Midwest and Plains see dramatic increases in wind energy production

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KHI News Service-

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — U.S. wind energy production grew at a rapid pace between 2006 and 2012, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, with major increases in wind power production in the Midwest and Plains states, including Kansas.

Economic conditions that boosted the cost of traditional electricity fuels coupled with federal and state policies attributed to the increase from 10,000 megawatts produced nationally in 2006 to an estimated 60,000 megawatts produced by the end of 2012, enough to power between 14 million and 24 million homes annually.

By 2012, more than 11 percent of the electricity produced in Kansas was from wind turbines, according to the report penned by economist Jason P. Brown. Kansas was one of nine states where wind accounted for more than 10 percent of electricity production.

But continued growth of wind power development remains in question because of possible changes in government policies and because the cost of natural gas has dropped significantly with the expansion of shale bed extraction. Gas-fired power plants generally can produce electricity at lower cost than wind, according to the report.

The growth of wind power has been helped by federal tax credits and policies in many states, including Kansas, that require electric utilities to use a certain amount of renewable sources in their energy generation.

Those policies have increasingly been challenged by lawmakers.

In 2013, according the report, legislators in 14 of the 29 states that have so-called Renewable Porfolio Standards, introduced bills that would lessen or eliminate them. Kansas was among the 14, though the bills failed to pass.

The Federal Reserve’s 10th District, headquartered in Kansas City, includes the states of Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Wyoming and Oklahoma. Of those seven states, only two do not have Renewable Portfolio Standards or RPS.

“States with RPS or goals had most (of the district’s) installed capacity by the end of 2012,” according to the report, “with Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado each having more than 20 percent of the district’s total installed capacity.”

U.S. wind turbine manufacturing has grown along with the development of wind energy, according to the study, with manufacturers building plants near the wind farms to minimize transport costs.

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