EGEB: Kansas’s first big wind farm turns 20. Here’s how it’s going

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Gray County Wind Farm in Kansas is celebrating its 20th birthday.
  • Austin approves a huge electric transit bus purchase – 197, to be precise.
  • Clean energy now provides 25.22% of total US available installed generating capacity.
  • UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

A Kansas wind farm turns 20

FPL Energy’s Gray County Wind Farm near Montezuma, Kansas, was built in 2001, and it’s still the largest wind farm in Kansas.

The 112 megawatt wind farm features 170 turbines and can power 33,000 homes. The turbines are scattered over 12,000 acres, but only six acres are used for wind turbines and roads. Black Hills Energy purchases its electricity.

So how’s it going, 20 years on? Wichita’s NBC affiliate KSN reports that the Gray County Wind Farm has brought $5.3 million in payments to the county, which has a population of around 6,000. Some of that money is funneled to local school districts.

It, along with three other wind farms, has also paid for two new parking lots, a kitchen upgrade at the elementary school, and a new grandstand at the district’s football stadium, and that meant the county didn’t have to raise taxes to pay for those improvements.

KSN spoke with Orville Williams, who leased part of his land to the wind farm and is also a county commissioner, and he just signed up for another 20-year lease. Williams said the wind farm has posed no problems as he’s farmed around the towers:

I like them. They’ve been a very great economic boost for this area.

Most people around here, I don’t think even notice them anymore.

Anytime you can get money, but you’ve gotten the money from an outside source instead of having to get it from your local population, then it’s a win-win.

And Montezuma Mayor Grant Salmans said:

We hear somebody in a certain part of the state that doesn’t want one. And we’re kind of like that doesn’t really make much sense to us.

Read more: Wind is now the largest source of electricity in Iowa and Kansas

Austin’s new electric buses

The board of Capital Metro, Austin’s transport provider, last week approved the purchase of 197 new electric buses from electric bus manufacturers Proterra and New Flyer to expand its fleet to more than 200 electric buses. Capital Metro says it’s the US’s largest electric vehicle procurement to date.

Capital Metro’s goal is to transition its entire fleet of 400 of its buses to electric, but it doesn’t specify the timeline for that goal.

In the short term, that includes the purchase of 26 40-foot Proterra ZX5 Max electric transit buses, which will be delivered in 2022.

The US-manufactured 40-foot ZX5, which can seat up to 40 passengers, features 675 kWh of energy storage that can deliver up to 329 miles of range on a single charge. Proterra claims its 40-foot ZX5s (it also sells 35-foot ZX5s) have the most energy storage and longest drive range of any 40-foot electric bus currently available.

FERC update

According to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data recently released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) dominated new US electrical generating capacity additions during the first two-thirds of 2021.

FERC’s latest monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through August 31, 2021) reveals that renewable energy sources accounted for 86.46% – 13,868 megawatts (MW) – of the 16,039 MW of new capacity added during the first eight months of the year. Wind led the capacity additions with 7,224 MW, followed closely by solar (6,585 MW). There were also small additions by hydropower (25 MW), geothermal (25 MW), and biomass (9 MW).

Most of the balance (2,155 MW) was provided by natural gas. There has been no new capacity added this year by coal, and only 16 MW of new oil capacity have come online. 

Clean energy now provides more than a quarter (25.22%) of total US-available installed generating capacity. By comparison, a year ago, their share was only 23.22%. Five years ago, it was 18.39%, and a decade earlier it was 14.09%. 

Photo: “Gray County Wind Farm” by jimmywayne is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.