While it seems wise to wean ourselves from our dependency on fossil-based energy, it would be naïve to think that the development of renewables in any location is always a wise choice. Hydro energy is an example of a renewable energy source with many negative ecological consequences. Wind energy, too, has the potential for adverse side effects if siting is not addressed.
Kansas is powered primarily by nuclear, natural gas and coal plants. Because of the control necessary to meet the grid's demands, coal-fired power stations must keep their generators going, thus producing pollutants whether the wind turbines are producing power or not. Because the traditional generators must be "online" at all times in order to guarantee consistent electricity, one MW of wind produced energy does not necessarily replace one MW of traditionally produced energy.
We should keep in mind that wind is not the only renewable alternative, and we should not focus only on the production side of this issue. The most cost effective approach to curbing our use of fossil fuels is energy conservation. Every dollar spent on efficient appliances can save $3 to $5 in renewable energy system components. Something as simple as replacing four of the most-used incandescent light bulbs in every home in America with florescent bulbs would be the equivalent of about 5,840 wind turbines of 1.5 MW capacity.
The scenic and biological integrity of the last extensive stand of Tallgrass Prairie, which once covered the heartland of America, will be forever changed if wind developers have their way. The Flint Hills are treasured by many. People from all over the world come here to experience this serene landscape. Those same visitors will likely not return to the Flint Hills to see industrial development. Even wind companies have admitted that tourism will be affected. Sadly, most of the proposed locations for wind energy facilities are in the more intact areas of the Flint Hills. Turbines would be placed on the prominent ridge tops which would make them visible for miles in each direction.
Perhaps, yes, but turbines only run at 15-40% efficiency because the wind does not blow all the time. It does not make sense to sacrifice the last stand of intact Tallgrass Prairie—the last 4%--for an alternative generation source that does not operate efficiently or economically.
Oil used for electric power generation in the U.S. fell from 20% in 1973 to less than 1% in 2011. The majority of our oil use (70-80%) is for transportation, not electricity generation. Currently, Kansas electricity is generated primarily by coal, nuclear and natural gas plants. Because coal and nuclear generators must be continuously online in order to ensure the grid's consistent reliability, plants must keep the generators operating, thus producing pollutants whether the wind turbines are producing power or not. Because the traditional generators must be "online" at all times in order to guarantee consistent electricity, one MW of wind produced energy does not replace one MW of energy produced by coal or nuclear.
The native plant community in the Tallgrass Prairie is diverse and has an extensive root system, some reaching down to as deep as 15 feet. Disturbance from construction activities would require many decades or even longer for the fragile system to regain its original character. The turbines would need a base approximately 18-25' wide by 20-30' deep, filled with concrete. Drilling and blasting are the only means to burrow a hole that deep in the limestone bedrock. The anchoring process and the presence of massive equipment to erect each turbine will undoubtedly damage a wide area around each site. In addition, roads will be built to and from each tower as well as trenches for a cable system to each site.
Industrial wind companies lease the land on a per turbine basis. Lease agreements range from $2000 to as much as $13,000 a turbine depending on the developer and the location. Landowners should realize that some lease agreements can become void when wind companies change hands. Landowners and local government officials should also recognize that they might end up dealing with a wind company that was not the initial developer. These companies do not pay any taxes in Kansas, yet they make millions of dollars a year in profit. The tax payers pick up the tab. Analyses of states where industrial wind companies are located show an increase in taxes and utility costs.
Don’t we have siting guidelines in our state? Back To Top
There are no binding siting guidelines in our state. A number of states have failed to establish siting guidelines, and now they are faced with wind complexes in scenic and/or historic areas and abandoned wind turbines.
To date, no geological study has been done on water issues. We do not know if our underground water system will be jeopardized. Because the foundation of each turbine is 20-30 feet deep, blasting and drilling must be done to penetrate to that depth. The Flint Hills rely heavily on wells and springs for water. We cannot allow this unnecessary disturbance to create yet another environmental problem in our state.