You did it! And we thank you!

The legislation to roll back or eliminate the Renewable Portfolio Standard in Kansas has either been voted down or sent back to committee.  With the timing in the Kansas legislature session, this means the RPS is safe – for now. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

First let’s take a moment to thank each supporter who called from Kansas communities across the state. Your representatives heard you! Please take a minute to call or email them and thank them for their vote. See the how your Senator voted hereSB 82 Feb 28 vote (The House vote was not a recorded vote, so we can’t tell you how your official voted.)

I also want to thank the great organizations who worked tirelessly to fight this roll back: KS Interfaith Power and Light, the Wind Coalition, the Sierra ClubKansas Natural Resource Council, the Kansas Farmers Union, the Kansas Rural Center, and NRDC. Many other groups provided testimony to the House and Senate Committees including the Kansas Farm Bureau, Siemens Wind Energy, Heartland Alliance for Regional Transmission (HART), and others. The Kansas Energy Information Network (KEIN) and Polsinelli  Shughart created report on the “Economic Impacts of Kansas Wind Industry” which is a timely piece of research. Each of these efforts played a critical role in this on-going conversation.

So take a moment and appreciate democracy at work.

Okay, moment over. The Kansas legislature is not done for the session. We will need to continue to be vigilant as amendments can be made to one of many pieces of legislation still working through one or both chambers. We will be sure to keep you up to date on any actions in the State House.

In the meantime, please make sure to sign the petition in support of the RPS in Kansas. Keep up with CEP on our Facebook page – we will be moving forward with our Energy Leader Roundtables in communities around Kansas.

Here is a quick round-up of the recent articles about this effort in Kansas:

The Times Union – Associate Press article

NRDC blog

The Topeka Capitol Journal

The Wichita Eagle

Thank you to everyone for their efforts.

posted by Kate Van Cantfort, CEP Director of Communications and Special Events

Last night news broke that Siemens’ wind energy will be restaffing their American manufacturing sites. This is great news for the wind industry and for local economies  impacted by Siemens’ hiring (such as our local economy in Hutchinson, KS.)

Of particular interest in comments from the Siemens’ executives is that the renewed PTC legislation is not key to this restaffing -but that increased orders for export of wind turbines is driving the need to restaff facilities.

Here is an excerpt from the press release:

After the uncertain fate of the production tax credit (PTC) led Siemens to lay off approximately 37% of its U.S. wind energy workforce last year, the company is now in the process of restaffing its operations in Fort Madison, Iowa, and Hutchinson, Kan., company spokesperson Monika Wood confirmed to NAW.

Although the tax credit has been renewed, Siemens’ decision to hire more workers is not a direct result of the PTC extension, Wood says. In fact, the company is restaffing in order to produce wind turbine components for projects located outside the U.S.

“While the recently passed one-year PTC extension is not directly related to our need to ramp up production at this time, the PTC extension gives us confidence in the American market,” Wood tells NAW. “As projects move forward and we receive new wind turbine orders sparked by the PTC extension, we will continue to adjust our operations accordingly.”

Read the entire release here.

We are glad to see the wind industry getting back to work!

Kate Van Cantfort, Communications Director for  CEP

On this cold snowy morning I am happy to think about all the renewable energy plans that are incubating in offices across the region. I know that seems a little dramatic, but I have been influenced by all the seed catalogues that have begun arriving in my mailbox!

While you may have read that the BP wind farm north of the Flat Ridge wind farm in south central KS was facing a little slow down with local officials, it appears that the project is moving forward and BP has made their announcement about the farm. This newest project will be a 150 MW farm in southeast Pratt County. This continues to be great economic news for communities which continue to fight the impacts of prolonged drought.

Elsewhere in the area, news broke about a smaller scale solar project in the progressive KS town of Lawrence. Chad Lawhorn posted about the newest solar installation in Lawrence and the first in downtown. As Chad states, Lawrence is a hot spot for solar in the region.

“…the system will produce about $5,000 worth of electricity per year, Rogge said. And that’s based on the price of electricity today. Each year, the value of that electricity is going to increase. (Unless you think the power companies are suddenly going to lower their rates, in which case, you’ve perhaps stuck your finger in the light socket one too many times.)

Kansas now has a law stating that businesses or residents can install solar panel systems, and the electric provider in the region must buy back the electricity it produces. In other words, your monthly utility bill is offset by the amount of electricity the solar panel system produces.

Lawrence has become a bit of a hotspot for solar projects. The Poehler Lofts building near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets has an entire roof full of the panels, and the new Hy-Vee convenience store along Clinton Parkway also has solar panels on its roof.”

Good news is also coming from Nebraska as the Lincoln Electric System is looking to add 50 MW of wind power for the residents of Lincoln. This was, in part, spurred by the extension of the PTC. Read more about the possibility of more wind power in Lincoln.

Know of any new renewable energy projects i your neck of the woods? We would love to hear more about it.

posted by Kate Van Cantfort,  CEP  Program Director

 

 

At  several professional meetings over the past year a common theme emerges at some point. Electrical/power engineers are aging and the academic programs have been seeing a decline in enrollment.  Who is going to keep the lights on? The question is literally – who?

Our electrical grid, as a whole, is well over 50 years old. And so are the majority of people to run and maintain it. I don’t mean the regulatory agencies. I mean the men and women who run the grid. The engineers who maintain it, who decide where the power comes from and when. The people who  maintain the grid that actually gets the power to our homes and businesses.

For years this grid remained basically the same. The growth in power plants and transmission lines was steady and the educational system generating engineers maintained the same steady pace. But just as our electrical grid has aged so has the work force that runs and maintains it. And just as everything is aging new demands and new technologies are changing the face of power. The rate and type of growth – of new power sources, increased rate of transmission and now even types of transmission are out pacing the grid workforce.

So what does this mean? It means at just the time when new interest and new opportunities are arising, we are seeing a decline in the number of professors for power engineering (they do have to retire) and that maybe new professors prepared to instruct on the old and the new technologies have not been developed at the rates they should have.

The good news is that we have an opportunity unfolding  before us. At a time we need employment opportunities – we have one. The aging workforce which supports the grid isn’t retiring as fast as they could and the new smart grid technologies are of interest to younger folks. We do have a gap in creating academic centers to lead the way, but with some corporation donations they will be quick to catch on. We are at a transition time in this industry. We need the knowledge of both the grid as it has been created and operated for the past 50 years and we need the knowledge to innovate the new technologies for the grid of the future. But we have a shrinking window  of opportunity as each year passes.

So read more on what is being done (this article from Intelligent Utility is a great place to start), talk you your elected officials about what they are doing to encourage this growth area, and talk to any young people you know about whether they have considered a career with the smart grid.

posted by Kate Van Cantfort, CEP Program Director

Happy New Year everyone!

We all know that the PTC extension was passed in the “Fiscal Cliff Package” just before the deadline. We all should express thanks to the two Kansas Senators Roberts and Moran who voted for the extension of the PTC.  Please also thank Senator Moran for his continuing leadership on tax code parity for renewable energy. It is refreshing to see the Senator take a leading stance on the this issue.

Disappointingly, not ONE of the House representatives for the state of Kansas voted in favor of the PTC. NOT ONE. Please let your representatives know how you feel about their choice.

A thanks also needs to go to Kansas Governor Brownback. He vigorously supported the extension of the PTC. While he had no vote on the legislation, he did as much as he could, working with Governors from across the country to support the PTC. The Governor released a statement recently about the PTC win. Read more from the Topeka Capital Journal.

While the flurry of activity across not only the Heartland but the entire country has been tremendous in the first week of the PTC extension, AWEA has not been able to provide numbers on the immediate impacts of the extension. AWEA has been able to pass along information as new projects are started and projects put on hold are back on line. Here is a round up of PTC impacts in this first week of extension:

  • Minnesota’s largest wind project, Pleasant Valley wind farm, is shovel ready. Needs to touch up paper work since it has been on hold for several months waiting for the PTC outcome, according to the Austin Daily Herald.
  •  A 100-200 megawatt project in North Dakota is moving forward and could begin construction by mid-year according to the Prairie Business Journal.
  • In Ohio, 2 projects may not break ground in 2013, but the PTC extension has given them new life, read more in the Mansfield News.
  • Texas reports wind farm activity moving forward in the Panhandle region – including transmission projects. The Amarillo Globe-News tells us more.

While not directly related to the PTC extension, Nebraska is seeing forward movement on the transmission front with open houses scheduled. The transmission line project, referred to as the R-Project, is being built to enhance transmission system reliability, relieve congestion from existing lines within the transmission system, and provide opportunities for additional renewable energy generation. Learn more about these and other transmission projects at the Center for Rural Affairs and read more about the open houses at the Norfolk Daily News.

Well, that makes for a busy first week of January. Hope yours was a good one too!

posted by Kate Van Cantfort, CEP Program Director

In late April, CEP hosted a gathering of the Heartland Alliance for Regional Transmission (HART) stakeholders. the gathering was in conjunction with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) regional state committee meeting and the SPP Board of Directors meeting. This was an interesting opportunity to meet with landowners, elected officials, renewable energy advocates, economic developers and to watch energy regulation at work.

CEP was able to bring renewable energy and energy efficiency experts to talk with the HART stakeholders. We thought it might be wise to share some of the  information provided by these experts.

The first piece we want to share is from Susan Williams Sloan, Director of State Relations for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA.) Susan was part of a panel on siting of wind farms and impacts associated with wind farms. Her presentation highlights issues with siting and public acceptance across the Heartland.  Her entire power point presentation is included here: AWEA siting and public acceptance April 2012.

She also addressed questions about the production tax credit and energy subsidies. Susan recommends this report from the National Academy of Sciences titled “The Hidden Costs of Energy.”

 

CEP and HART appreciates Susan taking the time to share her expertise to HART stakeholders and we hope you find the information useful as well.

 

Tomorrow we will share more from our April meeting.

posted by Kate Van Cantfort, CEP Director of Communications & Special Projects

This is a wonderful opportunity presented by the Wind Powering America project of the US Department of Energy. Please share this opportunity with recent graduates or others interested in all the opportunities in the wind industry.

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Careers in Wind Energy Webinar

Wednesday, May 16 at 3 p.m. EDT (1 p.m. MDT)

This free webinar is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America 2012 webinar series. It will provide an overview of the wind energy careers from an industry perspective. The webinar will focus on recent work in defining wind energy careers while highlighting some of the critical, but lesser known, career paths in the wind industry.

Andy Swift, with the engineering department at Texas Tech University, will discuss graduates entering the workforce in resource assessment and project design and development. Jonathan Miles, James Madison University, will discuss careers in policy and finance related to renewables. Derek Johnson, Redstone College, will discuss the career of a wind smith, where graduates are employed, and what the college is hearing from graduates and the industry about the technical training program. Jonathan Bartlett, Wind Powering America national director, will discuss wind-related careers in law, banking, archaeology, biology, environmental consulting, and more. The webinar is free; no registration is required. Log-in information is below.

Audio Access Toll-free #: 800-988-9387 Toll #: 1-773-756-4665 Participant passcode: 5263973

Web Access URL: https://www.mymeetings.com/nc/join.php?i=RW9341550&p=5263973&t=c

If you have trouble with the above link, try going to this website and enter the information separately: URL: https://www.mymeetings.com/nc/join/ Conference number: RW9341550 Audience passcode: 5263973

Save the date for a future webinar. June 20: Success Stories