Kansas Wind Hits Turbulence

October 8, 2014



Three-quarters of the way through 2014, Kansas’ wind energy industry is shifting from ice cold to red hot.

The state has nearly 3,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity in 25 wind farms, placing it among the top states in the nation.

This year started slowly, with months going by with little activity. But at this point, there are four wind farms under construction, with about 475 megawatts of capacity. They are Slate Creek wind farm in Sumner County, Waverly wind farm in Coffey County, Alexander wind farm in Rush County and Marshall wind farm in Marshall County.

In the development stage are a number of larger wind farm projects that may be built in 2015 or 2016.

What makes wind power so compelling is that, at the moment, it is close to the lowest-price electricity, and that price can be locked in for 20 years by contract.

“It’s a way to hedge gas price volatility and the environmental regulation of coal,” Riley said.

That means, he said, there will be a market for wind energy even when projects no longer qualify for the production tax credit after 2016.

Kansas’ conservative Governor Sam Brownback used to like wind energy, and was a big proponent of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS),  until major supporters of his, the Koch Brothers, called.

The New Republic:

In Kansas, wind power is the main form of renewable energy. Twenty wind farms, accounting for $7 billion in investment, dot western Kansas and provide 11.4 percent of Kansas’s energy. According to the American Council on Renewable Energy, “Kansas has one of the most promising wind resource potentials in the country.” The wind industry is popular in the state, including among farmers, who receive about $8 million annually in lease payments.

The growth of Kansas’s wind industry was sparked by legislation in 2009 that required the state’s utilities to devote 20 percent of their energy production to renewables by 2020. Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson, who had replaced Kathleen Sebelius when she left for Washington, signed this Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) into law, and Brownback, who was elected in November 2010, enthusiastically backed it. In the Senate, Brownback had co-sponsored with New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman a federal RPS. After his election as governor, his spokeswoman, Sherrene Jones-Sontag, said that Brownback backed the RPS and that “on numerous occasions has praised Governor Parkinson for his support of the wind industry.”

Brownback remained supportive of the Kansas RPS through the first three years of his term, but then the political winds began to shift. In 2013, the Koch brothers and their network of groups launched a national campaign against the federal production tax credit (PTC) for financing new projects in renewable energy. (Koch Industries began as and still is, among other thngs, a fossil-fuel producer.) In Kansas, the Koch network launched a similar campaign, led by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, against the state’s RPS. The Koch network called for freezing the RPS requirement at 15 percent in 2016. From January through April, Americans for Prosperity spent $383,000 on media ads calling for repeal of the RPS.

That spring, the Senate passed the Koch bill, but the House narrowly defeated ita result of almost unanimous public and business support for the RPS. In June, The Koch-funded Kansas Chamber of Commerce retaliated by endorsing three opponents to the Republican House members who voted against the bill.

GOP House members who balked at repealing RPS have survived primary challenges, and Brownback is in a tight race with a democratic challenger – and the target of a revolt by his own party members disappointed with the results of draconian supply side tax cuts and the resulting big deficits. If Brownback survives, he may continue to pursue the ALEC/Koch agenda next year.





5 Responses to “Kansas Wind Hits Turbulence”

  1. I hope they grow solar in Kansas. It has an even better chance than wind of prying energy independence libertarians away from koch sniffing Brownbacks,

    I hope koch spends billions campaigning – and loses.

  2. MorinMoss Says:

    The good guv’ner’s tax cut for the wealthy, may-we-be-all-showered-with-gold plan has so for failed to trickle down and he’s facing a $200 million dollar budget shortfall.

    Since there’s slim chance that selling off state assets and confiscated property ( the infamous sex toy auction – http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/26/sex-toy-shopping-spree-in-kansas-to-pay-off-tax-debt/) will balance the budget, it looks like he’ll be forced to further peddle his own, er, donkey and some stinkin’ rich folks will find out if they can force Brownback to go bareback.

  3. Wind power and solar would seem to be easily capable of supplying all the electricity in the the middle of the country. And it would seem like this would have a lot of appeal to most folks – maybe everybody other than those who are profiting from the fossil fuel industries.

  4. If Kansas wind is so great, why does it need PTC subsidies AND a mandate?

    Further, why an exclusive “renewable” portfolio standard which only allows a small, named set of technologies?  Why not a carbon-free portfolio standard, or simple carbon cap?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “why does it need PTC subsidies AND a mandate?”

      Why not? Fossil fuels have been subsidized for decades, and mandates are one way to get things rolling towards renewables (even if they are mostly window dressing—-targets and projections that are often not met).

      “why an exclusive “renewable” portfolio standard which only allows a small, named set of technologies? Why not a carbon-free portfolio standard, or simple carbon cap?”

      Need you ask? The same old answer—the rear guard battles the fossil fuel interests are fighting to protect their industry and complicate the question. We simply need to tax carbon right now to make it pay its way, which would drive the development of renewables on a purely economic basis with no need for subsidies or mandates.

      Nuclear will have to wait until the SHTF, at which time we will be willing to pay any price to build many nukes in order to bring CO2 down. It will be an example of mankind’s usual response—-sit on our butts until things like WW2 become necessary and escape disaster by the skin of our teeth.

      Another case in point is Ebola. Everyone has noticed the first death in Dallas? IN THE USA? (And in Spain as well?) We mishandled that case and there may be a bigger problem still “incubating” there in Texas. Nigeria may have survived the first small outbreak, but if Ebola reaches there again, it will likely be a tsunami like the one that is now building in Liberia, and from there it will be hard to stop it.

      In the meantime, we are told “Don’t worry, be happy—-the U.S. has got it under control”. That is about as true as that imbecile W saying “you’re doing a helluva job, Brownie” after Katrina. And the world is reluctant to institute serious travel restrictions because “it will be bad for business”? Yep, BAU—-so that the greedy rich can get richer while everyone else pays the price.

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