of Hays at Golf Course Road and 210th Ave. The turbines will be visible from campus but relatively small on the horizon.
The project includes 3.5 miles of underground transmission line from the turbines to the Akers Energy Center on campus. Also, fiber will be buried adjacent to the transmission line, allowing FHSU staff to monitor and control electricity production to meet campus needs.
Additional benefits are expected. President Hammond said an education program related to renewable energy is in the planning stages. Also, the wind project represents a significant step in FHSU’s efforts toward sustainability, in this case by producing and using “green” energy. FHSU also is exploring ways that excess electricity might be used to power other green energy development.
“We especially appreciate the unanimous support we received from the Ellis County Commission and the positive recommendation from the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission,” President Hammond said. “We started discussing this project six years ago and worked through different possibilities. Our consultant, WECC LLC, was very helpful as we moved through the various stages. We also appreciate the great cooperation we received from the other partners in this project.”
“We are honored to be involved in this project, and in particular to be part of Dr. Hammond’s vision of using clean energy in the university’s micro grid,” said Mike Steinke, executive managing partner of WECC LLC. “The entire FHSU team not only bought into this vision, but so has the community. Throughout our involvement with this project, we remain in awe of the strong commitment within all levels of the FHSU institution and with the political and operational leadership within Ellis County government.”