Archive for Friday, November 23, 2007

Coal denial bad news for wind energy, some argue

Transmission lines could have been used for greener enterprises, but others say rejection of plants won’t hurt Kansas’ prospects

November 23, 2007


— Big, breezy and relatively flat, Kansas is seen as one of the top states in the country for potential wind-generated electricity.

But efforts to increase wind power have been hurt by the rejection of the two coal-fired plants in western Kansas, supporters of the plants say.

Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, however, calls that assertion a "total myth."

Last month, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby rejected the $3.6 billion plants, citing health and environmental concerns over the projected emissions of 11 million tons of climate-changing carbon dioxide per year. About 85 percent of the plants' electricity would have been sold to out-of-state customers.

The project proposal by Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. would have included transmission lines that also could have transported power produced by wind turbines.

The transmission lines are not economically feasible to build without the foundation of less expensive coal-fired power, the plants' supporters say.

"Regional transmission development will suffer if our project dies," said Earl Watkins Jr., president and chief executive officer of Sunflower Electric. "No one, and I repeat, no one will build new transmission to Colorado.

"And what right-minded utility in Colorado, Oklahoma or Texas would invest in or buy wind power from Kansas after being told to take their projects back home? Coloradans will buy Colorado wind, Oklahomans will buy Oklahoma wind, and Texans will buy Texas wind," Watkins said.

But Parkinson said that since the rejection of the plants, two transmission lines have been approved.

One of those is a line proposed by Lawrence-based ITC Great Plains.

The 180-mile high voltage line would run from Spearville, near Dodge City, southeast to Comanche County, and then northeast to Wichita.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius praised the proposal, saying, "These new transmission lines will help our state harness wind potential and provide short- and long-term investment in our communities."

Parkinson said Kansas needs transmission lines to move power from western Kansas to the east, not in the other direction.

He said western states, such as Colorado, will not import Kansas wind power because they can generate their own.

Kansas' opportunity to sell wind power is in the southeastern part of the United States, "which virtually has no wind resource," he said.

But state Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, a national-level expert on energy, said Parkinson was wrong.

"I go to a lot of meetings on wind energy, and I haven't seen a big market down there," in the southeastern United States, Sloan said.

Sloan said a great market potential for Kansas wind power is in the opposite direction: California.

And, he said, to economically justify a transmission line to carry power westward from western Kansas requires "anchor generation," such as coal, nuclear or natural gas.

Sunflower's Watkins said wind power can serve as a component of an energy portfolio, but because it is an intermittent resource, "it cannot serve base-load requirements."

About 3 percent of Kansas electricity today comes from wind power, mostly from three large-scale wind farms. Because of Kansas' size, high winds and relatively flat lands, especially in western Kansas, experts say the state should be one of the nation's leaders in wind energy.

Sebelius has set goals of increasing wind power to 10 percent of total electric use in Kansas by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020.


SteelHorseRider 10 years, 7 months ago

"thousands of jobs"

I find it extremely difficult to believe SW KS is missing out on "thousands of jobs."

The SW KS economic outlook will continue to be bleak until those folks leave the past behind and look for true alternatives. Investing in the production of wind and solar energy is smart. Buying into coal-fired plants are not.

Also, the days of unsustainable aquifer-fed irrigation farming are growing shorter.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 7 months ago

"Trying to argue that Bill Clinton et al were great for the enviornment becuase Bush is so bad is horrendous logic."

Possibly so, but I didn't make that argument, now did I?

dirkleisure 10 years, 7 months ago

"Some argue."

Earl Watkins, who has made it his personal goal in life to dramatically increase the level of CO2 in Kansas air, hardly qualifies as "some."

When Earl Watkins says there will be no transmission lines without his dinosaur power plant, he is lying. It is really that simple. He has zero credibility on the issue.

At least this article doesn't take the even more ridiculous reach of quoting eco devo officials from SW Kansas counties, as a similarly off-base article in the Wichita Eagle did.

KsTwister 10 years, 7 months ago

What is this,"we can't do this -without this" BS. Sure you can. And having just now read the above post he is correct too.

Mkh 10 years, 7 months ago

"And what right-minded utility in Colorado, Oklahoma or Texas would invest in or buy wind power from Kansas after being told to take their projects back home? Coloradans will buy Colorado wind, Oklahomans will buy Oklahoma wind, and Texans will buy Texas wind," Watkins said."

Yeah, so what? And Kansas will buy wind from Kansas Wind you fool. Send that wind energy East, not West.

tolawdjk 10 years, 7 months ago

Problem is Kansas generated wind power is even less economically feasible right now when it is sold in Kansas. Kansas doesn't have the inernal demand for power that makes it economically sexy to build plants here.

States and regions that have "renewable" requirements are where the current market is and where the primium price is being paid for renewable generation. That means going west with transmission lines.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 7 months ago

You're right, it's getting warmer, a thoughtful federal energy policy is precisely what we need, and precisely what we haven't gotten over the last 7 years.

Such a policy would have to deal with all existing coal power plants-- shutting many down, and dramatically cleaning up the rest. In the absence of such a national (international, really) policy, demanding immediate closure of existing plants because of the denial of permits for a plant that will do nothing but add to the problem is not helpful, and nothing more than a meaningless distraction.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 7 months ago

Yes, too many Dems have accepted huge bribes from energy companies and voted accordingly. But as always, when it comes to this sort of corruption, the Dems are rank amateurs compared to the Republicans, with BushCo being one of the most corrupt administrations in modern history.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 7 months ago

And what happens when the wind energy infrastructure that consumers pay to build ultimately lays dormant and rusty on the Kansas prairie?

Answer: More reliable generation is built - also at consumer expense. And, consumers continue to pay for the duration of the depreciative life of the wind equipment.

Result: We all pay more for poor energy decisions. It happened 20 years ago. Here we go again.

Sertorius 10 years, 7 months ago


Great logic there-I guess by that logic we can now assume that Hitler was ok since Stalin was responisble for the death of millions of more people. In fact, ironically, Hitler was a very strong enviornmentalist and tried to outlaw smoking in Nazi Germany-but that's beside the point. Trying to argue that Bill Clinton et al were great for the enviornment becuase Bush is so bad is horrendous logic. In my mind the Democrats are going to no more walk away from the blame than the Republicans-both parties are equally to blame for the energy mess we're in and both will be held accountable in the annals of history. In fact, both parties belong on the trash heap of history along with the used up philosophies of the late 19th and 20th centuries: socialism, communism, fascisim, conservatism, liberalism, capitalism et al. Time for a whole new paradigm and none of the presidential candidates we have seem willing to go there-thus, we will wind up with leaders like Honorius and Arcadius from the late Roman Empire.

Sertorius 10 years, 7 months ago

I do not disagree with the points on here that the liscense for the coal fired plant here should not be renewed-however, the problem with that is that there is nothing up and ready to go that would supply enough power to replace the current plant-thus, it is not feasable. Again, failed leadership as posted above. Our wonderfull city commission should have been working on solutions for here and other areas of the region to replace the coal plant and had something ready to go instead of wasting time writting letters about a plant 500 miles away-clean up your own back yard before worrying about somebody elses. Of course in the end, nobody that has been on our commission in the last 10 years or is curently on it has the political backbone to even begin this discussion so in the end, it is a mute point.

Sertorius 10 years, 7 months ago


I do not disagree with what you are saying-however, if you just pulled the plug without viable just won't work. My point was that this should have been considered 10-12 years ago or at worst while we were busy having meetings and writting letters about Holcomb we should have been figuring out an option to get rid of our own coal plant. We did not , so we are now where we are.

Now, if the city commission and state leaders are serious about this, then lets see an option on the table that would be ready to go in a year or two-I mean a real plan-buying from other places does no good as most likely that would be coal fired and you would be just sweeping the dirt under the carpet. We need a plan that shows that we can provide enough energy to power the region without coal-the plan needs to be ready to go as soon as the plug is pulled on the coal plant. The plan should say in two years we are pulling the plug-we will be using wind/nuclear/water/solar or maybe a combination-the plan also has a way to convince area residents that this is the best way to go and in the end will prob. be cheaper and better. Something along these lines.

However, my bet is that all we will do is flap and call each other names and blame. The time for leadership is now-I have yet to see any local, state, or federal leader who has the back bone to even begin to discuss this in a serious manner.

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