Energy policy issues are notoriously complex. Seemingly small changes in a state’s energy policy can lead to wide-ranging and often unintended political, economic, and environmental consequences. In an effort to facilitate thoughtful policy discussions about these issues in the state of Kansas, several attorneys from the Polsinelli Shughart energy practice group, Alan Claus Anderson, Britton Gibson and myself, have partnered with Dr. Scott W. White of the Kansas Energy Information Network to draft a report that relies on empirical evidence gathered from the nineteen wind farms currently in operation or under construction in the state of Kansas to estimate the true economic impact of these projects. The text below is part of a larger report, which is also available at http://www.polsinelli.com//files//upload/StudyKansasWind.pdf. Additional sections of this report will follow in subsequent posts.
In order to understand the current status of the wind industry in Kansas and its impact on the state economy, it is necessary to first understand why Kansas is uniquely positioned to reap its extraordinary wind resource.
A. KANSAS’ ABUNDANT WIND RESOURCE
Kansas enjoys one of the best wind resources in the world, ranking between first and third among the states in terms of total wind capacity. To quantify this resource, wind speed measurements are taken at several heights that reflect typical wind tower hub heights: 50 meters, 80 meters, and 100 meters. As Figure 1 below illustrates, at 50 meters most of western Kansas has access to “Class 4” winds, with wind speeds ranging from 7.5 to 8.1 meters per second, with a number of additional locations reaching “Class 5” status, with wind speeds ranging from 8.1 to 8.6 meters per second.
To understand how Kansas’ access to wind compares to other states across the country, it is necessary to consult Figure 2 below, which illustrates the wind speeds at a height of 50 meters for the entire United States.
As Figure 2 shows, Kansas is well positioned in America’s “Wind Belt.” This geographic advantage means that Kansas has access to a robust renewable energy source that few other states share. Kansas and its neighboring Plains states have access to one of the best wind resources in the United States. As Figure 3 below shows, the electrical transmission grid in the U.S. is broken into three distinct electrical interconnections: ERCOT, which serves most of Texas, the Western Interconnect, which serves all states west of the Colorado-Kansas state-line, and the Eastern Interconnect. With new transmission projects in the works to alleviate bottlenecks in the grid (as will be discussed in a Part 3 of this series), Kansas is in a prime position to export power from its excellent wind resource.
Prior to 2012, Kansas ranked ninth among states in terms of operational wind energy. Building on this success, Kansas has led the nation in new wind energy construction in 2012, with an anticipated operational wind energy capacity of approximately 2,714 MW by the end of 2012.
If you have any questions or comments about the Kansas wind industry, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (913)234-7416.