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Archive for Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Power potential

Kansas trailing other states in wind energy efforts

September 5, 2006

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A wind-collecting unit, above, stands more than 60 feet tall outside Blairsburg, Iowa, where one of the largest wind power experiments in the U.S. dots the landscape.

A wind-collecting unit, above, stands more than 60 feet tall outside Blairsburg, Iowa, where one of the largest wind power experiments in the U.S. dots the landscape.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack challenged regulators and utility companies in his state a few years ago to produce 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2010.

The push, known as a renewable portfolio standard and other incentives, has helped develop Iowa into a national wind energy leader.

With 135 giant wind turbines towering in the rural landscape of Wright and Hamilton counties and several other wind farms in north-central Iowa, the state has become the nation's third-leading wind-energy producer behind Texas and California.

Iowa produces 836 megawatts of wind energy compared to the 364 megawatts Kansas produces, even though researchers have labeled Kansas as a state with more potential to produce wind energy.

"We're still a long ways from reaching our friends of Iowa and Minnesota. They don't have near the wind quality, but they still make it work," said Jim Ploger of the Kansas Energy Office at the Kansas Corporation Commission.

MidAmerican Energy owns the Century Wind Farm and several others in Iowa that can power on average about 100,000 homes with the intermittent energy source.

Ploger said it's currently an economics issue for the Kansas utilities with the relatively cheap price of coal from Wyoming, which Westar Energy uses to generate most energy for Lawrence customers.

Another view of the farm. Iowa produces 836 megawatts of wind energy compared to the 364 megawatts Kansas produces, even though researchers have labeled Kansas as a state with more potential to produce wind energy.

Another view of the farm. Iowa produces 836 megawatts of wind energy compared to the 364 megawatts Kansas produces, even though researchers have labeled Kansas as a state with more potential to produce wind energy.

But the interest is apparent, with 18 current wind energy proposals in Kansas.

"They've been working and studying. If they could just find buyers, they'd probably be moving dirt tomorrow," Ploger said.

Construction was recently completed on the state's third major wind farm, the Spearville Wind Energy Facility, east of Dodge City, and Kansas City Power and Light hopes to have the 100.5-megawatt facility working in the next couple of weeks.

Westar operates a small 1.2-megawatt wind-energy station at the coal-fired Jeffrey Energy Center north of Topeka. One megawatt can power about 300 homes for one day.

Some in the wind energy development business say Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' public opposition more than a year ago to wind farms in the Flint Hills region has hurt development.

One of the largest wind power installations in the United States is north of Ames, Iowa, off Interstate 80 in Blairsburg, Iowa. Iowa has become the nation's third-leading wind-energy producer, behind Texas and California. Energy officials in Kansas think the state has potential to produce more wind energy than Iowa.

One of the largest wind power installations in the United States is north of Ames, Iowa, off Interstate 80 in Blairsburg, Iowa. Iowa has become the nation's third-leading wind-energy producer, behind Texas and California. Energy officials in Kansas think the state has potential to produce more wind energy than Iowa.

Sebelius created a task force that labeled an area "Heart of the Flint Hills." It requires local approval for wind development there.

Lawrence-based JW Prairie Windpower has Morris County support for a proposed 100-megawatt farm, Munkers Creek. But no utilities have offered to buy the site, said Jennifer States, the company's managing director.

"The opposition in the Flint Hills has been the biggest obstacle to get this project developed, to find an interested utility and to get any policy advanced in the state," she said.

Sebelius has called for utilities to install 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2015. New recommendations from the Kansas Energy Council will attempt to provide more incentives for renewable energy development, Ploger said.

But the recommendations contain no renewable portfolio standard.

Ploger says the Flint Hills issue has calmed down because developers still see potential in western Kansas and other areas, even though it can be difficult to transmit electricity from there back to more heavily populated areas of the state.

Ploger said interest in wind energy development will increase, especially if natural gas and coal costs rise.

"The largest cost is building (wind farms). Once they are built, it's very, very nominal cost to maintain them. The source of the fuel is free," he said.

States, of JW Prairie Windpower, says state policy makers might also be giving more attention to wind energy.

"Kansas really needs some more incentives to keep us competitive with the surrounding states," she said.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

blessed3x 8 years, 3 months ago

Lawrence would be far behind Dodge City. The wind farm located just south of Lawrence has been up and running for years and is quite impressive. These should be in every field. It simply makes no sense that wind farms aren't more widely-used with nuclear or traditional coal/gas plants used as reserves. Oh well, if you can't convince the king of the democrats, Ted Kennedy, to put up a windfarm near his house, who can you convince?

kansan6 8 years, 3 months ago

Thumbs up logarithmic. Wind power isn't perfect but it is a step in the right direction. Every kw produced means that much less air and water pollution for Kansans- and less global warming for everyone. Appropriately-sited community wind projects can help the Kansas economy - particularly for small farming towns. Did you know there are FOUR new coal-fired plants proposed in Kansas? Tell your utilities we don't want them!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

When Bob Eye was running for governor many years ago, a major part of his platform was to make Kansas energy independent through development of windpower.

Too bad his opponents and the state's voters were such troglodytes.

compmd 8 years, 3 months ago

Great posts so far. I'm glad to see them.

There really are no excuses for why we don't have more wind power in Kansas. I can think of two engineering firms in Lawrence that are into this sort of stuff and can help make wind power a reality in the area.

But will it happen?

white_mountain 8 years, 3 months ago

Great idea! So windy out in western Kansas. That's where they should put them. They are an eyesore and hopefully no one puts one anywhere near my house.

KsTwister 8 years, 3 months ago

My comment from Aug23 "Let's build some small wind turbines on Mt Blue instead, and sell them the extra. Its a win-win because the city could sell energy to industry to build here too and still make money." I believe the city could provide electricity at a discount to new industry or as they do in Iowa maintain their schools at a less price. Very,very rarely does the wind never blow. But more people are willing to pay Westar more when they build the $330mil new plant. Of course, you could consider Lawrence could power a whole fleet of buses free of charge.

kansan6 8 years, 3 months ago

white_mountain - do you consider Westar Energy Center an eyesore? We have to create power in some way... is it not preferable to do it in a way that doesn't pollute our air and water and contribute to global warming?

staff04 8 years, 3 months ago

I am all in favor of expanding wind energy.

The tax credits for energy production from polluting fossil fuels are good for ten years while the tax credits for production of clean wind energy must be renewed every two years. Seems kind of silly that they force the innovators to come and defend the production of zero emissions electric power every two years while those who are actively destroying the environment and doing little to provide affordable energy get a pass for ten...

hipper_than_hip 8 years, 3 months ago

The Dept of Interior has shut down several wind turbines because they were cutting hawks (as well as other endangered species) into nugget-sized chunks.

topekasaveslawrence 8 years, 3 months ago

Kansans were successful in stopping an ill-advised plan to establish a commercial wind farm on the Tallgrass Prairie in Wabaunsee County. This development was ideal for the developers because of the strong wind in that area, the proximity to exisitng transmission lines, and the exisitence of ranchers eager to take advantage of the lucrative leases to the energy companies. The Flint Hills contain the last remnant of the Tallgrass Prairie, and there were legitimate concerns that the turbines, the transmission lines, the access roads, and the construction process could disturb this fragile eco-system, not to mention the aesthetic encroachment. Preservationists and conservationists need not be at odds, however, as all agree that windfarms are preferable to coal or nuclear plants. Kansas contains plenty of previously cultivated land that can be converted to use as commercial windfarms. I hope that the wind-energy developers are back at the drawing board searching for an alternative to Flint Hills development, but I fear they're merely planning another strategy to bully their way into Wabaunsee County and molest one of Kansas' few scenic regions.

KsTwister 8 years, 3 months ago

Hipper, please post your link(all I found was the Interior said no evidence), I found no more birds killed by windfarms then by your car. Germany,Denmark,Austrailia and many other countries are already benefitting but as we know in the last 20 years America became less intelligent but the scores on their video games are higher.

oldgoof 8 years, 3 months ago

compnd: "There really are no excuses for why we don't have more wind power in Kansas. I can think of two engineering firms in Lawrence that are into this sort of stuff and can help make wind power a reality in the area"

Logrithmic: "It's time to get on the board and develop a home grown industry in passive energy and energy conservation technologies. This can only be done through a collaboration with private entrepreneurs, KU, the State of Kansas, and the city."

Folks, as nice as it sounds, the existence of wind in Kansas does not an industry make. The technologies are not rocket science, but very basic. The issue with wind energy is not technology, but economics....subsidization of different energy systems. The simple fact that the US is on two different power grids which are separated at the western edge of the state is one issue. The resulting lack of transmission capability (very expensive) from west Kansas is a significant part of the problem.

And in this world, the scientists working on technologies in this industry are as likely to be working in India, a California cottage, or most likely in a European company. Western Kansas is already proximate to some of the US's most significant wind research being conducted at Sandia labs, they use west texas and kansas as their labratory to test prototypes.

Confrontation 8 years, 3 months ago

The title should read: "Kansas trailing other states in every effort."

Packman 8 years, 3 months ago

Oldgoof,

Where in Kansas is Sandia testing wind energy prototypes?

KsTwister 8 years, 3 months ago

"The sun sets behind a wind farm near Montezuma, Kansas. The farm's 170 turbines can generate enough electricity to power 40,000 households."

Sandia: http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itgic/0605/ijge/thresher.htm

Packman 8 years, 3 months ago

topekasaveslawrence,

The same project you refer to - the Munkers Creek wind farm, later moved their project from Wabunsee County to Morris County on tilled land. They effectively satisfied the big argument against their project - by putting the wind turbines on lands that have already been cultivated or tilled. Still, the anti-wind folks continued to protest it to the point where the Governor boxed off the so-called "heart of the Flint Hills", intimidating anyone from developing wind farms or buying power from them.

What gives? If it's the fear of losing untilled prairie to anything but new homes (which is happening), then why protest/fight projects on lands that have been disturbed? That's where we want them, right?

Unfortunately, it's not the prairie ecosystem many of the anti-wind folks really care about; it's aesthetics, it's change, it's NIMBY. Most of the folks opposed to wind in the Flint Hills don't live there. Some own property there (lots of it even!), but prefer the daily viewshed of some other locale. The folks who do want it are by and large the ones who will see the turbines every day - and hopefully for them - will benefit from them, too.

It's also interesting that you use the word "bully", since that's what the landowners in Wabaunsee Co. felt the anti-wind folks were doing to them by denying them the opportunities that come with having wind turbines on their land. Those land-owners weren't bullied into wanting the wind turbines on their land - they think it's a fine idea.

KsTwister 8 years, 3 months ago

Makes sense to me also. You can still farm around them,and raise cattle and other livestock around them. Denmark has only 11 big turbines that provides 75% of their electricity. No pollution and renewable.

Grundoon Luna 8 years, 3 months ago

I wonder how much development in wind energy could have beendone for $1 million cost of Wettigs wife's birthday party?

kansan6 8 years, 3 months ago

There are any number of potential wind development sites (ideally-suited for small community wind development) that are in the eastern half of the state and well within reach of appropriate transmission capacity. Certainly wind production seems to have made economic sense for farmers in Iowa. Agreed with staff 04 that if we are going to subsidize energy production - certainly we should be subsidizing something that is non-polluting. Regarding the birds: current tower designs kill fewer birds than the cell phone towers which are proliferating throughout the countryside - and which no one is protesting. Much of this misperception developed in response to Altamont - a poorly sited early effort wind farm with early tower designs. A report recently prepared for the Bonneville Power Administration in the Northwest U.S. states that "raptor mortality has been absent to very low at all newer generation wind plants studied in the U.S. This and other information regarding wind turbine design and wind plant/wind turbine siting strongly suggests that the level of raptor mortality observed at Altamont Pass is quite unique." Given this - I worry more that we have been told we should not eat the fish out of Kansas rivers, lakes and ponds due to unsafe levels of mercury than I do about nugget-sizing the hawks. This without even considering the impacts of global warming.

hipper_than_hip 8 years, 3 months ago

Here you go:

Hoover, S.L. and M.L. Morrison. 2005. Behavior of Red-tailed Hawks in a wind turbine development. Journal of Wildlife Management 69(1): 151-159.

KsTwister 8 years, 3 months ago

Thank you. So the issue was resolved,and est. new rules: "before the approval of siting of any proposed projects, in accordance with USF&W standards, and that these studies give special attention to avoidance of siting wind turbines on migratory flyways, ridge lines, important bird areas, and nesting locations of threatened, endangered and special concern species. "

kansan6 8 years, 3 months ago

Just confirming - the study that hipper refers to was the study of Altamont - which was subsequently determined to be an anomaly. A great aspect of this is that we see humans making an effort to produce renewable energy - making mistakes along the way - and learning from them. I am glad to see when people continue to pursue renewable power for the good of the planet as a whole.

oldgoof 8 years, 3 months ago

Packman: I am aware of testing of an egg-beater type windmill (vertically spinning) at a cattle feedlot in....can't remember exactly....Grant, Finney, Kearny counties. This was about 15 years ago. I met a KU educated engineer in Colo. who worked at Sandia labs in this area of research who told me these things at that time.

KsTwister 8 years, 3 months ago

The 240MW Turbines in Fort Madison,Iowa(1999) produced 200- 6 month contract jobs,40 permanent maintenance & operations jobs, $2 million per year for counties and school districts and $640,000 lease payments to owners and farmers. I understand each 2 acres netted the farmers $14,000 a year in Kansas. Not to exclude the benefits of cheaper utilities. I might add that Siemens opened a turbine manufacturing plant in Madison employing 200 people. Lawrence should be so lucky.

Packman 8 years, 3 months ago

Oldgoof:

Thanks for the info! I wonder if it's still there?

Harry_Manback 8 years, 3 months ago

I was recently in Spain and they have them everywhere. I don't really think that they're eyesores (no more so than a huge power plant would be). I was wondering when I got back why they didn't put them here since there's more wind in Kansas than in Spain.

They do a much better job conserving energy in Europe. They don't use air conditioning as much as we do (although it gets just as hot), smart cars are everywhere, and you must turn the lights on in public restrooms (really, why must bathrooms that are unused be lit all the time?)

Matthew 8 years, 3 months ago

"Ploger said interest in wind energy development will increase, especially if natural gas and coal costs rise."

NIMBY by Flinthills absentee landowners will cost our precious flinthills dearly if we continue to burn coal, and fry these hills to a crisp, in the process of accelerated global warming. How do you define "short-sighted thinking"? Sebelius must be willing to take a stand on such an important issue. She's issued too much lipservice in questionable support of developing Kansas's tremendous wind potential, and not nearly enough action - such as our missing "State Renewable Portfolio Standard", as Iowa, Minnesota, California, and other states have, and which have provided them with far greater incentives to develop renewables. -RW

dizzy_from_your_spin 8 years, 3 months ago

"Some in the wind energy development business say Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' public opposition more than a year ago to wind farms in the Flint Hills region has hurt development."

Pretty soon we'll see a campaign ad touting her energy policies.

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