Biofuels, Solar, Wind Diversify Kansas Energy Portfolio
Investing in Kansas energy is easy – the tough part may be deciding which sector, because the state is making moves in all of them.
Kansas is a longtime leader in traditional energy, including natural gas and oil production, consistently ranking among the top 10 U.S. states in crude oil production.
The Sunflower State is a hub for wind power, with 1,026 megawatts on line at the end of 2010, and the industry’s growing U.S. supply chain.
Solar energy’s future is bright, too. The state has a high solar rating, and industry powerhouses such as AGC Flat Glass, a global leader in solar glass production, have operations in Kansas.
Ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic technologies are also part of the portfolio.
Standards, Incentives fuel growth
Kansas is an active partner in developing new technologies and creating markets for sustainable fuel sources. The state demonstrated its commitment to renewables with a Renewable Energy Standard – 10 percent for 2011 (which was met almost exclusively with wind generation), 15 percent for 2016 and 20 percent for 2020. In 2009, the state bumped up its commitment and elevated the benchmarks from “goals” to “mandatory requirements,” making Kansas an attractive investment option because companies have evidence of the state’s commitment.
State incentives include special bond financing, which make up to $5 million available for eligible projects. Renewable energy incentive grants from the Kansas Energy Office provide up to $250,000 to help state agencies, local governments and educational institutions finance 25 percent of alternative energy projects. In addition, Kansas has a $34 million revolving loan program for small commercial and residential energy efficiency projects.
Ethanol, Biofuels Flowing
Kansas has 12 operating biofuel facilities with a combined permitted capacity of 519.5 million gallons per year.
More projects are in the permit or construction phase. Abengoa Bioenergy, an industry leader, picked Kansas for its first commercial-scale hybrid biomass plant, in part because the state has no shortage of feedstock.
“We are a big agricultural state and produce corn and sorghum, feedstocks for ethanol plants,” says Carole Jordan, rural development director at the Kansas Department of Commerce. “Those can be interchanged in plants depending on what the market is doing. We have the source of those inputs very near to production.”
Companies are working with wheat stover, switchgrass and other potential sources of biomass. Researchers are trying to figure out how to break apart corn kernels to get all the material for potential energy conversion. Both the University of Kansas and Kansas State University have dedicated biomass working groups, including one that is developing algae as a biofuel, Jordan says.
Kansas Has Location Advantage
The state already is home to major industry players. In addition to Abengoa, ICM, a leader in building and retrofitting ethanol plants, is based in Colwich, Kan. ICM is one of four biorefinery companies selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to lead biomass-to-ethanol research efforts with innovative technologies. Projects include developing a demonstration plant at the Harvey County landfill for a biomass gasifier, says Monique Garcia, ICM’s director of government affairs.
With innovative companies, existing production, solid transportation infrastructure and market access, Jordan says, “it makes for a really great combination.”