Kansas Gov. Brownback leads wind energy summit

Gov. Sam Brownback urged leaders from the energy industry to work together to help spur job growth and ignite economic opportunities powered by wind power are rich in Kansas. Executives representing some of the largest players in that potential growth agreed they could do that — as long as the state was willing to provide the proper tax incentives.

"We need to produce more energy here and bring less of it in from abroad. And we can do that," Brownback said at his energy summit Tuesday morning in Wichita. Brownback said competition between different sources that had held back growth in the past needed to be put aside, and that cooperation would push Kansas into the future as a leading energy provider.

Brownback’s summit came a day after BP announced plans to build Kansas’ biggest wind farm. Flat Ridge Wind Farm 2 will be the 14th, and the largest, wind farm by BP Wind Energy in the US. The 13 existing farms, including Flat Ridge Wind Farm 1, presently produce around 1,600 megawatts of energy – enough for about 500,000 US Homes. Flat Ridge Wind Farm 2’s capacity is expected to be around 419 megawatts.

BP Wind Energy says Flat Ridge Wind Farm 2 will be constructed in Sumner, Kingman, Barber, and Harper counties. "We have enjoyed working closely with BP Wind Energy to create jobs and grow the economy in our state."

BP Wind Energy said that it will build an $800 million, multi-county wind power farm in south-central Kansas. The 419-megawatt wind turbines plant is expected to be operational in fall 2012.

The wind farm, called Flat Ridge 2, will mean 500 construction jobs and 30 full-time jobs when complete. Three-quarters of the power the farm will produce will be purchased by Associated Electric Cooperative. The wind farm will be spread over 66,000 acres in Barber, Harper, Kingman and Sumner counties. It will be the state’s largest wind farm.

But in the wide open spaces of the state, there’s even more room to grow, officials told a crowd of about 250 at the Hyatt Regency. Kansas, for example, ranks second in the nation as a potential for wind energy but 14th in production, said Dave Lucas, vice present of energy and sales for Siemens Energy, which runs a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Hutchinson.

Lucas, and others, said Kansas needs to invest in infrastructure to help move generated power into the national grid, and that’s not easy. An eroding power infrastructure is one of the main concerns of the energy industry, said Steve Rus, executive vice president of Black & Veatch, a utilities engineering and consulting firm in Overland Park. The company has surveyed utility executives, managers and technical support staffs at U.S. utility services over the past five years. This year’s survey, Rus said, showed "aging infrastructure" as the top issue in the energy business.