Mixed reaction in Neosho County, Kan as commission looks at wind farm

Residents speak both for and against project
Mixed reaction in Neosho County, Kan as commission looks at wind farm
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A contentions meeting in Neosho County, Kansas on Thursday as residents share passion both for — and against — a proposed wind farm project.

Apex Clean Energy is heading up a project to build *139* industrial wind turbines that will be close to 600 feet tall in the county.

Commissioner Paul Westhoff says the company came to them around 2017 with the idea.

Westhoff:”It was just kind of a, come in we might bring in a wind farm, and ya know, we talked about it, But then it kind of just went silent. and then before we knew it, we had all this land leased, and a lot of people didn’t know about it.”

Apex has leased approximately 46-thousand acres of land from property owners in the county.

They say the wind farm will increase jobs, tax revenue, and help fund schools.

Ideas many are excited about.

Todd Umbargar, lease owner:”Not only will it help the county with revenue but it will also help the people that live in the county, it’ll help the schools and businesses. And, a mom and pop farmer that was able to get one of these on there, ten thousand dollars a year.. and you put that ten thousand dollars into that mom and pop farm, that’s a lot of income that they got and it didn’t cost them anything.”

Westhoff says the proposed setback of the turbines is one thousand twenty five feet from property lines.

A number that many say is not far enough.

Dustie Elsworth, Neosho County Resident:”I think the ice throw.. possible effects on live stock. That’s definitely going to hurt us because that is what we do for a living. I worry about fires some.. but noise is gonna be the biggest thing that affects me personally where i live currently.”

They also worry about the noise making homes harder to sell.

Bryan Coover, Neosho County Resident:”It’s already happening here. A gentleman on 59 highway that had a buyer for his house, and they backed out when they found out there would be wind turbines down the road. I mean, I think this is, ya know, the face of things to come for southern neosho county.”

Westhoff:”The safety and health issues.. I’ve got concerns about that. I mean I do. If this does come in, I want the best we can do for the county, as far as setbacks, as far as money. I want us to get the best bang for the buck.”

Commissioners will have to vote on the project to give it final approval.

That won’t happen until the commission seat left vacant by David Bideau is filled.

No one with Apex Clean Energy at the meeting was authorized to talk with media.

But, they did send us a statement regarding safety and property value concerns.

It reads, “Wind turbines are one of the safest forms of energy generation today. Our Neosho Ridge project has gone above and beyond our initial safe setbacks as an act of goodwill in the community, even though it was at great cost to the project and meant some landowners would not be getting turbines. There is no evidence to support the claim that wind farms decrease property values in kansas or elsewhere across the country. An analysis of recent residential sales proximate to existing wind farms, which includes residential sales within up to five times turbine tip height, did not support any finding that proximity to a wind turbine had any impact on property values. A similar analysis of agricultural land values in the area and in other areas of the state with wind farms did not support any finding that the agricultural land values are negatively impacted by the proximity to wind turbines. in fact, studies indicate that wind turbine leases add value to agricultural land.