TOPEKA — Kansas' position as the nation's top wind energy producer in terms of electricity generation adds pressure to expand transmission infrastructure to reduce in-state congestion and push power to urban centers to the east, a wind industry analyst said Monday.
Kimberly Svaty, who represents the 35-member Kansas Power Alliance, said Monday updated statistics would likely show the state reached 50% wind energy integration by the end of 2019.
"We will be the first in the country to do that," she said. "We cannot continue to have access to low-cost, reliable power if we don't continue to invest in our transmission system. We need to build more transmission. We can export our energy."
In 2018, the year for which the most recent statistics have been published, the wind-energy share of electricity generation in Kansas reached 36.4% followed by Iowa at 33.7%. Here are percentages for Kansas' other neighbors: Oklahoma, 31.7%; Colorado, 17.4%; Nebraska, 14.1%; and Missouri, 3.6%.
The first operational wind farm was installed in 2001 in Montezuma. The state hosts more than 40 wind farms producing in excess of 6,100 megawatts of capacity with 1,200 megawatts under construction and 1,000 megawatts in advanced development. It's enough juice to power 2 million homes or businesses, Svaty said.
Jim Zakoura, president of Kansas Industrial Consumers Group that has questioned the state's high retail electric rates, said decisions to improve the transmission system shouldn't result in higher retail electric costs for Kansas ratepayers. Kansas has the highest retail electric rates in the Midwest and Evergy's transmission rates have climbed 298% since 2007, he said.
"If the wind industry wants the electric transmission grid to be expanded to accommodate more wind energy and wind energy exports, it should find ways to do that without increasing the retail electric rates in Kansas," Zakoura said.
Svaty said there were more than 3,000 turbines on the Kansas landscape despite restrictions on development of wind farms in one-fourth of the state's counties.
The 300-megawatt Soldier Creek farm under construction would provide power to the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, the city of Manhattan and the Topeka school district, she said.
Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius initiated restrictions on construction of wind turbines in the Flint Hills during 2005. In 2011, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback extended the moratorium to 33 counties.