Wind lift

1/30/2012

Turbines should pop up at brisk pace in Kansas.

Turbines should pop up at brisk pace in Kansas.

As wind whipped through southwest Kansas Friday, it brought with it a report that was no surprise in singling out Kansas for strides in one area of energy development.

The American Wind Energy Association report showed the Sunflower State leading the nation in the number of wind turbines under construction. The wind industry's fourth-quarter report had Kansas with 663 turbines under construction, and the state atop the nationwide construction list with more than 1,188 megawatts of wind power scheduled to come on line this year.

Kansas also ranked 14th in installed wind power generation — with plenty of momentum to climb that list.

The ample supply of wind in Kansas — ranked second among windiest states, with Texas first — wasn't the only driving force in new turbines, however, as a federal production tax credit helped fuel those projects here and beyond.

Companies receive a 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour benefit for the first 10 years of a renewable energy facility's operation. A $2.5 billion annual investment through those tax credits may sound pricey, but still makes sense as a way to help diversify the nation's energy portfolio and create jobs the country needs.

The tax credit is set to expire at the end of 2012, and Congress shouldn't let the gridlock of partisan politics stand in the way of its renewal.

That said, we know that even as Kansas took the lead in wind turbines under construction, some Kansans — in this region in particular — have remained lukewarm to wind energy development as a Sunflower Electric Power Corp. plant fueled by coal stands ready for expansion in Holcomb.

But pursuing wind doesn't have to mean downplaying coal-fired energy. It's worth noting that the proposed project at Holcomb also includes provisions for wind, biomass and transmission development that would help promote renewable energy development in western and central Kansas.

This state needs a diversified energy strategy that incorporates wind and other renewable sources, without shortchanging plans to build on existing reliable and affordable sources of power — all of which promise to create jobs, fuel local economies and help meet the growing demand for energy.

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