Wind Grows as Power Source in Kansas

After installing the second most new wind capacity in the United States in 2013, following on the third most in 2012, Kansas has blown past a number of states in its percentage of electricity generated from wind.

by John Green - The Hutchinson News / March 21, 2014

After installing the second most new wind capacity in the United States in 2013, following on the third most in 2012, Kansas has blown past a number of states in its percentage of electricity generated from wind.

Based on its potential, however, the state has a long way to go.

Wind generation record

According to the latest data from the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, Kansas utilities received 19.4 percent of their total electrical generation from wind power in 2013.

That ranked Kansas third nationally, behind only Iowa and South Dakota, which had 27 and 26 percent, respectively. The state's goal was 20 percent by 2020.

Other states with at least 15 percent of their generation from wind included Idaho, North Dakota and Minnesota. In all, at least 20 states had some generation from wind, with 17 matching or beating the new national average of 4 percent.

"Wind energy continues to make inroads as a major contributor to the U.S. power mix," Elizabeth Salerno, vice president of Industry Data and Analysis for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), stated in a news release. "The electricity generated by American wind power has more than tripled since 2008, not only due to significant growth in new wind projects but also technology innovation leading to more productive wind turbines."

Charging up

When measured by the total amount of its power generated by wind, Kansas ranked sixth in the nation, with 9,430 gigawatt hours (GWh) generated in 2013, according to data from AWEA.

That's enough electricity to power some 870,000 homes, AWEA reported.

For some context, the U.S. Census estimated there were 898,680 single-family homes in Kansas in 2010, or 1.23 million "housing units." So that would be enough wind generation to power almost 97 percent of Kansas single-family homes.

Homes, of course, account for only a percentage of power needed in the state. There are also demands from businesses, industry, governments and multi-family units. A portion of generation is also sold out of state.

Power pools

New records were also set in the power-pool region last year for ever-growing percentages from wind.

Energy producers within the Southwest Power Pool, an agency with oversight of power generation from utilities in nine states, including Kansas, set a record on Oct. 10, 2013, by generating 32.8 percent of its total energy from wind, according to AWEA.

Xcel Energy, a separate power pool based in Colorado, hit 60.5 percent of its energy from wind in May 2013.

Texas-sized potential

Texas had the most wind generation of any state in 2013, at almost 36,000 GWh -- or almost four times that of Kansas -- followed by Iowa, with 15,571 GWh. California, Oklahoma and Illinois were also ahead of Kansas.

Wind experts, however, say Kansas is considered to have the second highest potential for wind power in the United States, second only to Texas, based on how much of the state receives wind speeds averaging 16 mph or higher at 50 meters high, in areas both technically and economically capable (feasibly) of hosting wind turbines.

The most recent estimate, according to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, put the state's potential at 952 GW of installed capacity, which could generate 3.64 million GWh of power -- some 90 times the state's current energy needs.

The same 2010 study estimates the potential for Texas at 1,901 GW of capacity.

Officials at NREL note that wind turbine technology continues to evolve, and new turbines -- such as the low-wind-speed turbines -- could create even more markedly higher wind potentials.

Wind growth

In 1999, there was only 2 MW of wind capacity installed and producing in Kansas, one of just 18 states with any commercial wind farms.

By 2007, through the assistance of federal tax incentives, wind power in Kansas grew to 364 MW and 30 states were generating wind power.

That year Colorado boasted 1,067 MW of wind, and Texas, 4,353 MW.

The following year -- the year before Kansas adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard which requires that a certain percentage of electricity generated in the state come from renewable sources -- wind capacity in Kansas more than doubled, to 921 MW.

Since then, however, wind power capacity in the state has again tripled, to 2,967 MW at the end of 2013. More than half the new generation -- 1,441 MW -- was added in 2012.

That's the eighth highest installed capacity in the United States. Another 863 MW are now under construction in Kansas.

More AWEA statistics

--With 1,729 installed turbines, Kansas ranks 7th for number of utility-scale wind turbines, at 25 wind farms around the state.

--AWEA projected water consumption savings by generating electricity from wind instead of other forms of energy at more than 2 billion gallons of water per year.

--The wind power installed in Kansas will avoid more than 5.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, the equivalent of taking more than 990,000 cars off the road.

--Overall, wind power generated 4.13 percent of all the electricity in the United States in 2013, topping 4 percent for the first time and making it the fifth largest electricity source in the nation.

Solar note

Another study by the NREL also estimated the technical potential generation and capacity for all current forms of renewable energy.

For solar technology -- including urban and rural utility scale projects, rooftop photovoltaic cells on homes and businesses, and concentrated solar power arrays -- potential U.S. capacity is estimated at 192.8 million GW, with a potential for 399 million gigawatt hours of generation.

That compares to a potential 10.95 million GW of capacity for wind -- both onshore and offshore.

The study pegs Kansas' solar power potential at 9,867 GW of capacity.

The development of solar power, however, remains more expensive per kilowatt than power generated by wind.


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