LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas will host a symposium on wind energy in the Flint Hills from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, at the Commons in Spooner Hall.
“Preservation and Innovation: Climate Change, Agriculture and Wind Energy in the Kansas Flint Hills” is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program (IGERT) Climate Change, Humans and Nature in the Global Environment (C-CHANGE); the Commons; the Environmental Studies Program; the Hall Center for the Humanities; and the CHS Foundation.
Debates about alternative energy in Kansas inevitably address wind power. Kansas ranks among the top five states in the country in both potential economic support for wind power and wind availability and has become a test case for the viability of rural energy development. According to Gov. Mark Parkinson, Kansas has become “a battleground for the whole nation” regarding wind power. Increasing concern about climate change and the growing demand for clean, green energy has only heightened the awareness of Kansas’ role at the crossroads of energy, economics and environment.
The symposium will allow students and the community to observe and engage the varied perspectives on the potential benefits of and concerns about wind energy development and climate change, especially in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
Lawrence G. Gonzalez is the regional energy adviser with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 7 Office in Kansas City, Kan. Gonzalez received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics and material science from the University of Texas-El Paso. He began his career at EPA in 1995 at the organization’s office in Washington, D.C., and has held a variety of regulatory development, program coordination and outreach positions at the agency. In the regional office, Gonzalez provides analysis, advice and coordination on policies and federal actions that impact climate change objectives and energy production, transportation and use in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
Kelly Kindscher is a senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey and a courtesy professor in the Environmental Studies Program at KU. Kindscher, a plant ecologist and conservation biologist, has provided land management advice to the Nature Conservancy and Kansas Land Trust and served on the executive committee of the KU Field Station. Additionally, Kindscher has worked as the conservation easement chair for the Tallgrass Legacy Alliance, a Flint Hills group dedicated to preservation of the tallgrass prairie, and has worked on siting wind farms in the Flint Hills and other parts of Kansas.
Mark Lawlor is director of development at Clean Line Energy Partners. He joined Clean Line In 2010 after serving as project manager for Horizon Wind Energy, where he developed a 201 MW wind farm and a pipeline of projects exceeding 1,000 MW. In 2008, he was appointed to the Kansas Wind Working Group by the governor. As the chair of the Wind Coalition’s SPP Committee, Lawlor has been managing legislative and regulatory affairs for the trade organization for the past two years. He has a law degree from Washburn University School of Law with a certificate in environmental law, a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a bachlor’s in political science from KU.
Larry Patton is dean of humanities and fine arts at Butler Community College in El Dorado and president of the nonprofit grassroots organization Protect the Flint Hills. Protect the Flint Hills is dedicated to providing information and education about the issues that affect the Flint Hills, the last expanse of tallgrass prairie on the continent. Patton is a fifth-generation Kansan who opposes the placement of wind turbines in the tallgrass prairie.
Robert W. Righter is a research professor of the American West and environmental history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He received a doctorate from the University of California-Santa Barbara in 1968 and is the author or editor of seven books on environmental topics, including his 1996 work, “Wind Energy in America: A History.” Righter has finished the manuscript for his latest work, “Windfall: Creating Electricity from the Wind” and expects the book to be published later this year.
A. Scott Ritchie owns the Wichita-based oil and gas exploration business Ritchie Exploration Inc. and is an opponent of wind turbine placement in the Flint Hills. Ritchie owns 20,000 acres of land in the Flint Hills and is concerned that the wind turbines will decrease the area’s natural beauty and harm one of the last remaining tallgrass prairie areas in the country.
Kyle Wetzel has engineered wind energy systems since 1993. He is president of Wetzel Engineering Inc. in Lawrence. The company’s clients include wind turbine and component manufacturers in the United States, Europe and China. Approximately 8,000 utility-scale wind turbines operate worldwide with technology developed by Wetzel. He holds a doctorate in aerospace engineering from KU.
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