Wind energy projects increasing in Kansas, but they could slow down if federal tax credit changes

Kansas will more than double its production of wind energy in the next 18 months, but the status of federal energy policy could slow development by 2013, officials said Tuesday.

Eight announced projects totaling $2.7 billion in capital investment and producing 1,388 megawatts of power are coming online in the state.

“It has been a really exciting time, to say the least,” said Kimberly Svaty, of The Wind Coalition. Currently, 1,072 megawatts of wind energy is produced in Kansas.

Svaty told the House-Senate Committee on Energy and Environmental Policy that there were dozens more potential projects. And Kansas has recently landed several large manufacturing facilities of wind turbine components.

But Svaty said that uncertainty about whether the federal government will continue a wind production tax credit will slow growth.

“It would be fair to say there is significant amount of uncertainty surrounding the production tax credit. We’re not sure what the direction is of the federal government on energy in general. There are so many question marks on where does the country want to go with energy policy,” Svaty said.

Wind developers were generally pleased with the pace of development of wind energy in Kansas and with state-approved tax breaks that are used as incentives.

But some county officials voiced concerns.

Elk County Commissioner Liz Hendricks said the Caney River Wind Project there was a major source of income for county government. But she added it was “unfortunate” that Gov. Sam Brownback expanded the “Tallgrass Heartland” area of the Flint Hills, which made the Elk County off limits to further wind-farm expansion.

“Due to Gov. Brownback’s recent decisions, we will not have Phase 2 or Phase 3. For a county like us, we will not see this kind of economic impact other than a wind farm,” Hendricks said.

Brownback expanded the protected area, saying the Flint Hills should be developed more for tourism.

By Scott Rothschild

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