U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
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When Wind Development Doesn't Match Up With Potential, Look at Policy

When Wind Development Doesn't Match Up With Potential, Look at Policy

Date: 3/4/2008

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with Dan Nagengast (nag-en-gas-t), Director of the Kansas Rural Center (MP3 1.3 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:47.

As gas prices have climbed, the focus on renewable energy has greatly increased in the U.S. But the interest goes beyond simply fueling vehicles and extends to providing electricity for the nation. Wind energy is one way to do that. In fact, President Bush would like 20 percent of the nation's electrical power to come from wind by the year 2030.

But wind potential around the country varies — as does installed wind capacity. According to the Pacific Northwest Laboratory, North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota and Montana have the greatest potential. But at the end of 2007, just one of those states was in the top five for capacity. Kansas — number three in potential — ranks 12th in development. The Dakotas and Montana are even further behind. According to Dan Nagengast, Director of the Kansas Rural Center, the problem is a lack of policy.

"If you look at the states where wind energy has been installed, and especially those where much of it has been owned by farmer's cooperatives or local rural electric co-ops or even individuals, you find that there's a whole raft of policies out there, which it's not that we have negative policies, we just have no policies. And so, I think Kansas, among the states that have a great wind resource, has been real slow on the uptake on this."

At the end of 2007, Texas, California, Minnesota, Washington state and Iowa were actually leading the way in wind power capacity.

"If you go to places like Minnesota and Iowa, you'll see real positive impacts, very prosperous looking country sides with wind turbines in corn fields and places like that. It's just like a whole other level of economy, painted out over the landscape. And if you talk to Minnesotans and Iowans and they look at the Kansas resource, you know how windy it is here, they drool. They wish they had our wind resource. And yet we can't get to the point where we've developed it yet."

For any state facing a similar situation, Nagengast says he encourages the agricultural sector to get involved. He says the industry can come together with a united voice and urge state legislatures to put the policies in place that will allow rural Americans to become wind farmers. He says all lawmakers need to do is talk to their colleagues in those states leading the way in wind energy development.

"Look at what Minnesota's done, what Colorado's doing, what Iowa's doing. And even states further afield, New York State, and Oregon and Washington, and certainly California, and Texas and Oklahoma, and just look at what those states have done. They're not wild-eyed, crazy, radical places; they're places that are trying to bring a new economy to their rural areas."

And if structured right, Nagengast says that's exactly what they'll do. He says wind could function as a new crop and its harvest could help firm up rural economies.

This information was last updated on March 04, 2008