Mars Barred From Building Wind Turbine

Despite an incentive agreement that references it, Mars Chocolate North America won't construct a wind turbine for its Topeka site.

That is because having a wind turbine on the Kanza Fire Commerce Park would interfere with the airspace of nearby Forbes Field.

"Any object constructed in Kanza Fire does interfere with approaches and departures," said Eric Johnson, president of the Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority. "It would severely limit the use of Forbes Field in general."

Mars initially wanted a 400-foot-high turbine, he said. But even a 300-foot-tall turbine would have been a hazard to airspace and would affect use of all four of the airport's runways, Johnson said.

That conclusion was handed down to Mars by the Federal Aviation Administration, Johnson said. Should Mars try to continue forward with any plans that would be a hazard to the airport, the MTAA would contest it with FAA backing, he said.

However, he said, to his knowledge, Mars has pulled its plan for a wind turbine and is looking for other forms of renewable energy.

Mars confirmed that information - adding that it is pursuing solar energy instead.

"We are not using wind turbines at our new site in Topeka," Leslie Veneziano, corporate affairs assistant manager for Mars, wrote in an email. "We could not get approval from the FAA to install wind turbines on our property or within several miles of our property due to the proximity of Forbes Field."

Mars hopes to know whether a solar field is viable within the next several months, Veneziano said. She said Mars is pursuing LEED Gold Certification for the facility.

Not building a turbine goes against an incentive agreement between Mars and Go Topeka. The agreement, which describes itself as a "legally enforceable contract," directs Mars to build a renewable wind energy facility either on or close to the site.

However, as long as Mars invests at least $270 million in the manufacturing plant, the agreement and its terms, which include up to $2.55 million in employment incentives, remain intact, according to Go Topeka.