The Kansas Senate Utilities Committee's recent vote to repeal Kansas' "renewable portfolio standards" (RPS) for generating electricity just doesn't make economic sense. As wind is the main contributor to renewable energy here in Kansas, this is especially damaging to the already distressed but wind-rich western Kansas economy, where most development is and will be taking place.
With more than $7 billion having been invested, Kansas has already realized tremendous rewards from wind energy. The "average" 150 megawatt wind farm employs 15 workers and indirectly creates 289 jobs while paying landowners about $600,000 annually and the host county $500,000 in "payments in lieu of taxes." So far, this totals $13 million for Kansas landowners and $10 million for counties every year while supporting 13,000 jobs.
Assertions that wind energy contributes to huge rate increases are flat wrong. A $30.7 million Westar rate increase last year was for retrofitting the coal-burning LaCygne power plant to meet environmental regulations protecting public health. Westar Energy's Vice President Jeff Martin explains that their $43.6 million rate increase this year is to bring wind power onto the grid and increase reliability of transmission systems and handle transmission between states.
Wind power protects consumers from volatile fuel prices according to the Kansas Corporation Commission ... "Natural gas, coal and wholesale power prices have all experienced significant volatility and upward trending costs. Wind generation provides ... insurance for customers from some of the effects of unexpectedly high and volatile fuel and wholesale energy prices." Westar reports that, between 2006 and 2012, the weighted average price of coal used in its facilities jumped 41 percent.
Assertions that building and operating wind farms is just "too expensive" are, again, flat wrong. The KCC reports in 2012 that "Comparisons of levelized costs of generation indicate that the cost of wind is less than new coal, new natural gas and new nuclear generation." A 2014 study by Polsinelli Energy Practice Group of levelized costs of energy production shows that even without the production tax credit, wind is still less expensive than coal and natural gas.
The KCC estimates that wind energy has raised utility rates less than one-fourth of a penny per kilowatt hour... a small price for increased reliability of transmission systems, protection from higher fuel prices and a more diversified drought-proof income for western Kansas.
This effort in the Kansas Senate to repeal the RPS undermines our state's credibility as a reliable partner for business and its commitment to developing our economy and jobs in western Kansas by putting future growth of wind farms and related transmission projects in doubt. Our RPS ought to continue spurring economic growth until Kansas reaches its goal of 20 percent renewable energy as originally planned by a bipartisan majority of our legislature.
Thanks to zoo for its assist
As current president of the Boot Hill Model Railroad Club, I would like to give a very public "thank you" to the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo for their participation in our recent model train show at the Finney County Fairgrounds. Executive Director Brian Nelson and two volunteer conductors, Jenny and Timmy, brought the Richardson Train, the new FOLRZ zoo train, to our show and gave rides to many visitors. It was a big hit, and will be a great attraction to the zoo.
The train is so nice-looking and fun for all ages to ride. The volunteers looked nice in their vests, and were so courteous to the crowd. I heard many compliments from our participants and visitors both days of the show.
Again, thank you to FOLRZ, and everyone go to the zoo and ride the train.