Kansas is a top producer of wind-generated energy, a U.S. Department of Energy study found, confirming what leaders at Westar Energy have known for years.
More than 35 percent of the state's electricity comes from wind, which is the second-highest ranking in the nation, according to a 2017 DOE report released this week.
"Kansas has a lot of great open spaces, and land is available for wind development," said Westar Energy spokeswoman Gina Penzig. "A lot of communities have been receptive to that development. The past 10 years to 12 years now, utilities including Westar and other utilities in the state have invested in the state’s transmission grid, which enables that wind when it’s developed out in western Kansas to get moved into the more populated areas.
"All of these different factors come together and really set the state up to be a national leader in wind energy."
In early August, Westar marked 25 million megawatt hours of wind electricity generation, which is enough electricity to power Topeka for 25 years or Wichita for nine.
"Ten years ago Westar Energy committed to three wind farms to gain practical experience,” said John Bridson, vice president of generation services. “Today with 10 wind farms, we are a wind energy leader in Kansas and the nation meeting about a third of our customers’ needs with wind. Kansas’ wind energy is a competitively priced electricity source for Westar customers and brings jobs and investment to rural Kansas communities.”
With increased generation in renewables in the past 10 years, Westar has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 40 percent from 2005 levels. Westar owns or purchases electricity from 10 wind farms, representing a capital investment of $2.5 billion, and has announced a partnership with NextEra Energy to purchase electricity from Soldier Creek Wind Energy Center, which is set to begin production by the end of 2020.
Clean energy also is affecting jobs in the Sunflower State. According to a 2018 Clean Jobs Midwest report released earlier this month, more than 23,000 jobs in the state are attributed to clean energy.
Most of the jobs were in energy efficiency, which employs 16,628 workers — accounting for seven in 10 of all clean energy workers. Renewable energy came in second with over 3,500 jobs — led by wind and solar, with 2,736.
The U.S. DOE study found the following highlights:
• The average installed cost of utility-scale wind projects in 2017 was $1,611 per kilowatt, down 33 percent from the peak in 2009-2010.
• The national U.S. wind industry saw $11 billion invested in new utility-scale wind plants in 2017.
• Kansas installed 659 megawatts of new utility-scale wind capacity in 2017, ranking third in the U.S. Total wind capacity in the state now stands at 5,110 mw.
• The wind capacity installed in Kansas by the end of 2017 is enough to supply 36 percent of all in-state electricity generation. As a percent of in-state demand, the percentage is 47.1 percent, also the second-highest in the nation.
• Kansas has two facilities that manufacture wind turbine components, including Siemens Gamesa in Hutchinson.