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SciFiles: What's Next In Clean Energy?

In 2007, America’s electricity sources were much more diverse than those in Kansas. Less than half of nationwide electricity was generated from coal, with almost equal amounts of natural gas and nuclear power. Kansas, meanwhile, relied on a less diverse mix, with nearly 80 percent of the state’s power coming from imported coal.

But, at the same time, Kansas was generating more than double the national average of wind energy: 2.5 percent. That 2.5 percent might sound small, but it was a significant factor in beginning the clean energy economy in Kansas.

Now, fast forward 10 years and Kansas is ranked 5th in the nation for wind energy generation. Thanks to investment in infrastructure like transmission lines, more efficient wind turbine technology and state and federal renewable energy policy, the wind industry has generated more than $10 billion dollars for the state economy.

At the end of 2017, Kansas will have 31 wind projects developed by 18 different wind companies. The developments have the capacity to generate more than 5100 MW of wind power – enough energy to power 3.4 million homes. Approximately half of the wind energy in Kansas is now exported – a financial benefit for the whole state. Landowners and counties receive more than $25 million annually from wind leases and donations.

So. What’s next?

The renewable energy market is changing. Today, the majority of wind energy is purchased by utility companies like Westar and Kansas City Power and Light. In the next decade, customers will include large institutional and commercial industries, which are set to dramatically increase their purchases of wind energy.  

If we get the state policies in place, Kansas should be a leader in clean energy development.


Dorothy Barnett is with the Climate and Energy Project.

Copyright 2017 KMUW | NPR for Wichita

Dorothy Barnett