wind energy | KCUR

wind energy

Members of the group Keep Reno Heavenly showed a mix of emotions after the Reno County Commission denied NextEra Energy a permit to build a wind farm in the southeastern part of the county.

On one hand, all of its efforts had paid off. Members of the group had worked for months to organize and participate in public hearings, and they finally got the result they wanted — the proposed 220 megawatt wind farm with more than 80 turbines reaching 500 feet in the air would not be built.

Wind farms have been sprouting across Kansas horizons for nearly 20 years, planting ever-more-giant turbines capable of transforming breezes into clean-energy megawatts and remaking the plains-and-prairie landscape.

The rules about how close those towering structures can stand to a road, to a home, or to a property line vary by project and from one county after the next.

Wind scrapes across the plains of southwest Kansas like few places in the country.

It drives a booming new industry of turbines that feeds electricity across the region. But at times, the wind gets out of hand.

This week, it plowed across the landscape, causing trucks to swerve on highways, kicking up dust clouds and freeing family pets by knocking down fences.

The Missouri Public Service Commission gave the green light Wednesday to allow a 780-mile wind-energy transmission line to be built across Missouri.

The Grain Belt Express transmission line will deliver nearly 4,000 megawatts of power from wind farms in western Kansas to parts of Missouri, Illinois and some eastern states. The line would course through eight Missouri counties, including Caldwell, Randolph and Monroe.

Wind is beginning to challenge coal’s status as the primary energy source for electricity produced in Kansas.

One morning after the next, semi-trailer trucks get off Interstate 70 near Colby in west-central Kansas.

They haul parts of giant wind turbines in 150-foot-long sections, the pieces to the Solomon Forks wind farm and the next monumental phase of the Kansas bet on wind energy. The farm will plant 105 turbines in the prairie, each towering 250 feet high.

The project is one of a wave of wind farms under construction in Kansas that will add 20 percent more electrical generation to the state’s output.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Waiting for psych beds

The number of residential psychiatric wards in Kansas has dropped to 8 today from 17 in 2011 and now about a third as many beds are available for overnight care.

One factor has been a limit on the number of days the state’s privately managed Medicaid programs will authorize for a stay in one of the treatment centers.

So now some 140 children simply wait to get intense treatment for a range of potentially critical mental health problems.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Fill ’er up

Pavement wears down at the same rate whether the cars and trucks rolling over it rely on internal combustion engines for locomotion or on new-fangled hybrid and electric motors.

Yet Kansas, like most other states, relies on gasoline taxes for much of the cost of building its roads and keeping them in reasonable shape.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Aging out into problems

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation looking at what happens to older children in foster care shows Kansas roughly follows national trends — and paints a bleak picture for their entry into adulthood.

Some things stand out in Kansas:

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Campaigning for business

The candidates for governor (let’s avoid “gubernatorial,” on principle) trotted to Wichita Tuesday night to sit for a Kansas Chamber forum and talk about issues relating to the business-happy outlook the group represents.

Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach promised to cut taxes to the levels of the early Brownback years and roll back regulations. Yes, he is, as he calls himself, a “full-throttled conservative.”

Wind turbines have become a common sight on Iowa’s landscape.
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Even as wind energy production has grown in recent years to be a large part of the country’s energy portfolio, a chill around federal funding for renewable energy has researchers increasingly turning to industry partners to bring the next generation of innovation to the marketplace.

CREDIT JOESPH NOVAK / FLICKR--CC

You may take it for granted, but electricity gets to your outlets through wires that originate all the way back to the source.

Now, if that’s a solar panel on your roof, it’s not very far. But when it comes to wind, power is generated a long way from where it’s used — often crossing hundreds of miles, numerous personal property lines and, increasingly, state boundaries.

Building new high-voltage lines across all those jurisdictions is now the biggest obstacle to the growth of wind energy.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Skepticism from the Missouri Public Service Commission didn’t stop a company that wants to build a pipeline across the state to harness Kansas wind energy from signing a jobs agreement Thursday.

Clean Line Energy announced it will work with Kansas City-based PAR Electrical Contractors Inc. to create 1,300 jobs for Missourians during construction of the Grain Belt Express.

Grant Bannister came to testify before the Kansas Legislature this week, traveling to Topeka from Alexander, in Rush County, population 65.

Bannister said his family had a typical Kansas farm — mostly wheat, some cattle. But he was addressing the Senate Utilities Committee about an entirely different income source.

“I grew up in rural Kansas, a simple farm boy,” Bannister said. “Now I'm selling wind energy to Yahoo.”

Westar Energy

 

Rep. John Whitmer says he didn’t follow the ongoing debate on whether to repeal the state’s renewable energy standards before he arrived in the Legislature this month.

But as a new member of the House Energy and Environment Committee, Whitmer said he anticipates being immersed in the debate soon. 

“Oh, I’m sure we’ll hear about it,” he said with a laugh. “I’m sure it will come up.”

Westar Energy

 

A trio of wind farms in central Kansas ran at nearly 50 percent capacity in 2013, which one Kansas senator says is a positive sign for the state’s young wind industry.

Sen. Marci Francisco said the relatively high capacity-factor rates for the two Smoky Hills wind farms and neighboring Post Rock wind farm mean that the area just west of Salina where they were built has particularly good wind power potential.

The Independence, Mo., City Council wants to see a solar farm built in the northeast part of the city as part of its plan to decrease reliance on coal-fired power plants.

The city council passed a resolution this summer to have 10 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2018. Independence Power and Light Director Leon Daggett says the city-owned utility already gets about 5 percent of its power from a Salina, Kan., wind farm.

Energy Standards In Kansas

Apr 3, 2014
Nuala / Flickr/CC

The Kansas Senate voted to repeal a state mandate that required utility companies to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. However, the House refused to repeal House Bill 2014 less than 24 hours later.

On today's Central Standard, host Gina Kaufmann discusses the politics of wind energy and the environmental impact it has in Kansas.

Guests:

Wind energy tax credits help make wind power more affordable, and have boosted the industry in states like Kansas. But those credits are set to expire at the end of the year, and lawmakers from Kansas disagree on what should be done.

Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo from Wichita said last week that the federal government supporting wind energy with tax credits is an intrusion into the economy. Pompeo says opposition is growing and he's arguing to let the credit expire.

humanevents.com

A wind energy tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year, but Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is still holding out hope that lawmakers in Washington will extend the credit.

humanevents.com

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo says the fate of a wind energy tax credit could be tied to the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations.

Brownback Pushes Wind Energy Tax Credit

Nov 14, 2012
Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is continuing his push for an extension of a federal wind energy tax credit.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama said "nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy." But how close are we to large-scale use of alternative energy sources? 

Wind is Up at KCI

Dec 21, 2010
photo by Stephen Steigman

Kansas City, MO – A wind-power turbine assembly operation is moving to the KCI Intermodal BusinessCentre. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon revealed more about it on KCUR's Up To Date .

It's called Nordic Windpower USA. It will move headquarters from Berkeley California to the BusinesCentre and its assembly plant from Idaho to existing space at the airport. The Governor says it'll mean about 200 jobs. The Kansas City Business Journal says it'll be more like 175.