Some people might think of them as an efficient source of energy or just a waste of time, eyesores jutting out of the prairie or the only interesting thing to look at on a road trip down U.S. Highway 83 to Dodge City. Opinions about them may differ but they’re all concerning the same thing wind farms.
Kansas has the third highest potential to generate wind energy and generates the 10th-highest amount of wind energy in the nation. There are currently three big industrial size wind farms in the state, two of them are in Southwest Kansas near Spearville and Montezuma, while the other one is east of Wichita near Butler.
“I’m a supporter of renewable fuels and believe that wind energy is a component of them that ought to be emphasized,” U.S. Congressman Jerry Moran said. “I think that Kansas, and especially Southwest Kansas, has a lot to offer in regard to wind energy. The thing that we have to continue working on in Kansas with our utility companies, is to increase our transmission capabilities, because the difficulty in locating a wind farm in many places in Kansas is yes, we have plenty of wind, but we’re not close enough to the urban areas that utilize the electricity generated from the wind farms.”
Despite the obvious benefits of the utilization of large scale wind farms, there are still sites where the near 300 foot tall turbines are not welcome, given that there are just some places where people object. The Flint Hills of Central Kansas was one of those sites, where the Elk River Wind Project is currently located.
Opinions about the wind farm long divided residents near the development of the Elk River Wind Farm site, according to a story by Fred Mann of the Wichita Eagle.
Although arguments have been made in other parts of Kansas, the southwest section of the state seems to be pretty much in favor of the industrial sites.
“The wind energy facilities at Spearville and Montezuma both have been very popular, supported by local folks,” Moran said. “I’ve been there, toured there, been to the communities aside from just visiting the wind farms, and people are glad that they are there.”
Basically the only thing stopping the development of more wind farms in Southwest Kansas, is the fact that it’s hard to export the energy created by the turbines long distances.
“A shortcoming has been a general lack of electrical transmission lines to deliver Western Kansas wind power to markets where it is needed,” Kansas Energy Council Chairman Ken Frahm said. “However, due to recent work of the Kansas Energy Transmission Authority, chaired by state representative Carl Holmes, it now appears that new transmission lines will be built that will allow further expansion of wind farms in Western Kansas.
“Kansas is off to a great start on utilization of it’s superior wind resource,” Frahm said. “We currently have close to 400 megawatts of wind production.”
Kansas recently pushed forward with an agreement to raise the amount of wind-generated energy to 10 percent by 2010 and will, hopefully, be around the 20 percent mark by 2020.
Large scale wind farms are not the only way that wind can be utilized for energy.
“At the moment I’m in support of a piece of legislation that creates a tax credit for usage on a smaller scale, for example; a business, a community college, a school campus, a community in which they would receive assistance to develop wind energy on a smaller scale just to meet their needs,” Moran said. “We’ve seen the development of some of the large scale wind farms in Kansas, there are three in Kansas … I think that those are important developments, but I also like to see more individual community small-scale utilization of wind energy as well.”
By Jordan Beeson
1 July 2007