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WECC made the news in Hays, Kansas recently.

Turbines begin dotting the skyline



It’s taken more than six years — and cost $9 million — but the dream of wind energy for Fort Hays State University soon will be a reality.

Crews from PNE Corp., based in Washington, began working last week installing the first of two 400-foot wind turbines for the university.

“We started receiving deliveries Friday (May 31) and finished Saturday,” said Wayne Hildreth, a partner in WECC, a full-service renewable energy company working with FHSU on the project.

WECC conducted the wind studies and completed a turbine comparative to determine the right turbine for the site.

“We want to be able to offset the right amount of energy,” Hildreth said. “It’s very important to have the right turbine, because they’re not all built the same.”

Hildreth, who was involved in the contractor selection process, said his role now as the owners’ representative is “to make sure they’re doing everything properly.”

All of the turbine parts, except the blades, were off-loaded, pre-staged and positioned for pickup by the crane.

Crews began installing the first turbine Tuesday, with work on the second beginning as soon as the first was completed.

The base is set first, followed by the mid-section, top section, nacelle containing the generator, hub and blades.

Some turbines call for the blades to be attached to the hub on the ground, but that isn’t the case with the FHSU turbines.

The nacelle, hub and blades were attached in the air by crane.

“This is a Cadillac here,” Hildreth said of the FHSU turbines.

Kirk Schweitzer, Graham County Economic Development director, was one of a half dozen spectators behind the safety fence watching as crews attached the nacelle Wednesday afternoon.

Graham County commissioners approved a conditional-use permit in May for Ringneck Prairie Wind Farm to be located 6 miles south of Hill City.

The infrastructure will be built this year, and the turbine foundations constructed in 2014, Schweitzer said.

The FHSU turbines should be operational by Aug. 1, said FHSU President Edward H. Hammond.

Construction includes 3.5 miles of underground transmission line from the turbines to the Akers Energy Center on campus.

“The new facility at Akers was built in preparation for wind (energy) to come in,” said Keith Dreher, FHSU energy manager.

Hammond estimated the alternative energy source will save the university $600,000 the first year, and as much as $700,000 to $900,000 in subsequent years.

Construction is “moving along fine, just not fast enough for me,” Hammond said.

“Hammond is a strong leader,” Hildreth said. “This project is here because of him.”

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