Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to double the size of the “Tallgrass Heartland” area in the Flint Hills. A voluntary agreement recently worked out with landowners, power companies, and preservationists protects the area from future wind farm development by holding almost 11,000 mi2 of the only remaining expanse of tall-grass prairie in the United States.
The governor also made it clear he will work to support wind energy development elsewhere in the state, western Kansas in particular. The Heartland project compromise will let power companies build transmission lines through the Flint Hills to connect what should be the wind power producing western half of the state with the power consuming eastern half.
Environmental advocates and preservationists agree on the quality of the compromise. Tall-grass prairie once covered much of the Midwest. Less than 3% of it remains, and most of that is in the Flint Hills.
Some say protecting this American landscape must be a priority in Kansas and that wind farms in the Flint Hills would endanger its beauty and scope. Wind energy, however, is an important piece of the alternative energy mix needed to reduce American reliance on foreign oil. The success of wind power relies on building up production as well as creating a grid to move its power.
A wind map of the U.S. shows western Kansas in the nations sweet spot for energy production. Flint Hills cuts the state in half, north to south. An essential development step allows wind and power companies access to the Kansas City and markets farther east. Beyond that, wind farms have the added advantage of bringing much-needed economic development opportunities to the struggling western half of Kansas.
Until 150 years ago, the tall-grass prairie was an American savannah, home to bison, deer, wolves, bears and vast flocks of birds. Protecting what remains of that prairie is essential to protecting our American heritage.
Ongoing advances in transmission lines — including a 345,000V V-Plan line from Spearville to Wichita and the 345,000-volt KETA project from Spearville to Nebraska — Kansas has enormous potential for wind generation without spoiling either the pristine landscape or wildlife of the Flint Hills.
Filed Under: News, Projects