Archive for Thursday, December 1, 2005

Energy choices

December 1, 2005

The Lawrence Journal-World, in an editorial Nov. 23, said:

Gasoline prices dropping below $2 a gallon are making local consumers heave a sigh of relief, but while the lower price is a short-term reason to give thanks it doesn't point to a long-term solution to reducing the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.

Solutions may not be easy to find and they will require consumers to make choices and perhaps accept tradeoffs.

An example of that is occurring here in Kansas as the debate continues over the expansion of wind energy on the plains. Although part of the Flint Hills has been at least temporarily declared off-limits for wind generators, projects are proceeding in other areas. The state's second large wind farm currently is going on line near Beaumont in Butler County, and predictably is being met with criticism from some residents.

The opposition is targeted mostly at the visual impact of the turbines. While it's true that wind generators towering 262 feet into the air are hard to miss, not everyone finds the sight objectionable. Some people find them somewhat graceful while others are more intrigued by the clean, renewable energy they provide.

When the Beaumont installation is completed, it is expected to generate up to 150 megawatts of electricity for Empire District Electric Co. of Joplin, Mo. That's enough to supply energy to as many as 42,000 homes each year in the four-corners region of southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri, northwest Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma.

The state's first major wind farm, near Montezuma, generates 112 megawatts, and two other projects - a 30-megawatt plant in western Kansas and a 100-megawatt KCPL project at a location that hasn't been announced - are expected to be built soon, according to state officials.

Wind farms provide income for local property owners, and the turbine operators are working to be environmentally sensitive. The land near Beaumont will be reseeded to native grasses, and land surrounding the Montezuma generators continues to be used for pasture and cropland. The electricity generated by the wind farms at this point is relatively modest, but it's a step in the right direction. Like the use of hybrid cars and other measures to conserve or seek alternative fuels, small steps can add up to a larger impact.

It's understandable that Kansas residents would have concerns about the installation of large wind turbines in their areas, but when it comes to energy generation, they and people across the country have to make choices. In the big scheme of things, wind turbines that produce clean, renewable energy may be one of the less objectionable ways to decrease America's dependence on fossil fuels.

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