On Wednesday, Sunflower Electric Corporation released an announcement to the media that it would no longer pursue the Holcomb Expansion Project.
In 2005, the controversial proposal to build three new coal-fired power plants at Holcomb was announced. At the time, coal was cheap compared to natural gas, and it was believed to be the most economical option for Kansas at the time. Thankfully, state leadership was able to apply the brakes.
Since then, wind energy has advanced from its infancy, and solar technology continues to become more affordable. According to Clare Gustin, Vice President of Member Services and External Affairs for Sunflower, the industry has changed over the last 15 years since the Holcomb expansion was proposed. Those changes include the implementation of the Southwest Power Pool Integrated Market, and growth and investment in renewable energy has increased. For these reasons, the decision to allow the permit to expire makes sense.
In November, Zach Pistora, the Legislative Director for the Sierra Club of Kansas and a member of the Kansas Rural Center spoke at a breakout session at the organization’s annual conference.
“While Kansas leads the nation in production of wind energy, 39% of its own energy is still produced by coal fired power plants powered by Wyoming coal and operating on a part time basis, costing Kansans $267 million more than the cost of buying power on the Southwest Power Pool open market,” he said.
Clearly, the demand for coal is simply not there, and likely never will again. In addition to being more financially costly, the environmental costs of releasing thousands of tons of Carbon Dioxide annually into the atmosphere is something our planet simply can’t afford.
Kansas is at a turning point, it seems. Previously, the push for clean energy alternatives was the domain of liberal states like California, who were routinely criticized for not taking into consideration the impacts to all purchasers of energy. Now, our very conservative state is pulling out in front as a leader, and consumers will be the winners.
With the announcement that Kansas will not be home to new coal-fired power plants, a vision becomes increasingly clear of a state that someday will produce the bulk of its own power from the resources we’ve seen so much of our success from, the sun, the wind, and the plants of the Earth.
It’s a ray of sunshine and a precious bit of good news in the midst of so many reports of doom and destruction facing the world this week.