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This Planet is a series of short video stories that draw on the best new videos, awesome graphics, and surprising facts about climate, energy and innovation.

Kansas is Perplexed

This Planet Chronicle

Kansas is Perplexed

Evelyn Messinger

A titanic struggle is shaping up in the U.S. over whether, and how much, renewable energy technologies need governmental support. The issue is especially acute in the State of Kansas, which has a more mature wind energy industry than most U.S. states. Kansas wind generates almost 3,000 Megawatts and according to the  Wind Energy Foundation, the price of wind-generated power in Kansas is now competitive with other sources. That means an active wind power lobby, and many Kansans are reaping rewards from allowing wind generators on their land. Kansas has a state-wide mandate: 20% renewable energy by 2020. And most of it will be wind:

A joint project of BP Wind Energy and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power, the Flat Ridge 2 Wind Farm in Kansas is the largest single-build wind farm in U.S. history. The project represents a major investment in renewable power for U.S. consumers.

But Kansas is also the home of  Koch Industries, a huge fossil fuel company whose founders are deeply involved in conservative politics. The majority of electricity in Kansas is generated by coal, and whether wind can totally replace coal is debatable. In any case, the Koch-controlled conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity is fighting to repeal the renewable mandate in Kansas, with commercials like this:

AFP-Kansas' TV ad promoting the repeal of green energy mandates in Kansas.

Republicans swept the November 2014 midterm election in Kansas just as in the rest of the country, and the effects will be felt. The newly re-elected Governor has switched from supporting the 20% renewable mandate to opposing it.

Whether wind is strong enough to stand on it's own against coal is unknown, but it's pretty clear the test is coming. Despite the probable demise of the mandate, there's no reason that This Planet can't have some fun, in the episode we call Kansas & The Wind.

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