04/27/2009 04:37 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Kansas Wind May Power Graceland

We've all heard of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) within states, directives that at least a chosen percentage of a state's electricity be provided by renewable energy sources. Goals range from 25% renewables in NY by 2013 to 12.5% in NC by 2015. But the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) presented today that Kansas would reap great benefits from a 200% RPS, giving neighbors toward the southeast access to Kansan renewable electricity.

Kansas has huge wind potential, equal to 12 times the state's current demand of ~10 GW. This past quarter, the state surpassed its 2015 goal to have 1 GW of wind turbines built, despite not having an RPS. With such progress achieved, elected leadership of Kansas recently asked ACORE to help guide their future goals for wind deployment and the results were announced in a webinar I was fortunate to attend this afternoon.

The webinar began with an introduction by industry professional and former FERC commissioner Pat Woods, III. He laid out an overview of Kansas's position in the US electrical grid - a member of the Southwest Power Pool which is part of the Eastern interconnection. Then Lieutenant Governor of Kansas, Mark Parkinson, described how Kansas has rich wind resources in the western part of the state - a rural area that would benefit greatly from the economic development of more wind power generation. After Lt. Governor Parkinson spoke, Rob Church laid out ACORE's proposal for Kansas to deploy 20 GW of renewable energy by 2030.

Liberty from Coal Dependence

Kansas currently gets more than 70% of its electricity from coal. Nuclear power provides ~18%, followed by natural gas and wind generating ~5% each. Since Kansas produces only a negligible amount of coal and such electricity will get more expensive when its global warming costs are finally internalized, the ability of wind and other renewables to free the state from coal dependence is significant.

Wind Power Can Create Jobs and Economic Prosperity

After showing a more business as usual growth to 7 GW by 2030, Mr. Church described the many benefits to Kansas if the state chose a bigger goal of 20 GW. ACORE used studies by the Southwest Power Pool and the Joint Coordinated System Plan to guide their estimate of useful wind power, ensuring that their was a market for renewable energy exports. Their research led ACORE to a recommendation for 18 more GW of wind, 1.4 GW of solar, and ~1 GW of bio-power (converted coal plants).

The addition of 20 GW over the next 20 years is estimated to generate 12,000 jobs and over $20 billion for the state's economy. Many of the jobs are in construction of turbines and four large Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants. But a significant share of the jobs are also in the potential for Kansas to attract wind turbine manufacturers to the eastern part of the state. This combination of construction jobs in western KS and manufacturing jobs in eastern KS enhances the proposal as a benefit for the whole state.

Benefits to Neighbor States as well

And the benefits don't stop in Kansas. The people of Arkansas and Tennessee and other neighbors eastward who have less wind potential can get access to the economical power source of strong Kansas wind. Transmission investment and developments toward a smart grid that can store and deploy energy as-needed will be crucial in this 20 GW plan. But with Kansas leadership and federal leadership working together with nonprofits like SET and ACORE and innovative renewable businesses, such inspiring energy progress is attainable.

Congratulations to ACORE on the best webinar I have yet attended! And here's to continued progress in every state of our union maximizing their renewable resources to create jobs and drive a robust economic recovery. Onwards in the Sustainable Energy Transition-