Editorial: Renewable energy growing in Kansas

Source: By Sharon Montague, Salina Journal • Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017

Kansas now proudly can wear the label of a “green” state, after Westar Energy announced this past week that it can generate more than half of its yearly energy needs from renewable resources such as wind and solar.

The addition of the Western Plains Wind Farm near Spearville brings to 10 the number of farms providing energy to Westar.

“In February, on a day with particularly windy conditions, there was one hour where we met 90 percent of our customers’ electricity needs with renewable energy,” a company official said.

A few years ago, the Kansas Legislature and members of Congress argued about the value of renewable energy and the worthiness of a tax credit that encouraged investment in alternative power sources such as wind and solar. And while much of the debate seemed to center on the business of energy — and whether it’s old or new energy that ought to be subsidized by taxpayers — there is little reason to question the future, or the value, of renewable energy.

Aside from generating cleaner electricity that people need to power their homes and businesses, the investment in these sources of energy aids the local economy and Kansas families.

The turbines at the Western Plains wind farm were built by Siemens in Hutchinson, and the construction of the wind farm likewise helped create local jobs. The wind farm will make roughly $75 million in land leases and in-kind payments to local governments. Later this year, Westar will install a 1-megawatt solar power installation in South Hutchinson, providing yet another renewable energy source for Kansans.

Westar’s efforts to build and use more renewable energy are commendable. To do it in an environment in which public and government support for the investments was uncertain is even more so.

In Kansas, it always made sense to harness the ever-blowing wind to provide for residents’ energy needs. The growing effort to produce and consume more energy from renewable sources is part of our future, and Kansas and the country would be wise to accept, rather than resist, this pragmatic and cost-effective way to meet our energy needs.