In Case You Wondered Why Kansas is Behind on Wind Power

In the last issue, Energy Committee Chair, Brooks Albery, reported on how Kansas utilities opposed a bill in the Kansas House promoting community wind power. See “Big Electric Utilities Team Up to Oppose Community Wind Bill” in the April-May issue of Planet Kansas. Here’s what’s happening in Iowa.

In April MidAmerican Energy Co. reached agreement with the Iowa Farmers Union to facilitate small community-based wind projects. Mid American agreed to purchase up to 40 megawatts of capacity from community wind projects that would be connected to their grid. According to the April 21 issue of Wind Energy Weekly, each project can be up to 2.5 MW, and up to 20 MW can be connected at any one delivery point on the utility’s distribution system. An Iowa Economic development official noted that projects like this are key drivers of economic development in the state.

MidAmerican Energy Co. also announced that they had received approval from the Iowa Utilities Board to build up to 545 MW of new wind power in Iowa. They already operate 360 MW of wind energy facilities in northwest and north central Iowa. Electric rates in Iowa for MidAmerican customers will remain at current levels through at least 2010. This must mean that wind power is economical to install and operate. Apparently MEC, Inc. knows something our utility companies don’t. MEC is also, however, adding a new coal fired boiler to their facility in Council Bluffs.

In contrast, the only wind farms now operating in Kansas are 150 MW in ButlerCounty and 112 MW in GrayCounty. Much of that power is sold out of state. KCP&L will buy the power from a 100 MW wind farm under construction near Spearville. Kansas utilities (including KCP&L) are proposing to build some 4000 MW of coal fired capacity over the next 7 years or so. Westar, the largest Kansas electric utility company has announced that they have no plans to buy any wind power. It was just this kind of momentum that caused the Titanic to hit an iceberg.

by Craig Volland

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