The amount of wind energy generating capacity in Kansas more than doubled in 2012, boosting the state into the top 10 states for wind power, according to a new report by a wind energy trade group.
The American Wind Energy Association, which officially released its report on Thursday, said Kansas installed 1,441 megawatts of wind generating capacity last year – third among states for growth – and now has 2,713 megawatts of capacity.
That amounted to about $2.5 billion in investment, said Liz Salerno, director of industry and analysis for the association.
Wind farms in Kansas produce at about 35 to 40 percent of their capacity because wind blows intermittently.
Texas remains the state with the most generating capacity, at 12,214 megawatts. California is second at 5,544 megawatts. Those two states also added the most in 2012.
Overall, the nation added 13,131 megawatts of capacity for a $25 billion investment, the most in any single year. The country now has 60,000 megawatts of capacity.
“Wind energy had a banner year in 2012 with $25 billion invested, and wind is the No. 1 source of all new energy,” Salerno said.
Driving the boom in 2012 was the prospect that a federal subsidy of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years, called the production tax credit, would expire at the end of the year. Developers rushed to get projects finished in case the tax credit wasn’t renewed.
The credit was renewed for a year as part of the fiscal cliff bill, but the law now requires that a wind farm only be started in 2013 to qualify. Many wind farms are now in the development pipeline for this year and next.
Skeptics of wind power say all energy sources should compete equally on cost and that subsidies skew the system, increasing the overall cost of energy. These skeptics have attempted to overturn mandates by state legislatures, including in Kansas, that require utilities to acquire a certain percentage of their energy from alternative sources, usually wind energy.
Salerno said the subsidies pay for developing the wind infrastructure until wind can compete evenly.
Kansas utilities are already close to or have met 15 percent of their energy from wind by 2016 and are on track to hit 20 percent by 2020.
Although most future Kansas wind farms will ship energy out of the state, keeping the mandate for Kansas utilities is important, said Salerno.
“It’s a signal that Kansas is open for business,” she said.