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Wind farms could have state exporting energy

Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson said Tuesday wind production in Kansas can expand to create an export market for notoriously stiff breezes cruising across the state.

“We know there is just a certain amount of wind we can integrate into our electrical system in Kansas,” Parkinson said. “How do we keep the momentum going? We’re probably talking about export.”

Wind generation capacity is spiking in Kansas through construction of large commercial farms. The state’s installed capacity was 365 megawatts at the end of 2007. That total is expected to reach 1,015 megawatts at the end of 2008.

If the projection holds, Kansas would become the seventh state to build enough wind turbines to post an energy capacity greater than 1,000 megawatts.

Wind expansion in Kansas is led by independent developers and utility companies working to diversify a state portfolio traditionally reliant on coal, natural gas and nuclear resources. Additional transmission lines will be key to wind’s future development, Parkinson said.

The state’s power system can draw a maximum of 20 percent to 25 percent of power from wind, Parkinson said. Additional wind power produced in Kansas – possibly 7,000 megawatts to 10,000 megawatts – could be exported.

Ken Frahm, who co-chairs the Kansas Energy Council with Parkinson, said adoption of national energy portfolio standards could compel utility companies in populous areas of the southeast United States to obtain more energy from renewable sources, such as wind. That would put Kansas in a solid position to sell excess wind power, Frahm said.

“Kansas is pretty good for wind, and southwest Kansas is darn good,” Frahm said.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said during a speech at the American Wind Energy Association’s conference last week in Houston that the federal government should extend tax breaks for the U.S. wind industry. The current tax credit for wind expires at year’s end, and Sebelius said a multiyear renewal is appropriate.

“Congress must renew the production tax credits and make it clear to investors that this incentive will last for several years,” she said. “The market will work effectively and competitively as long as investors know their long-term investments are prudent.”

The governor said a single-year credit extension under consideration by Congress would send “the wrong signal about our commitment to diversifying America’s long-term energy portfolio.”

The most recent wind developments include Smoky Hills Wind Farm west of Salina and Meridian Way Wind Farm near Concordia, which would send power to Westar Energy in Topeka.

By Tim Carpenter

The Topeka Capital-Journal

11 June 2008