Harvey County Commission moves forward with plans for wind farm project

Next Era Energy wants to build wind turbines in western Harvey County.
Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 12:16 AM CDT
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NEWTON, Kan. (KWCH) - Harvey County commissioners at a meeting Thursday night approved modified regulations for a wind farm project. NextEra Energy wants to build wind turbines in western Harvey County but some who live in the area raised concerns.

Last month, several Harvey County residents spoke out against a proposed renewable-energy project that would include the construction of wind turbines. With Harvey County’s Planning and Zoning Board approving proposed modified regulations, the question lingering ahead of Thursday was whether the board’s clearance is enough to move the project forward while satisfying concerned residents.

Updates to regulations previously in place include:

  • The setback distance from non-participating property lines was established at 1,000 feet. The setback distance from a home remains 2,000 feet
  • Renewable energy equipment and operations will not be allowed in an area defined as the Sand Hills Overlay District, due to grassland fire dangers.
  • Restrictions addressing wind turbine flicker, ice throw and noise.
  • Financial protections for project decommissioning and environmental cleanup.

Sarah Koehn whose family has a farming operation in southwest Harvey County was among those to express concerns about a new wind farm in the area. Koehn’s concerns included potential noise issues from turbines and the relatively dense population of Harvey County compared to other rural counties across Kansas.

“We may be fairly rural, but there’s also a lot of people scattered throughout the entirety of the county,” Koehn said. “There’s not big, wide-open spaces that are available, there’s just not.”

Newton resident David Welfelt expressed concern about what the project could mean for quality of life and land value.

“The significance there is, if you’ve got a residential home on 40 or 50 acres, you simply do not want one of these wind turbines in your backyard,” Welfelt said.

Koehn and Welfelt did agree that proposed regulations are a fair compromise.