Less Coal, More Wind Power?

Reader Contribution by Staff

Sometimes it’s easiest to understand energy issues by watching them unfold one power plant at a time. During the last week, I’ve been hearing a lot about one particular power plant here in Kansas.

Last week, it made national headlines when a state official rejected a proposal for a coal-fired power plant because it would have produced too many greenhouse gases. And as many of the people who opposed the plant have pointed out, why would we want to build a new coal-fired plant, when the state is such a great location for new wind energy projects?

But as I learned at the state renewable energy conference I attended last month, the decisions of whether to build new coal- or wind-powered electric plants are even more closely related than you might think. In fact, several proponents of wind power at the conference spoke up in favor of the new coal plant because it would require upgrades to transmission lines that are also needed to develop new wind energy projects.

What happens now? Much of the national media agreed that the decision to reject a coal-fired power plant because of greenhouse gas pollution was a significant first. Meanwhile, wind power is still being developed here in Kansas. In fact, a few weeks ago one of our big state utilities announced the locations of three new wind-powered electric plants. But wherever you are, building big wind energy projects does depend on having high-power transmission lines in the right locations, so it’s an issue we’re likely to hear a lot more about in the future.

What’s the state of wind power where you live? Check out this helpful map from the American Wind Energy Association to see wind energy projects across the United States.

More links related to the Kansas coal plant decision:

The New York Times, Scientific American, Grist, Worldwatch