Informational meeting held on wind farms

By Jen Bookhout
    It was standing room only at the Conway Springs Community Center during the wind farm development and leasing informational meeting on Monday night. The question on everyone’s mind: is a wind farm coming to Sumner County?
    NextEra Energy Resources is conducting research on wind productivity in the area; however, whether the company will develop a wind farm remains to be determined.
    The Sumner County Economic Development Commission and the Sumner County Farm Bureau sponsored the meeting, focusing on how to handle lease and easement contracts should NextEra decide to proceed with development in the area.
    Mike Irvin, director of the Kansas Farm Bureau Legal Foundation, spoke on what to look for when signing contracts with wind development companies. Irvin stressed the importance of looking beyond the financial aspects of such contracts, and delving into the fine print.
    Kansas has 19 operating wind projects, and three in construction. With Kansas as the second best wind resource in the United States, the Kansas wind projects produce power more than 90 percent of the time. Irvin sought to prepare Sumner County residents for potential encounters with wind developers as companies dealing in renewable resources continue to grow.
    When dealing with lease and easement contracts it is important to understand what is going to be placed on the property, Irvin said. Before signing any contract, he advised that landowners consider how the project will affect land renters, no-till farming practices and the long-term effects of having heavy-duty equipment on the land.
    Signing or not signing a contract with a wind development company is always voluntary, Irvin said. The key to success with a contract is preparation and research ahead of time; once a contract has been signed it is too late to make changes, he said.
    People should know and understand the rights of landowners, and the time value of money and liability issues prior to finalizing a contract, Irvin said. Relationships between landowners and energy companies can be a positive experience if a landowner is prepared and the contract is well-written, he said.
    Sumner County Economic Development has guidelines for wind development projects, another aspect to be considered before signing a contract.
    For more information on the Sumner County Economic Development guidelines, call 620-326-8779. For a 10-item checklist covering things to consider when signing a contract, visit kfb.org, select the “Education & Outreach” tab, and select the “Landowner’s Rights” link.