Kansas farmers harvest the wind

MONTEZUMA, Kan. (KSNW) – Some Kansas farmers are harvesting a different kind of crop, the wind.

For some, it’s another creative way to make ends meet amidst a challenging economy. For others, it’s simply added income.

Victor Thomas, now retired, started farming once he got out of college. He remembers telling his dad he wanted to farm, but he wanted to have an irrigation well. According to Thomas, the 1950’s were very dry for western Kansas, and because of that, irrigation helped him maintain a stable income.

Victor Thomas talks about the opportunities of wind farms. (KSN Photo)

“On dry land, it is more of a hit-and-miss proposition,” Thomas said. “Because it depends on rainfall, and how much rainfall we get, how timely the rainfall is.”

Mother nature, low crop prices, plant disease and economic changes are all variables that Kansas farmers have to deal with.

“Sometimes we have to cut back and not spend as much,” Thomas explained.

For many, that means looking at alternative ways to save and increase profits.

“We don’t like to go in debt,” he said.

For Thomas, that opportunity came knocking at his door about 20 years ago — when a wind farm company reached out to him about his land just east of his home in Montezuma.

“They wanted to lease the ground to put the wind towers on it, and then they pay as so much per year for each wind tower,” Thomas said.

While Thomas said he wasn’t struggling financially, he couldn’t refuse the company’s offer.

“That made a nice additional income,” said Thomas. “Because we could still farm the ground and raise the crops on it.”

LINK | Existing Kansas Wind Farms 

Thomas’s biggest field is 640 acres, with 20 wind turbines. He also has another piece of land that’s 320 acres, with 10 wind turbines.

According to Thomas, each wind tower brings in several thousand dollars a year.

While the lease price per wind turbine will vary, often times the lease terms are for anywhere from 35 to 50 years, providing one constant source of income for farmers dealing with a lot of other variables.

Thomas said the extra income has been helpful, but he also appreciates the impact the wind farms make in his community.

“The school and the county, they also get taxes off of them,” he said. “So that helps our schools and taxes and we’re all in favor for that.”

Thomas heard the criticism that turbines can kill migrating — and sometimes endangered — birds. He knows some are concerned about the sound they create or the amount of land they take up.

On Thomas’s land, the wind turbines take up four acres of 640 acres.

“That’s very little,” he said.

Thomas said he sees it as a great opportunity, and expects to see even more wind farms popping up across the state.

“The wind is still here, and I think the wind will still be here,” Thomas said. “I think this is a good place to put turbines, and so yes, if somebody is wanting to put another mega wind farm down here, I think there would be all kinds of ground.”

MAP | Kansas Wind Farm Map – Kansas Corporation Commission

 

VIDEO | How wind energy saved our family farm


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