Politics Threaten Kansas’ Wind Energy Market

What would happen if wind power had a success story?  After all, alternative energy development is a key Obama goal, as well as the goal of millions of Americans looking to get away from polluting fossil fuels for a variety of good reasons.  Would opponents still try to kill the programs anyway.  If you live in Kansas, the answer is, unfortunately, ‘yes’. (all words in italics are mine)

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Kansas is leading the U.S. in new wind farm installations this year. By the end of the year, eight new utility-scale wind projects will come online – representing approximately $3 billion in new investment – and the state will have more than doubled its installed wind power by adding 1.489 GW of new wind power capacity.

Sixty percent of the nearly 1.5 GW that will be placed in service this year will be exported. The balance will remain in state to fulfill the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) objectives. (Kansas’ RPS is 20% of peak demand capacity by 2020.) Of the existing 1.076 GW of wind power, the vast majority is used in state, and roughly 8% is exported to nearby Missouri. Power from the new projects will be exported to Missouri Electric Cooperative and Tennessee Valley Authority customers.

For example, TradeWind Energy, a Kansas-based wind developer, is sending wind power from a project developed in Oklahoma to customers of Southern Company. Meanwhile, BP Wind is constructing the 479 MW Flat Ridge 2 wind farm as major oil and gas developers are fracking the ground below. And Siemens’ wind turbine nacelles, manufactured in Hutchinson, Kan., are being deployed across many new Kansas wind farms.

Wow!  That’s pretty damn good.  But…

Stormy political clouds
However, all of this progress is threatened by the looming expiration of the production tax credit (PTC) – despite the backing of such staunch conservatives as Gov. Brownback, among others.

Statewide, the political attitude toward wind energy has also changed. Kansas’ congressional delegation has traditionally been supportive of an “all of the above” energy policy and transmission development, but that changed when these representatives were ousted in Kansas’ recent primary elections.

In the August primary elections, the State Senate moved decidedly conservative, and the State House may have tilted further to the right as well, placing further uncertainty on the short-term prospects for wind energy in the state.

Therefore, the future of wind energy development in Kansas faces a confounding future, and the 2013 legislative session will be very telling.

Two prominent state legislators vying for House and Senate positions are also currently on the board of directors for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative-oriented policy forum for state legislators. Moreover ALEC’s board of directors is contemplating model legislation to encourage legislators to repeal all state RPS programs.

Despite policy uncertainty at both the state and federal level, however, there is one constant: Kansas still has a rich and plentiful supply of high-capacity wind that can provide low-cost, renewable energy.

And the far-out radical right and the corporations who pay ALEC to write and promote legislation so that climate change will continue to be denied and the use of polluting fossil fuels will continue ad nauseum are undercutting the benefits to their own state, their own constituents, to push a radical agenda.

Wake up Kansas!

To read all about how Kansas politicians want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at the expense of a politically uninformed electorate, please click here