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Many Questions about Wind Must be Answered

All too often I hear an enthusiastic statement that wind generators will replace the power plant and become the singular source of our energy supply. Despite what the infrequent visitor to western Kansas may think, the wind does not always blow. Consumers want to turn on the television or do the wash at any time, illustrating that the demand for electricity is present even when the wind is not blowing.

One question I am frequently asked is “when will Kansas use more wind energy?” The short answer is actually “sooner than you think,” but that answer ignores the very complex array of issues associated with wind energy. By now, most folks have read about the Gray County wind farm project near Montezuma, and Westar’s turbines at Jeffrey Energy Center. Sunflower Electric Power in Hays is also partnering with others to bring another wind farm to Kansas near Leoti and others are no doubt in the works. These projects will be but some of the many critical pieces in our future electric needs puzzle.

All too often I hear an enthusiastic statement that wind generators will replace the power plant and become the singular source of our energy supply. Despite what the infrequent visitor to western Kansas may think, the wind does not always blow. Consumers want to turn on the television or do the wash at any time, illustrating that the demand for electricity is present even when the wind is not blowing.

In order to provide a reliable supply of electricity, utilities must continue to rely on coal, gas, or nuclear power plants to “back up” any wind generation. This operational reality shouldn’t serve as a deterrent to the development of wind energy though, and wind developers will continue to receive encouragement --and more-- from the state and federal government.

Developers of... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

One question I am frequently asked is “when will Kansas use more wind energy?” The short answer is actually “sooner than you think,” but that answer ignores the very complex array of issues associated with wind energy. By now, most folks have read about the Gray County wind farm project near Montezuma, and Westar’s turbines at Jeffrey Energy Center. Sunflower Electric Power in Hays is also partnering with others to bring another wind farm to Kansas near Leoti and others are no doubt in the works. These projects will be but some of the many critical pieces in our future electric needs puzzle.

All too often I hear an enthusiastic statement that wind generators will replace the power plant and become the singular source of our energy supply. Despite what the infrequent visitor to western Kansas may think, the wind does not always blow. Consumers want to turn on the television or do the wash at any time, illustrating that the demand for electricity is present even when the wind is not blowing.

In order to provide a reliable supply of electricity, utilities must continue to rely on coal, gas, or nuclear power plants to “back up” any wind generation. This operational reality shouldn’t serve as a deterrent to the development of wind energy though, and wind developers will continue to receive encouragement --and more-- from the state and federal government.

Developers of wind farms will benefit from congressional adoption of a production tax credit that serves as an incentive to invest in the wind farms. State and federal regulators and regional transmission groups are planning on transmission line enhancements and additions that will aid in delivery power generated by wind.

The state of Kansas has also adopted a number of incentives aimed at maximizing investment in wind energy, including property tax abatements and above-market compensation for renewable generators placing energy on the grid.

The Kansas Energy Council, a group of individuals from many different backgrounds appointed by Gov. Sebelius to assist with the development of a state energy plan, is examining whether additional state incentives are needed to fully develop wind and other renewable energy in Kansas. The council has already wrestled with the difficult problem of whether wind farms should be located in the Flint Hills. The issue was difficult because learned environmentalists disagree on whether the impact to the ecosystem and wildlife is outweighed by benefits from additional wind generation.

Legislators and other policymakers must also balance the benefits from the development of wind energy against the cost to the consumers. Cost? Yes, that’s right. There are some costs associated with a renewable resource like wind. Some states have adopted mandates that cost utilities money instead of incentives, and since the utility can’t operate at a loss, the cost must be passed through to you, the consumer.

A good example of an expensive government mandate can be found in our neighboring state of Colorado. Amendment 37 establishes a Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS. It requires Colorado utilities to provide their customers with specific percentages of electricity from various renewable resources on a schedule. While this sounds good in theory, Colorado’s electric cooperatives estimate that their members will pay an additional $234 million to $385 million in rates over the next 20 years due to the mandate. Colorado will have more renewable energy, but is the cost worth it? Kansas policymakers will have to continually weigh the costs against the benefits in order to sensibly develop renewable energy in Kansas.

Stuart Lowry is Executive Vice President, Kansas Electric Cooperatives


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NOV 1 2004
http://www.windaction.org/posts/208-many-questions-about-wind-must-be-answered
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