Wind energy in Kansas offers clean path to growth

The moment is approaching when our nation must decide how it’s going to power the future. The importance of renewable energy to the nation becomes clear as Congress turns its attention to energy policy this fall, as we examine the importance of true energy independence and security more closely, and as we continue our work on rebuilding the economy and job creation.

Experience has taught us that investment in the renewable-energy economy is creating jobs across all employment sectors, including construction, engineering, operations, technology and professional services, in both rural and urban communities. Greater use of renewable energy also will allow the country to prolong its current power-generation resources while developing new generation technologies to ensure a secure and homegrown supply of energy.

We, as a nation, have been waiting for the moment when a true balance between environmental concerns, economic benefits and energy needs is in view. I believe that moment has arrived.

At the national level, we’ve moved toward this balance by deploying powerful tools, such as tax incentives to support investment in renewable-energy projects and grants to encourage innovation in clean-coal technologies. The wind power industry has utilized a production tax credit, which has helped the industry see steady growth this decade. I support the continued use of those tools as a way to spur investment in our communities and create sorely needed jobs.

In Kansas and the lower Midwest, our local utilities have designed and are constructing an electric transmission system that ensures greater reliability for our residents, offers access to competitively priced power, and dramatically increases our ability to move renewable energy across the country.

Other private companies are working to develop renewable-energy highways — dedicated transmission lines — that can transport thousands of megawatts of renewable energy from the Midwest to population centers in the East, thereby providing access to clean, reliable and affordable energy for millions of customers.

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line, which will deliver 3,500 megawatts of low-cost, renewable energy from western Kansas to southeastern Missouri and points farther east, is a great example of such a project.

A combination of events in Kansas has driven the cost of wind energy to historic lows. We have 1,100 megawatts of operational wind turbines and are on track to more than double that number by the end of 2012.

Wind energy makes a compelling economic case with new installed wind farm prices dropping from around 6 cents per kilowatt-hour to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour or lower, while turbine technology increases capacity factors to about 50 percent or more. We’ve increased transmission capacity, constructing more than 1,000 new miles of high-voltage electric transmission.

The price of Kansas wind power is now competitive with the traditional sources of energy, and you can get guaranteed rates for the next 20 years.

Kansans have a proud history of meeting the needs of the world. We export wheat to feed the hungry and machines that can fly to make the world a smaller place. The time has come for us to export clean, reliable and affordable wind energy to the nation.

By Gov. Sam Brownback,