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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2008

NW Kansas commissioners attend wind energy summit

August 16, 2008

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— Commissioners from 13 northwest Kansas counties met this week to discuss how to deal with the emerging issue of producing electricity from wind.

Sen. Sam Brownback was the featured speaker at the meeting Wednesday, and detailed some of his thoughts on what the federal government can do to foster wind generation. Brownback said he supports the idea of extending tax credits for wind development.

"Not just for one year but five years," he said. "Problem is, we've got to find the offsets for it."

He said the federal tax credit that has boosted many wind projects is generally not available to farmers or cooperatives that might undertake smaller projects or band together for larger projects.

Producing electricity in the far western reaches of Kansas is limited because it cannot generally be sent west, part of a separate system that needs a converter to make the leap from one grid to another.

Development of transmission facilities - to move the power from generation sites to spots where it is needed - could be the difficult part of the equation, he said.

"We're going to have to try to figure out how we move this electricity," he said.

The group agreed to proceed with the idea of a regional wind compact and meet again in a month.

At least one commissioner from Scott County suggested that perhaps the counties trade ideas on how best to regulate wind farms, an idea that gained favor because some of the larger wind projects could cross county lines.

Although not a commissioner, Gove County resident Rich Roemer wanted to know about harnessing solar power.

"I think the big thing we can help on is research," Brownback said, noting difficulties in solar power issues. "Here, the wind, we know we've got a sweet spot here."

Brownback said he even is looking at the idea of a small wind generation unit at his home in Topeka.

"I want to do it," he said of the wind power idea. "But I don't want to do it stupid."

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