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A virtual panel of state and industry leaders touted the benefits wind energy has brought to Kansas.

August 20, 2020

4 Min Read
Wind turbines in field
CELEBRATING WIND: Virtual panel discusses the benefits that Kansas has reaped from building its supply to wind-generated electricity to the second highest in the nation. P.J. Griekspoor

Kansas is once again in the spotlight for its wind energy leadership.

As Kansas celebrated American Wind Week the second week of August, Gov. Laura Kelly said Kansas ranks second in the nation for its share of electricity coming from wind and Kansas wind power has become a driving force in the state’s economy. State and industry leaders took part in a virtual panel discussing the many ways wind is helping build the future in Kansas.

“It’s been an exciting time to be a legislator, the last 14 years, during Kansas’ wind energy expansion,” said state Senator Elaine Bowers. “The Wind Energy Program at Cloud County Community College was first of its kind in the United States, with the director even learning hands-on at a wind farm on an internship and teaching what he learned as no textbooks existed at that time.”

Wind projects have spurred more than $11.4 billion in capital investments in the state, providing opportunities for workforce expansion and economic growth.

Randi Tveitaraas Jack, manager of International Development for the Kansas Department of Commerce, serves as the renewable energy contact for the agency and participated in the American Wind Week panel. Tveitaraas Jack reflected on the growth of the wind industry in Kansas and cited how the energy source has been vital for the attraction of new businesses in the state.

“I’ve been watching the Kansas wind energy industry grow for 30 years,” she said. “As a leader in wind energy, Kansas offers an ideal location for companies that are committed to meeting corporate sustainability goals by powering their facilities through renewable energy.

“From what we’ve seen and what we look to in the future, there's been a significant impact on the Kansas economy and workforce opportunities already. Wind energy continues to offer a bright future for the state.”

Wind projects generate $29 million in revenue for state and local governments, and many communities in Kansas are benefiting from wind energy, including two notable examples in Ford and Pratt counties.

Joann Knight, executive director of the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corp., explained how a rural community can rally around the growth of wind projects.

“Dodge City is the world’s largest beef processing community, and now we can say also that we are the state’s county that has the most turbines out there and we hope to see that continue to grow,” Knight says. “It’s a natural resource that we’ve really been able to build our community on and build our diversity and our economy. We are very proud of the economy that the wind industry has brought here and really hope to continue to grow that.”

The wind industry supports 6,000 jobs in Kansas, including jobs in the field and at several manufacturing facilities in the state.

"The director of the wind energy program recently told me, ‘Electricity is essential. These jobs are not going away. The wind energy program at CCCC produces these future employees for the industry as fast as we can,’” Bowers explained. “We’re training the best kids right now to do this job. It’s an exciting industry, and I'm glad to be right here in the middle of this whole process.”

Farmers also benefit from having wind turbines as a part of their landscape with $36 million in annual land lease payments provided by wind projects in 2019 alone.

“When a wind farm moves into a community, we give a sustainable, consistent payment to a landowner for 25-plus years,” stated Trish Williams, senior field coordinator at Enel Green Power. “There’s hardly any other industry that can claim that. We’re not only investing in a wind farm; we’re investing in our community. We’re investing in our people in Kansas, we’re investing in our kids, we’re investing in our future.”

As competition increases and wind power takes on a larger role in the economy, the need for new investments in transmission and future infrastructure projects has never been greater, explained Chris Weatherford, director of project management for construction and engineering at Apex Clean Energy.

“With growing customer demand for clean energy, the existing network is becoming stressed, especially when we look to the regional movement of power,” Weatherford added. “By ensuring the new investments in transmission with these projects, we can ensure that states such as Kansas, which possess wonderful wind resources, will play a key role in the clean energy future and help deliver a variety of benefits to Kansas and its economy.”

Source: Boost Kansas, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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