The timing may have been coincidental, but last week’s announcement that a new wind turbine production plant would be built in Hutchinson is an example of the kind of opportunities Kansas now is in a position to take advantage of.
Just a day after Kansas legislators and Gov. Mark Parkinson announced they had agreed on a compromise energy bill, Siemens, a company based in Munich, Germany, announced it would start construction by August of a new 30,000-square-foot wind turbine plant in Hutchinson. The plant is expected to employ 400 workers and turn out 650 units a year once production gets under way. Too bad it isn’t coming to Lawrence.
Siemens’ project might not have been contingent on renewable energy legislation that was passed later in the week, but the new laws certainly would make the state more attractive to Siemens or other similar businesses. The main focus last week was on the bill that allowed construction of a coal-fired electrical plant in southwest Kansas, but probably more important to the state’s future was the companion legislation that, among other things, provided for net metering of utilities and set renewable portfolio standards for the state.
Such measures send the message that Kansas is ready to be a player in the renewable energy business. It’s the signal that will allow the state to compete against other states not only for projects that directly generate alternative energy, but for companies, like Siemens, that provide the technology to support those efforts.
The Siemens plant will produce 90-ton nacelle units that are mounted on towers and support the rotors of the wind turbines. It already has a plant in Fort Madison, Iowa, that produces rotor blades. It only makes sense for the company to strengthen its presence in the U.S., closer to customers in what one Siemens official called “one of the world’s fastest growing wind energy markets.”
Kansas had fallen behind other Midwestern states in terms of establishing policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, that require a set percentage of a utility’s power plant capacity to come from renewable sources by a given date. While Colorado set a standard of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 and Missouri required 15 percent by 2021, Kansas had done nothing. The legislation Parkinson is expected to sign would match Colorado’s requirement.
Passing these standards shows companies that Kansas has made a commitment to wind power and other alternative energies. It doesn’t guarantee the state can attract more energy-related companies, but it at least gets us in the game.