By Sarah Kessinger
Harris News Service
TOPEKA – With growing national demand for wind power, state energy officials plan to help Kansas towns and cities determine their potential as sites for community-owned wind farms.
“There’s a lot of serious interest,” Jim Ploger, manager of the Kansas Energy Office, said in a recent interview.
The office is working with the Kansas commerce department to issue a how-to guide plus a “tool kit” so local officials, landowners or other residents can enter information on a Web site and compute whether their locale could be suitable and feasible for a wind project.
“It would be directed at communities, rural electric cooperatives, maybe schools or private individuals getting together to finance a small project,” Ploger said.
The site would help them analyze before they spend a lot of money, he said, whether they’re in a location that is practical and can incorporate wind into the existing power system without many barriers.
Ploger noted Iowa has made strides with a school site powered by wind. Minnesota, too, has gained national attention for community-based projects.
In order to stimulate wind-generated power, both of the Midwestern states require utility companies to purchase a part of their new energy generation from renewable sources such as wind.
Kansas, considered the third most favorable state for wind power, has no such policy.
Some communities in north-central Kansas have explored the possibility of community wind farms but none has been built yet. Kansas has two large commercial wind-generated energy sites in central and western Kansas with another under construction.
The Kansas Energy Council, which meets today, will consider this fall whether to recommend a renewable energy requirement to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
About 20 states now have such mandates, Ploger said.
The council today will hear updates on commissioned studies of wind power and energy efficiency in Kansas, including two reviews of conservation potential for transportation and agriculture in Kansas.
The council will use the studies to make recommendations to the governor later this fall. From that, Sebelius will develop her policy proposals for the 2007 Legislature in January.
The council is exploring the potential for state tax incentives to encourage conservation and use of renewable power, said energy council Chairman Ken Frahm, Colby. Currently federal incentives are available through the end of 2007.
“In formulating a plan to go to the governor, we need to evaluate what is and isn’t feasible,” Frahm said. “We’re not likely to get the Legislature to bite into something that’s real expensive, but doing something is the first step.”
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