Study identifies Kansas as promising state for wind energy development with little impact on wildlife
An analysis released this month by a nonprofit environmental group with global reach identified Kansas as a promising place in the United States to develop wind energy without destroying natural habitats unique to the Great Plains.
According to the new “Site Wind Right” interactive map published by The Nature Conservancy, Kansas is one of 17 states in the central U.S. – all part of an area known as the “wind belt” – where renewable wind energy sites could be developed to generate a combined total of more than 1,000 gigawatts of wind power. And all that power could come from wind farms developed on land that would have low impact on nearby wildlife.
“That’s a lot of potential energy – comparable to total U.S. electric generation from all sources today,” said Mike Fuhr, director of The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma, another wind belt state.
“While advancements in transmission and storage will be needed to fully realize this wind energy potential,” he added, “it proves we can have both clean power and the lands and wildlife we love. It’s a win-win.”
According to The Nature Conservancy’s analysis, developing wind projects in the wrong places could have long-term negative effects on landscapes and wildlife. The conservancy indicates projects sited in places likely to impact wildlife are also more likely to stall projects, drive up prices and even lead to project cancellation.
The organization estimates that developing adequate renewable energy sites in the U.S. could affect up to 76 million acres of land – an area almost as big as the state of New Mexico. That underscores the importance of choosing the right land for such developments.
According to Laura Clawson, director of marketing and outreach for The Nature Conservancy’s Kansas Field Office, there are nearly 4.5 million acres of land in Kansas that could be developed with minimal impact on wildlife.
“To put the Kansas number in perspective, those acres carry a potential capacity of 133.69 gigawatts of energy,” Clawson said.
She said there is currently only 6 gigawatts of installed wind capacity in the state, and a total of 16.45 gigawatts of installed energy-generating capacity from all sources.
Across the 17-state region included in the interactive Site Wind Right map, the conservancy identified about 36.6 million acres of land with low-impact development potential, Clawson added.
According to a news release from The Nature Conservancy, the organization’s leaders intend for the interactive map to be used by power purchasers, utilities, companies, state agencies and municipalities interested in accelerating new wind projects.
Local utility Evergy, which serves eastern Kansas and western Missouri, has already endorsed the map as a way to decrease the risk of wind development.
“Site Wind Right is an invaluable resource that helps us avoid unnecessary impacts to the wildlife and iconic landscapes of the Great Plains, while also allowing us to provide clean, low-carbon energy for our customers,” said Terry Bassham, the utility’s CEO.
Fuhr said The Nature Conservancy supports the rapid growth of renewable energy development to help reduce carbon emissions. He suggested the interactive map – which has already been awarded a “Climate Adaptation Leadership Award” by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies – could expedite that development.
“We are looking forward to providing Site Wind Right to the people making important decisions about our nation’s clean energy future,” he said.
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