Aiming for the Kansas Wind Power Balance

Kansas is moving ahead on proposals that attempt to balance “full and aggressive” development of the state’s vast wind energy resources while making sure such developments are not done in some of the state’s environmentally-sensitive areas.

After reviewing proposals by the Natural Resources Sub-Cabinet, and the Kansas Energy Council, Governor Kathleen Sebelius has adopted the set of recommendations for wind energy development and preservation of the cultural heritage of the Tallgrass Prairie in the Flint Hills region. “From the beginning, I have sought to foster robust, open, public processes and decisionmaking at the local level and to honor Kansas’ strongly held beliefs on private property rights,” Governor Sebelius said. “I am implementing a plan to assist counties, assess economic development opportunities, offer funds for conservation efforts, and promote renewable energy development where it is best suited.” Governor Sebelius shares a popular view — backed up by a task force study — that wind power developments are not well suited for some areas of the state’s Tallgrass Prairies. These prairies were once the largest ecosystem in North America, but now only four percent is left, mostly in Kansas, according the Governor. “I accept the designation of the Heart of the Flint Hills as the focus of our efforts,” Governor Sebelius said. “Until this multi-fold plan is fully implemented, I am calling on our utilities and wind energy developers to continue to show restraint on wind energy development in the Heart of the Flint Hills.” While protecting the Heart of Flint Hills is indeed a key focus of Governor Sebelius, she is also proposing ambitious targets for wind power development in locations that pass muster. Sebelius is calling on electric utilities to have a total of at least 1,000 MW of renewable energy capacity installed in Kansas by 2015. This would amount to about 10 percent of the state’s current total electric generation capacity and is more than nine times the current amount. To facilitate this challenge, the Kansas Energy Council is being asked to prepare an impact analysis of requiring state facilities to acquire 2.5-5 percent of their electricity on average statewide from renewable energy sources. The State’s Energy Council will also evaluate the creation of voluntary Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) programs in Kansas. These widely used programs allow consumers the choice of contracting for guaranteed renewable energy from their utilities. In addition, the Kansas Corporation Commission is being asked to assess the full range of benefits from renewable energy as part of their review of utilities electric generation plans. In terms of determining the right locations for wind power developmet, the Sebelius administration said a key element of the plan is to defer to local control and decision-making and provide tools, best practices, and guidelines to assist local governments. All counties are urged to develop detailed siting rules and public processes for evaluating wind energy proposals in this critical area. Sebelius has requested that a package of tools be provided to counties so they can make informed decisions, as well as ensuring that they have the resources to act on these decisions. These tools include: – A set of detailed, actionable siting standards, which the Kansas Energy Council will make available by end of January, and assistance from state agencies. – An assessment underway by the Kansas Department of Commerce of tourism and other economic development opportunities, including wind energy, in this region. – A budget request of $800,000 to match federal monies available for purchase of conservation easements from willing landowners. “As we continue to work out the appropriate balance in the Flint Hills/Tallgrass Prairie region, there are many areas of Kansas where wind energy is poised for development. We must establish a vision for Kansas that emphasizes increased renewable energy production. This benefits Kansans across the state, both in lower utility bills and enhanced environmental protection,” Governor Sebelius said. Governor Sebelius is also calling on the members of the Kansas Congressional delegation to support efforts to extend the federal Production Tax Credit for wind energy for sufficient time to take better advantage of the state’s and nation’s wind energy potential. The complete sets of adopted recommendations were first submitted to Governor Sebelius in November of 2004 by the Natural Resources Sub-Cabinet, and in late December of 2004 by the Kansas Energy Council. The recommendations can be found at the following link:
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