Legislators from both parties joined developers and environmentalists to extol the benefits of wind energy Tuesday at the Statehouse.
Advocates who successfully fended off legislative attempts to roll back the state’s renewable energy standards last year pushed back again this week against claims the standards have caused significant increases in energy bills.
Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence said the wind turbine construction boom is on its way to producing sustainable, clean energy. The next step, she said, is building transmission lines to carry it efficiently.
“All customers are going to see a lowering of their energy rates as we put that wind on the grid,” Francisco said.
American for Prosperity has said repealing the renewable standards is one of its top priorities and has sponsored a statewide television and radio advertising blitz to make it happen.
But a recent survey showed support for keeping the standards, and legislators from both parties now have wind interests in their districts.
Sen. Elaine Bowers, R-Concordia, attended the rally along with about 25 students from Cloud County Community College, which she said is the only institution in the state teaching wind energy technology.
Bowers said there are two wind farms in her district. The community college’s class has between 60 and 70 students and still can’t keep up with the demand for workers.
“I have not climbed a wind turbine yet, but that’s on my bucket list,” Bowers said.
Kimberly Svaty, a lobbyist for the wind coalition, said the industry has created 13,000 jobs in the state, while also providing more environmentally friendly energy.
She noted that the small crowd at Tuesday’s rally included green energy advocates, such as the Kansas Sierra Club and Interfaith Power and Light, as well as businesses like Vestas Americas Wind Tech and EDP Renewables.
“It’s fun to see the two groups come together,” Svaty said.
The wind movement is also gathering new spokespeople well-known to Statehouse denizens.
Karin Brownlee, former Labor secretary and a 14-year state senator with a staunchly conservative reputation, spoke at Tuesday’s rally on behalf of Kansans for Wind Energy.
“This has been a tremendous thing to grow jobs in Kansas and what do you need when you’re coming out of a recession?” Brownlee said. “You need jobs.”
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