Elk River Wind Farm
Flint Hills
Beaumont, Kansas

J.S. and S.W. Aber

Wind farms have developed rapidly in the early years of the 21st century in Kansas. Among these is the Elk River Wind Farm, located about six miles south of Beaumont in the southeastern corner of Butler County. One hundred wind turbines are situated on a prominent ridge in the Flint Hills, which forms the drainage divide between southeastern and south-central Kansas. This site is ideally located to catch wind from all directions.

The Elk River Wind Farm went into operation in Dec. 2005. It generates 150 megawatts of electricity, sufficient for 42,000 homes, for the Empire Electric Company's system, which is based in Joplin, Missouri. Each tower is 262 feet tall and blades are 125 feet long. Total height with a blade in the upright position is ~390 feet.

Ground views of wind turbines

Closeup portrait shots.

About half of the wind farm is located on the Ferrell Ranch, and the other half is on properties of four other landowners involving nearly 8000 acres in total. The wind farm hardly alters the traditional land use, which is cattle ranching on the tallgrass prairie along with oil production. Modern wind turbines are quite reliable; each operates autonomously with little need for human supervision. Still some repair and maintenance are necessary from time to time.

Left: turbine shut down for repair or maintenance with large crane to left. Right: sign on gate. All our ground and kite aerial photography was conducted from public roads.

Our visit took place on Friday the 13th in November 2009. Broken cloud cover raced overhead with a strong south wind (15-25 mph) on the ground. We used a small delta kite to lift our Canon S70 camera rig. The kite was relatively stable in the gusty wind, but the camera rig swung quite a bit. Working from the side of a gravel road next to a barbed wire fence severely restricted our mobility on the ground.

Lighting varied rapidly between overcast and sunlit conditions. Best illumination appeared at brief intervals with sunlit foreground and cloudy background. In spite of the unlucky date and other limitations, we had some success with kite aerial photography.

Panoramic kite aerial photographs
All views looking northward

Lowest vantage point, ~200 feet.

Middle vantage point, ~300 feet.

Highest vantage point, ~400 feet.

Related sites

Text and images © J.S. and S.W. Aber

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Last update: Oct. 2010.