Wind energy has incredible potential for Kansas.
It also has a loud pocket of detractors, including President Trump. “They say the noise causes cancer,” he told the National Republican Congressional Committee in a speech earlier this month. Closer to home, Kansas property owners testified at the Statehouse in favor of additional restrictions on wind energy development.
Let’s get this straight: Windmills don’t cause cancer. According to the fact-checking website Politifact, Trump’s claim has no basis in fact. “No study supports the statement,” reporter Jon Greenberg wrote. It is true that the noise bothers some people, and there are claims it causes various forms of discomfort. But no clear effects — beside simple annoyance -- have been found.
And we should be glad that Trump’s claim is incorrect. Because Kansas is a big state with an ample supply of wind that can be turned into electricity.
Indeed, according to e American Wind Energy Association’s 2018 Annual Market Report, Kansas is now the No. 1 producer of wind energy in the United States. According to Gov. Laura Kelly’s office, that means the state saw some $28 million in taxes from wind projects last year, with $15-$20 million in payments to landowners.
It’s not a partisan issue, either. Former Gov. Sam Brownback also touted the state’s potential as a wind energy powerhouse. He could see, as so many can, the opportunities abounding in our state’s wide-open spaces and blustery breezes.
This isn’t to say that wind energy developers should be given an absolutely free hand.
Building and maintaining windmills is expensive. They can have environmental consequences. They should be integrated carefully with existing homes and landscapes. Just as there are more and less responsible ways to drill for oil and gas, or set up solar arrays, so there are more and less responsible ways to harness the wind.
But what a remarkable feather in our cap it would be to see Kansas soar ahead of the rest of the United States in generation wind power — and in using it throughout the state. We’re not a state known for ecological bona fides, but on this particular issue, both parties and a range of ideologies can unite. Wind power in Kansas is abundant, opportunities for development are wide-ranging, and the will is there is buckle down and get the job done.
With a responsible and responsive attitude, our leadership in the area is only beginning.