Monday, July 25, 2005

Kansas will need infrastructure to transmit wind energy

Posted on Sun, Jul. 24, 2005
Kansas will need infrastructure to transmit wind energy
Associated Press

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Kansas has the wind needed to produce electricity, but officials say more transmission lines will be needed to deliver the power to other parts of the country.

To address that concern, the Legislature this year established the Kansas Electric Transmission Authority, which can plan, finance, develop and maintain electric transmission lines.

"The state needs transmission lines to move power from wind farms in the West to markets in the East," said Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence.

To date, the state only has one large-scale wind operation - the 110-megawatt Gray County Wind Farm near Montezuma. The 150-megawatt Elk River Windfarm in Butler County is currently under construction.

But Gov. Kathleen Sebelius earlier this year unveiled a renewable energy policy that includes a statewide goal to produce 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy, or about 10 percent of the state's current electricity generation capacity, by 2015.

Donna Johnson, a renewable energy consultant and president of Pinnacle Technologies in Lawrence, said western Kansas needs more transmission capability if wind energy is to be expanded.

"Something needs to be done, but it always comes down to who pays for it," she said.

The law says that electric customers who benefit from the lines will be charged the development costs.

But David Springe, consumer counsel for the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board, a state agency that advocates for residential and small-business utility customers, is concerned that the benefits might not be worth it. And Springe contends that if the state believes more transmission lines are needed, then taxpayers should pick up the tab, "instead of hiding it in utility rates."

The authority, which hasn't done anything yet, is made of the chairs and ranking minority members of the House and Senate utility committees, as well as three yet-to-be named gubernatorial appointees. It can issue bonds approved by state leaders and has the power of eminent domain.

"What this particular entity ends up doing, if anything, I don't know," Springe said. "How will it go about it? Don't know. Who will make decisions and why? Don't know. But I do know who is going to pay for it, and that's us," the public.