When state and federal energy leaders talked on Friday about building transmission lines to move more power, conversations turned to the shifting winds of energy resources.
On Friday, representatives of electric companies, regulators, federal agencies and the state Legislature gathered at the Dole Institute of Politics for the Kansas Electric Transmission Summit. The fifth of its kind, the summit was hosted by State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence.
A recurring theme was how to grapple with the call for more wind energy, the onslaught of new proposals for wind farms and the inability of existing transmission lines to carry the power wind farms would generate.
President George Bush has set a goal to have 20 percent of the country's power coming from wind energy by the year 2030. That's about 325 gigawatts.
Western Kansas and the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas have the potential to generate up to 30 to 50 gigawatts of wind power. But large amounts of energy are needed in the East, not in Kansas and Oklahoma. And currently, most power lines in windy states are far from high-capacity transmission lines. So more lines to handle the power are imperative.
Meanwhile, plans for new wind farms continue to sprout.
For just the Southwest Power Pool - a transmission organization covering Kansas and Oklahoma and parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico - proposals in the past six months for wind-generated electricity would boost wind production in the region by 65 percent.
That potential growth already has changed where Southwest Power Pool plans new transmission lines. Much of Friday's conversations focused on how transmission lines in the Southwest Power Pool could better connect to their neighbors.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Philip Moeller, one of the speakers on Friday, emphasized the need for more energy transmission in the country.
"It is playing catch-up," Moeller said.
Some at the conference floated the idea of building a high-voltage transmission system - a kind of interstate highway for transporting electricity throughout the country. One major obstacle is determining how to fairly allocate the cost of such a system.
As fewer coal plants are built and with heightened interest in nuclear and wind power, it can be hard to plan new transmission lines, said Mark Whitenton, who is with the Department of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.
"The danger we have in Washington, it really is the fuel du jour. It was nuclear, then natural gas : now it is wind. What will it be tomorrow? It makes our job so much harder to do," he said.