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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Changes, Better Understanding Bring Utilities on Board with Wind Energy

Changes, Better Understanding Bring Utilities on Board with Wind Energy

Date: 4/1/2009

Location: KS

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

Audio with Kansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson (MP3 2.7 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:52.

In January of 2009, Kansas became one of just a handful of states in the country that generates a thousand megawatts of electricity each year with wind. They were the first, however, to reach this milestone on a voluntary basis.

But it wouldn't have been possible, according to Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson, if the state's utilities hadn't embraced the wind energy concept. After all, utilities play the critical role of delivering this energy to retail electricity customers. So Parkinson says it all started with communication with the utilities — who were receptive to the message about the benefits of wind power for their customers and the state.

"In fact, they entered into what we call a voluntary renewable portfolio standard, where they're not required by state law to reach certain levels, but they voluntarily agreed to reach those levels. And the first level was 1000 megawatts of wind power by the year 2010, and we actually beat that. So it's really happened by a voluntary cooperation among our utilities, among wind farm developers and among landowners. All three groups have come together to make it happen."

Parkinson says it didn't hurt that a couple of things have changed — allowing utilities to fully embrace the concept of wind energy.

"One is that the technology in wind power has improved dramatically. So the amount of energy you can get out of a turbine has increased. The second thing is that the cost of wind power has dropped significantly as well. So there used to be a major differential between the cost of generating electricity by coal and by wind. And while there's still a slight difference, and coal is slightly cheaper than wind, the difference is minimal. And we now know that the cost to produce wind power is actually cheaper than producing power by natural gas. And so wind power has just in general become cheaper, more efficient and a better decision for the utility companies."

Once the agreement was reached with the utilities to provide one-thousand megawatts of wind energy by 2010, Parkinson organized the Kansas State Wind Working Group. He says the idea was to keep the momentum going for more wind development in the state.

"With a grant from the National Renewable Energy Lab, we were able to form the wind working group where we have all of the stakeholders that serve on the group. A representative of every single utility serves on the wind working group, I chair the organization, we have environmentalists, some of whom are actually opposed to wind, that come to the meetings, just so that we have everybody in the room. We have wind farm developers, representatives of landowners; it's a very diverse group to bring everybody to the table."

According to a report released by the Department of Energy last year, the state of Kansas has the potential to generate more than seven-thousand megawatts of wind energy each year by the year 2030.

This information was last updated on April 01, 2009