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Archive for Sunday, February 22, 2004

Wind-power frenzy

Just because some advocates want to protect the Flint Hills region is not reason to cut the rest of the state off from wind-power developments.

February 22, 2004

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The opponents of wind-generated power in Kansas have been whipped into a frenzy. Residents of the Flint Hills who spoke to the Senate Utilities Committee this week all but equated allowing wind generators in Kansas to making a deal with the devil himself.

They are committed to preserving the pristine tallgrass prairie of the Kansas Flint Hills, which is a worthy goal, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of places in Kansas where wind energy could be a useful and efficient supplement to the state's power resources as well as its rural economies.

The wind power opponents reportedly blanched at the description of wind generators as a "green" source of energy, saying the only green being made off of wind power was by developers who reap tax breaks and other financial incentives. That seems an inaccurate or at least an overstated accounting of the facts.

Like any good business, wind power developers aren't going to invest in projects they don't think will make a profit. There's nothing wrong with that. There's also nothing wrong with struggling farmers supplementing their income by allowing companies to lease some of their land to develop a wind farm.

As far as wind not being a "green" source of energy, to what are the opponents comparing it? Wind farms are bound to have a visual effect on the property where they are placed, but how does that effect compare, in an environmental sense, to the emissions from coal-fired power plants? How about the effect of nuclear power plants? Although nuclear power is becoming increasingly attractive, the threat of an accident at a nuclear plant still exists as well as the problem of disposing of the nuclear waste they generate.

The group that met with legislators this week urged passage of a bill that would require wind power developers to go through an application process so rigorous that one legislator said it would amount to placing a moratorium on wind power. Cutting the state off from the potential of wind-generated power would be a mistake and shortsighted.

There probably are places in Kansas that warrant protection from the environmental effect of a large wind farm, but the state shouldn't close the door to developers who want to work with landowners in some parts of the state to make use of a major untapped resource. In relative terms, harnessing wind power is a clean and, yes, "green" way to generate some of the power on which this nation depends.

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