New York Times reports on Kansas wind development


On Monday the New York Times published a story about where Kansas fits in this nation’s quest for alternative energy. The story began as follows: “With its open plains and thousands of miles of wheat fields, Kansas is one of the windiest states in the U.S. That makes it a great place for turbines that capture the wind and convert it into electricity. But too few people live there to use all that power.

“So in 2010, developers started planning a large power-line project connecting Kansas with Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. They wanted to move the clean energy generated in Kansas, from both wind turbines and solar panels, to states with much bigger populations. That would let more communities replace planet-warming fossil fuels.

‘Thirteen years later, however, full construction has not yet started on the project, known as the Grain Belt Express. Why? Because in addition to federal permission, the project needs approval from every local and state jurisdiction it passes through. And at different times since 2010, at least one agency has resisted it.

“The Grain Belt Express is an example of a broader problem. America’s electrical grid is highly fragmented. That decentralization makes it hard to coordinate the large, interstate projects needed to connect clean energy to the grid.

“One way to get at that problem is to do what experts call permitting reform. The issue has recently gained national traction, and President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, discussed it during debt-limit negotiations last month. Local and state governments are considering changes, too.

“The goal is to streamline the approval process for energy projects so they can avoid the fate of the Grain Belt Express.”

“Communities have various reasons for blocking these projects. Landowners might worry about the government seizing their land. Power lines, wind turbines and solar panels can be eyesores in places that rely on beautiful vistas for tourism. Such projects can damage the environment by displacing wildlife or cutting down trees.

“Some critics argue that speeding up permits could also make it easier to build coal, oil and gas infrastructure. Indeed, this is one reason that reform has bipartisan support: Democrats largely want the advances for clean energy, and Republicans largely want the boost to oil and gas production.

“The criticisms have made it difficult for lawmakers to agree on what an overhaul should look like. So despite bipartisan support, Biden and McCarthy agreed to only minor changes, to speed up environmental reviews, in last week’s debt deal. They promised to come back to permitting reform in future discussions.”


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