Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz had it right about Kansas when she said, “There’s no place like home.”
As we saw during the Heartland Transmission Conference in Hutchinson recently, there’s no place like Kansas for high-voltage transmission. That’s because Kansas realized early on the benefits of developing its wind energy potential; it understood that new transmission will be critical to moving wind energy to market; and it figured out how to get it done.
This success of the Kansas approach became crystal clear at the Heartland conference as a long list of officials and experts ranging from Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and FERC Commissioner Mark Spitzer to key industry, government, regulatory, economic and environmental leaders and other stakeholders examined where the state stands in transmission development and projected where they see the state and the region going in the future. Everybody agreed: transmission is the key to unlocking the full potential of renewable energy.
As I pointed out during my presentation on the Regional Perspective panel discussion, transmission development boils down to the three “P”s: Planning, Pricing and Permitting. Here’s how they play out in Kansas.
The Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which oversees transmission development in its nine-state region that includes Kansas, covers the first two Ps with its long-range planning and cost allocation mechanisms (Spitzer described as SPP the “poster child” for regional planning). Kansas takes care of the third P, permitting, with its efficient process for reviewing and approving new transmission projects in a timely manner. Once a transmission developer secures approval for a project from the SPP, the Kansas Corporation Commission reviews the project and its proposed route in a process that is limited to 120 days by state statute. It’s a comprehensive and efficient process that works for everyone.
The results so far? The ITC Great Plains 174-mile Spearville-Axtell 345 kV line is now under construction (currently ahead of schedule), and the 180-mile V-Plan 345 kV project from Spearville to Wichita got final regulatory approval in July, clearing the way for right-of-way acquisition and design. These two projects will go a long way toward providing the region with a more flexible and reliable transmission system that will also help move wind energy produced in windy but less populous western Kansas to markets where it’s needed, both inside and outside the state.
In his keynote address at the conference, Governor Brownback said the renewable energy sector of the Kansas economy cannot reach its full potential without increased transmission capacity. He said expansion of wind generating and transmission could be a key component to expanding the state’s economy. He emphasized that his first priority as Governor is to grow the Kansas economy, and getting wind power to market is a key component accomplishing that.
We couldn’t agree more.
Carl Huslig is President of ITC Great Plains.
The Heartland Transmission Conference was hosted by the Energy Future Coalition and the Climate and Energy Project. ITC was a supporting sponsor. For more coverage of the conference speakers, see: A Sunny Outlook On Transmission.