Library from Kansas
The much-contested proposed wind farm site southwest of Hays is not the only area being considered for a project location, County Commissioner Perry Henman said at Monday's meeting. Henman said Hays Wind project manager Krista Gordon contacted him last week and said locations in the southwestern and northern parts of Ellis county also are being pursued. "She wanted to inform me that I may have property in the wind farm north of Ellis," Henman said.
The Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition has proposed an ordinance to the zoning board that would regulate wind energy development in the county to protect citizens, the environment, and the common good of community. The regulations were drafted from zoning laws of counties in other states experienced with wind energy and follow recommendations set forth in the governor's guidelines for wind energy development in Kansas. ...Proponents can argue that some of the proposed regulations are too stringent, but they cannot argue that they are not needed.
The Senate this afternoon passed with a veto-proof majority a controversial energy bill that would allow an addition to a coal-fired power plant in western Kansas and would strip the state's top environmental regulator of the power to limit carbon dioxide pollution. ..."We want economic growth, inexpensive energy and yet a clean environment and better health for our children," said Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, who voted in favor of the bill. "Solutions require elected officials to recognize those competing goals, to be frank about them and the tradeoffs they require."
A House committee endorsed a bill Tuesday to allow two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas, adding a mandate that utilities generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable resources such as wind within two years. The Energy and Utilities Committee's unanimous voice vote to send the measure to the House stood in sharp contrast to the strong divisions over energy policy that emerged during a four-hour debate. Members rewrote a bill drafted by the committee's Republican chairman and top Democrat and their Senate counterparts. Three times, the House committee rejected proposals for what would have been the state's first limits on carbon dioxide emissions ...Not only would utilities be required to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2010, the figure would climb to 25 percent in 2025. But there's no punishment if a utility fails to meet the standard
In the Kansas Country Living, February 2008, Gov. Sebelius is said to have a personal goal set to "achieve 10 percent wind power by 2010." Someone outside the forever-tax-exempt, corporate-wind-farm, big-business-gifting-the-officials-with-scraps office do the math. How in the world can a governor party about the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie Landscape (the last known one of its kind on earth) and party on the other hand with big business that is mutilating and hacking to pieces the very tallgrass we call a Wonder? One ridiculous wind farm destroyed 10,000 acres of significant ecological and scenic area of these precious grasses in Lincoln and Ellsworth counties.
County commissioners likely will see new regulations for wind power later this year. Because of a growing number of inquiries about wind generators, the Franklin County Planning Commission has been working on a proposal for planning and zoning rules for wind generators, Lisa Johnson, interim county administrator, told Franklin County Commissioners Wednesday.
While I am a strong supporter of wind generation as a supplemental source of energy, it cannot replace additional baseload generation. Because wind is intermittent, it must be accompanied by baseload generation of some sort and currently is paired for the most part with natural gas because it is more efficient to power down and power up a gas-fired generator than to do so with a coal generator. However, to have the capacity to produce much more wind generation, Kansas will need additional transmission lines from west to east and south to north. ...For transmission lines to be financially viable, they need to move energy from baseload generation as well as wind generation. ...The bottom line is Kansas is short of baseload generating capacity, and we are short of transmission capacity in the larger region. We no longer can rest on the assumption that yearly transmission service will be available even if the utility has a power supplier.
The governor now says her voluntary standards for renewable power in Kansas aren't enough -- they should be law. At a press briefing in her office Friday, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said she'd like to see legislators codify goals for power companies to invest 10 percent in green energy by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. Her statement comes as 27 states have mandated renewable standards, and the federal government is discussing doing so as well Kansas utilities traditionally have opposed such mandates. Instead, Sebelius and executives of the state's power companies agreed last year to voluntary goals.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius zapped a coal-fired power plant bill with harsh criticism Thursday and said she'd sought to compromise with two western Kansas utilities on the issue but was rejected. "Kansas would be the coal capital of the country," Sebelius said in response to the bill, introduced Wednesday by lawmakers upset at her administration for rejecting a permit for two $3.6 billion plants near Holcomb. ...Emler said the legislation was unique nationally because it would let Sunflower mitigate its carbon emissions by investing in research, wind power or other green initiatives. It also imposes a $3-a-ton penalty tax on carbon emissions for failure to meet the bill's standards. Sebelius scoffed at the provisions, noting the bill offered no realistic change in emissions limits, and a $3 tax was far lower than the $20- to $30-a-ton estimates that utility companies, financial analysts and Congress are now considering as a potential federal carbon tax.
Three meteorological towers were approved with flying colors during Monday morning's Ellis County Commission meeting. "The board unanimously approved it. I don't see anything wrong with it," Commissioner Vernon Berens said. Ellis County Zoning Administrator Dale Wing said all of the materials have been filed for the three meteorological towers, which will be west of Hays and be used to measure wind speeds as part of proposed wind energy developments. "I don't see anything wrong with the towers," Commissioner Perry Henman said. "The only question is time. How long will they use them?" Krista Gordon, project manager of CPV Wind Hays, said the towers will not be up for more than five years.
There wasn't much official business to discuss at Wednesday evening's Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, but that didn't prevent escalating tensions and heated arguments from taking over the meeting room. Commissioners had received one document proposing changes to the current zoning regulations, as part of a months-long endeavor to revamp existing rules. The proposal, suggested by the Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition, was tabled until next week so board members could review the document and prepare their discussion. "I would just like to have time ... we need time to go over it and read it," said commissioner Barbara Anderson. Since the regulations pertained to wind energy, county counselor Bill Jeter could not be present, due to a conflict of interest he cited during the wind farm deliberation last spring.
Construction on the state's largest wind farm to date will begin next week near Concordia, signaling another step in the growth of renewable power in Kansas. But a coalition of wind energy and turbine companies told the state Senate Utilities Committee Tuesday morning that Kansas needs to signal greater desire on several fronts if it wishes to become a major player in the wind energy industry. ...Margy Stewart said the state needs to approach the issue with caution and carefully regulate where wind farms build. "These developments that are unthinkingly promoted will destroy native prairie," said Stewart, who represents the McDowell Creek Tourism Association in the Flint Hills. A bill to put state guidelines for wind-farm siting into law is expected to be considered by legislators sometime this session. However, developers are bullish on the prospects for thousands of new megawatts of wind power to flow from Kansas transmission lines.
Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson is laying out an ambitious agenda for Kansas to export thousands of megawatts of wind power to southeastern states and make Wichita a center for manufacturing windmills. Parkinson outlined his proposals last week to the state Wind Working Group, a commission made up of about 40 government and utility officials and alternative-energy advocates. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed the group to work through the details of implementing her goal of getting 10 percent of the state's power from renewable sources by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. Parkinson, the group's chairman, said he selected Wichita as the site for the group's first meeting last Friday because of the city's potential to become a manufacturing hub for the burgeoning U.S. wind power industry.
Visionaries who believe America can -- indeed, must -- change its power consumption habits through lifestyle changes and increasing reliance on renewable resources such as wind met up with the harsh realities of long-entrenched utilities Monday night. While an energy consultant and wind developer extolled the benefits of wind power, ... vice president for Westar was declaring as myths the idea that energy efficiency could prevent the need for new power plants, or that renewable sources can replace fossil - or nuclear power plants.
Wind energy and coal plants are two buzz phrases seeing plenty of play in Kansas newspapers lately. The perception seems to be wind and solar power are the cleaner alternative over coal, but coal, according BPU General Manager Rick Anderson, is what makes BPU's rates the lowest in Kansas. "BPU has a contractual arrangement with Westar Energy to provide electricity from our turbine generators and in turn Westar provides us with our energy," Anderson said. The arrangement has kept BPU's average rates to 3.8 cents per kWh, well below the average of 8.1 cents for nationally publicly owned utilities and 7.6 for Kansas publicly owned utilities. ...House of Representatives Speaker Melvin Neufeld touched on the need for a sound energy policy in his 2008 Republican Legislative Vision speech. "Alternative energies like wind and solar power can play an important role in our state's energy portfolio, but the simple fact is wind turbines and sunshine alone cannot meet our growing demand for electricity," Neufeld said.
Supporters of Sunflower Electric's plans to build coal-fired power plants near Holcomb on Friday criticized a poll released earlier in the week that showed a majority of Kansans back the denial of a state permit for the plants. "As you know, a poll's outcome can be determined by the way you ask the questions," said Senate President Steve Morris, whose district includes Sunflower's plan for the new coal complex. Bob Williams, a Garden City businessman and Sunflower backer, agrees. "I'm naturally suspicious when people who pay for the poll end up getting the answers they're looking for."
The packed house and tense air at Wednesday night's meeting of the Ellis County Joint Planning and Zoning Commission saw no serious surprises. In a unanimous vote, the commission recommended approval of a conditional-use permit for Hays Wind LLC to install three 60-meter meteorological instrument towers on separate sites southwest of Hays. And there almost was no discussion against the move. But the crowd of more than 40 people -- and the nervousness apparent on many people in the room -- indicated one thing: It's been four months since a request for a conditional-use permit to erect a massive wind farm outside of Hays came up one vote shy of the unanimous approval it needed to pass the Ellis County Commission, but parties involved still are highly interested.
As a rancher in Osborne County that is not leasing to the proposed wind farm here, I took interest in your article of Dec. 31, 2007, "First Phase of State's Fourth Wind Farm Nearing Completion." I have spent most of my life working to acquire and maintain my ranch properties and one parcel goes back four generations. Am I to sit and let this huge, disruptive, totally scenery changing wind farm operation take place around me, as helpless as the bison that originally roamed the prairie home? I find business contracts offered me the poorest business venture I could ever make. One-third of 1 percent per structure value per year's rent offered or, to my understanding, under 1 percent royalty hardly matches oil royalty. What I see driving past the Lincoln project is a far bigger mess than any oil patch I've ever seen. ...I do not want to be part of a low rent wind farm and hope there are others enough so we have a Kansas prairie fully up to our counties true life blood support of agriculture. With faith in our prairie lands of Osborne County, I, for one, do not feel it appropriate to put up these tombstones to a failed agriculture.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius formed a group Monday to promote wind power, but two key legislators were skeptical it would make a valuable contribution to energy policy. ...But the Democratic governor's announcement received a cool response from two prominent Republicans, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, of Ingalls, and Rep. Carl Dean Holmes, of Liberal, chairman of the House Energy and Utilities Committee. "We need to actually do serious study on total energy needs and resources for the future," Neufeld said. Neufeld and Holmes strongly support a proposal from Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to build two coal-fired power plants outside Holcomb in Finney County. They argue that such plants are necessary to meet the state's growing, around-the-clock need for electricity. ...Sebelius and [Lt. Gov. Mark] Parkinson disagree, arguing that aggressive conservation programs and new wind farms will be sufficient. In October, Rod Bremby, Sebelius' secretary of health and environment, rejected a construction permit for Sunflower's $3.6 billion project, citing the coal plants' potential carbon dioxide emissions.
A home sits beneath wind turbines in the Spearville Wind Energy Facility east of Dodge City.