Kansas Gov. Brownback leads renewable energy summit

The Wichita EagleOctober 5, 2011 

Gov. Sam Brownback urged leaders from the energy industry to work together to help spur job growth and ignite economic opportunities powered by wind and fuels which are rich in Kansas.

Executives representing some of the largest players in that potential growth agreed they could do that -- as long as the state was willing to provide the proper tax incentives.

"We need to produce more energy here and bring less of it in from abroad. And we can do that," Brownback said at his energy summit Tuesday morning in Wichita.

Brownback said competition between different sources that had held back growth in the past needed to be put aside, and that cooperation would push Kansas into the future as a leading energy provider.

"We need renewable energy. We need coal. We need oil and gas," Brownback said. "We're in the top 10 states in each of these fields, and we need to grow all of them."

Brownback's summit came a day after BP announced plans to build Kansas' biggest wind farm.

But in the wide open spaces of the state, there's even more room to grow, officials told a crowd of about 250 at the Hyatt Regency.

Kansas, for example, ranks second in the nation as a potential for wind energy but 14th in production, said Dave Lucas, vice present of energy and sales for Siemens Energy, which runs a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Hutchinson.

Lucas, and others, said Kansas needs to invest in infrastructure to help move generated power into the national grid, and that's not easy.

An eroding power infrastructure is one of the main concerns of the energy industry, said Steve Rus, executive vice president of Black & Veatch, a utilities engineering and consulting firm in Overland Park. The company has surveyed utility executives, managers and technical support staffs at U.S. utility services over the past five years. This year's survey, Rus said, showed "aging infrastructure" as the top issue in the energy business.

The top environmental concern, Rus said, is water supply and management.

Water is an key factor in producing energy. It's needed for cooling in power plants and, in some cases, to generate the electricity itself.

Finding water is one of the tasks currently facing Shell Oil, which is back in Kansas for the first time in two decades, said Erik Bartsch, an exploration and appraisal manager for the company.

"We have an entire team of about eight to 10 people out looking for water," Bartsch said.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansas.com.

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