Kansas needs to jump-start itself to get moving on the Sunflower coal plant compromise that made wind energy the focus of its renewable energy plan.
State leaders say Kansas wind power will require federal legislation and more transmission lines to enable the state to make the most of its wind energy potential. So far the state has tapped only 10 percent of its potential, reaching 1,000 megawatts of wind energy this year compared with the 7,000 to 10,000 megawatt capacity studies estimate.
Last spring, the Legislature passed a renewable energy law that allowed construction of the Sunflower coal-fired electrical plant in southwest Kansas. But more important to the state’s future was the companion legislation that set renewable energy portfolio standards.
In essence, it called for Kansas to be a player in the renewable energy business, specifically wind power.
Gov. Mark Parkinson said this month that passage of federal renewable energy standards 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.
But why wait for the feds to act? The state has to now be recruiting renewable energy businesses to come to Kansas to build and grow here.
There has been some positive movement, but not related to new laws. Siemens, a Munich, Germany-based company, broke ground this summer on a 300,000-square-foot wind turbine plant in Hutchinson. The plant is expected to employ 400 workers and turn out 650 units a year. This is an example of the kind of opportunities Kansas now is in a position to take advantage of.
And there are projects under 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 Energy and ITC Great Plains in southwestern Kansas. That represents a key step toward improving the grid in Kansas.
Kansas had fallen behind other Midwestern states in terms of establishing renewable energy policies. While Colorado set a standard of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 and Missouri required 15 percent by 2021, Kansas had done nothing. The new Kansas legislation matches Colorado’s requirement.
So far, Kansas has made baby steps. Now it’s time to start running.