Nashville, Kan. Two new wind farms in Kansas will make the state one of the few in the country with more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity generated every year by wind power.
Government and industry officials say the state is beginning to take advantage of its windy conditions, but much work remains to make wind energy a profitable industry in Kansas.
Flat Ridge Wind Farm recently began operating in Nashville, about 60 miles southwest of Wichita, and will generate about 100 megawatts of power a year. Central Plains Wind Farm in Marienthal, just east of Leoti, has begun partial operation and will eventually produce 99 megawatts a year.
Combined with existing wind farms, Kansas can now produce 1,012 megawatts of commercial, wind-generated electricity. The new plants, both owned by Westar Energy Inc., means Kansas ranks eighth among states in the amount of commercial wind power produced, still far behind Texas’ 7,407 megawatts.
The development comes amid an ongoing political dispute over energy policy between Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Sebelius has said the state’s energy future lies in wind and other renewable resources.
But GOP legislative leaders are attempting to override her administration’s decision to block two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas. House and Senate negotiators are working on the final version of a bill to do that and planned to meet today.
Kansas has enough wind to become a player in the wind energy market. The U.S. Department of Energy ranks Kansas as the third windiest state, after North Dakota and Texas.
But economic development experts say making wind power a profitable business requires building a large manufacturing and research base to supply the wind farms.
Kansas has started taking steps to meet that goal by reworking incentives to lure wind energy companies.
Wind farms alone are not particularly profitable. Flat Ridge cost $196 million to build, or about $2 million per megawatt, Simmons said. The 275 specialized construction workers mostly came from out of state, and only nine people are required to operate it.
The main economic benefit of wind farms is manufacturing the turbine parts, which currently come mostly from overseas.