Archive for Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wind picks up steam

Kansas could triple capacity within 3 years

June 10, 2007


With the United States qualifying as the world's fastest-growing market for wind power, Kansas isn't about to be left twisting in the wind.

As Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light both shop around for more wind-powered electric generation capacity, and a Michigan company looks to pump private money into installing transmission lines in Kansas, the state's three existing wind farms soon could have some company.

It's an energy evolution unlike anything since nuclear power revved up in the 1970s and hydroelectric power projects surfaced more than a century ago, said Joe Harkins, director of the Kansas Energy Office.

"We're seeing a significant transformation," said Harkins, whose office is part of the Kansas Corporation Commission. "We see this as an area of significant potential economic development in Kansas."

Harkins, a Lawrence resident appointed to the post in January by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, expects Kansas to essentially triple its capacity for wind power by 2010, and then double that by 2020.

Driving the demand are what he calls the "Three E's": energy, economy and the environment.

"Those coming together are creating all kinds of innovations, creativity and businesses that we didn't anticipate five or 10 years ago," Harkins said. "It's a fast-growing industry, and it's absolutely going to be expanding further for at least several more decades."

That's one of the main messages to emerge from the Windpower 2007 conference, a trade show and industry gathering conducted last week in Los Angeles. Among those attending in Southern California was Jim Ploger, director of energy and environmental programs for the Kansas Energy Office.

The gathering came after the industry in 2006 booked its second year of record growth, and executives used the forum to urge attendees to think even bigger.

20 percent by 2030

While wind farms currently supply less than 1 percent of the country's energy needs, industry leaders want such operations to feed 20 percent of the total by 2030.

"It's not a forecast, but it is a plausible scenario," Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association, told attendees at the opening session of the Windpower conference. "(But) it requires a transformation of the electric industry and a whole number of things that we don't have today."

Among the needs considered most crucial for backers of wind energy: an extension of the federal production tax credit that has helped make the United States the fastest-growing wind power market. The on-again, off-again credit is set to expire at the end of next year.

Other obstacles include the rising costs of wind turbines and other equipment and a shortage of electrical transmission lines to carry wind energy to the power grid.

There's also public concern about noise, danger to wildlife and visual intrusion caused by rows of giant white wind turbines that often typify wind farms.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle, Harkins said, is that while Kansas ranks as the third-best state in the country for wind energy - behind only North Dakota and Texas - the very nature of wind makes it impossible to rely upon for the bulk of power filling an energy grid.

Offsetting fuels

Wind isn't constant, he said, and therefore will limit such electrical generation to playing a secondary role in supplying homes and businesses with power.

"The best way to think of wind is it offsets the use of fossil fuels, but it does not replace fossil fuel plants," Harkins said.

Plans for new coal-fired plants in Kansas have stirred opposition from environmental groups and others, and governments around the world are looking to wind energy to help cut carbon emissions, which play a major role in global warming.

"We basically have between now and 2020 to get emissions globally to peak and to start to decline, or we run a serious risk of climate systems spinning out of control," said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, based in Belgium. "The next 15 years are critical, and wind is in the best position."

California had been the nation's wind power leader, with 2,376 megawatts of production capacity. The state last year lost its top ranking to Texas, which has 2,739 megawatts of wind energy capacity, Energy Department statistics show.

Kansas checks in with about 360 megawatts of wind energy capacity, Harkins said. The plan is to boost that total to 1,050 megawatts by 2010 and 2,100 megawatts by 2020.

The wind industry added 2,400 megawatts of capacity across the United States last year, putting the nation's total wind energy capacity at nearly 11,700 megawatts. Experts predict bigger increases this year, with wind farms generating 31 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity - enough to power nearly 3 million average homes, according to the U.S. wind power trade group.

- The Los Angeles Times contributed information for this story.


theBike45 10 years, 8 months ago

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is well known for its always misleading, often incorrect statements. One of their recent "educational" articles began with the statement : "Wind is a reliable source of energy ... " Many things can be said about wind (most bad) but nobody ever claimed it was reliable. Nor do those bogus megawatt capacities quoted (11,700 megawatts of wind power). The total actual, real capacity of those turbines is closer to a paltry 3500 megawatts, or the output of one large coal power plant, except, of course that wind power has a very low value - it is the only nondispatchable power source, which means you get power when the wind decides to blow, which is virtually guaranteed to never be during a non-demand period, which means that wind can NEVER replace any fossil power plants. Wind is also exorbitantly expensive - except for the massive Federal subsidies and tax breaks and the state regulations that force utilities to buy wind power, no one would ever buy wind power, and no company would ever errect another turbine. Wind is a really stupid way to obtain small amounts of unreliable power at a very high price. Wind power produces around 1/2 of 1 percent of US power - we use about 4.34 billion megawatt hours of electricty - 7500 wind turbines can barely produce 31 million megawatt hours. Notice that the AWEA defies tradition by quoting kilowatt hours rather than megawatt hours, to make wind power seem more substantial. And residential homes only account for around 1/3 of our power needs. Lighting 3 million homes could be accomplished with 1 single coal plant. Because of its unreliability, where there is wind power, there MUST be backup power , which nearly always uses fossil fuel. Nuclear power is THE ONLY way carbon emissions will be reduced in any meaningfull way . All the wind power in the US can produce 31 million megawatt hours. But just the increase in demand from 2002 thru 2006 amounted to 249 million megawatts. It is estimated to increase at a 2% rate for the next 14 years. That would amount to a yearly demand of 6 billion megawatt hours in the year 2020. If wind were to account for 20%, that would require errecting almost 300,000 wind turbines and building an equal capacity of fossil fuel power plants to back up the wind power, or over 150 new 1000 megawatt fossil fuel power plants whose only function is to back up the additional wind power. That's totally insane and wouldn't reduce our carbon emissions one iota. So where is that extra 1.2 billion megwatt hours coming from? .

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