More transmission lines needed to develop wind energy, officials say

Governor: Transmission lines, legislation vital to wind power

? Unlocking the potential of Kansas wind power will require federal legislation and more transmission lines, officials said Wednesday.

Speaking to the Kansas Wind Working Group, Gov. Mark Parkinson said the state has succeeded in reaching approximately 1,000 megawatts of wind energy.

But, he said, 2009 “has obviously been a much slower year,” which he attributed partly to the national recession.

He said passage of renewable energy standards that are pending in Congress would spur development of more wind farms. A federal requirement, he said, for utilities to produce a certain percentage of renewable energy could be the most important legislation affecting Kansas.

Kansas is one of the top states for potential wind energy, with studies showing that it could reach a capacity of 7,000 to 10,000 megawatts.

Kelly Harrison, vice president of transmission operations for Westar Energy Inc., said construction of high-voltage transmission lines in western Kansas is necessary to develop wind energy and move electricity to customers in the east.

“We have got to build transmission from the west to the east,” he said.

Several projects are lined up for consideration before the Southwest Power Pool, which is federally mandated to ensure power supplies and an adequate transmission grid.

One of those would be built by Westar and ITC Great Plains in southwestern Kansas. Harrison said that project represents the key “first step” toward improving the grid in Kansas.

Parkinson also noted that the proposed construction of a factory to build wind turbine equipment in Hutchinson was a bright spot in Kansas’ quest for renewable energy jobs.

The Siemens Energy factory is expected to employ about 400 people who will build nacelles, which are the structures that house the turbine components.