A lot of the action on renewable energy is taking place at the state level, so on Wednesday I was happy to be able to attend a state conference to learn more about projects being developed close to home.
I was at the 2007 Kansas Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Conference, along with about 500 other participants, and we heard a lot about wind power, because like many other Midwestern states, Kansas has a lot of wind energy potential. Many speakers discussed new wind farms in development nearby, as well as the necessary steps to bring more wind power into the state in the future: notably, upgrades to transmission lines. But one of the most interesting panels I listened to discussed the use of wind energy in schools. I'd heard before that schools are a great place to put up wind turbines. One attraction is that teachers can use the real-time data from wind turbines on school grounds to teach renewable energy concepts in their science classrooms. But I was surprised to learn that many schools are investing in wind power for a much simpler reason: It saves them money. For many schools, putting up a wind turbine or two on school grounds is the equivalent of buying 20 years of electricity up front, at a guaranteed low price.
I've heard similar arguments before, and it makes a lot of sense. Schools and other public institutions are often able to justify long-term investments that for-profit businesses can't. They can make energy improvements that don't start to pay off for 5, 10 or even 20 years, and it's still a good investment because it saves taxpayers money in the long run. The speaker I heard was from a school district in Shallowater, Texas, but this idea is catching on quickly, check out this list of other schools installing wind turbines.
Wind energy is a hot topic in Kansas, but we're certainly not alone. Many states have significant wind energy resources. Want to find out more about what's happening with wind energy in other states? Check out these handy resources.