Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

State Sixth in Growth of Clean Energy Jobs ; Ranking Shows Two Wind Farms in Development

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

State Sixth in Growth of Clean Energy Jobs ; Ranking Shows Two Wind Farms in Development

Article excerpt

Kansas had the sixth-most clean energy jobs announced in the first quarter, according to one measure.

Environmental Entrepreneurs, a group of businesses advocating sustainability policies, reported 5,600 "clean energy and clean transportation" jobs were announced nationwide in the first quarter of 2014, down from about 12,000 in the first quarter of 2013. It attributed the lower numbers to gridlock about federal tax incentives for clean energy, pushback against renewable energy standards from states and natural gas prices that are still relatively low.

Their ranking showed only two "clean" projects announced in Kansas in the first quarter of 2014: a 25-megawatt wind farm near Alexander, creating 155 jobs; and an e-waste recycling company near Osage City, creating 200 jobs. The total of 355 jobs ranked Kansas sixth, behind Idaho, Texas, Missouri, California and New York.

Jeff Benzak, a communications associate for the group, said they compile their totals from press releases and news reports about new renewable energy, public transportation and energy efficiency jobs. Some of those jobs may be filled shortly after they are announced, while others, such as jobs predicted to result from a multistate transmission line, are still years off.

"What we do is basically offer a snapshot of what's happening in the clean economy," he said.

Kimberly Svaty, spokeswoman for the Wind Coalition in Kansas, said wind farms announced in Coffey County and Nemaha County weren't listed in the data. She said the wind sector has seen "steady growth" in Kansas with the new wind farms and Siemens' contracts to build wind turbines for use in Iowa, Canada and Latin America.

The largest number of jobs related to wind projects usually are created during the construction phase, Svaty said, with between 10 and 40 permanent operations and maintenance jobs, depending on the project's size. A similar dynamic applies to some other energy projects, such as pipelines.

Svaty said that despite policy uncertainty, Kansas is well positioned to continue growing its wind industry. The prairie has nearly constant winds, and wind energy is a good hedge for utilities' portfolios because it isn't likely to be affected by future pollution regulations and isn't affected by swings in fuel prices, she said.

"We continue to see development related to wind because we have a good commodity," she said.

No projects meeting Environmental Entrepreneurs' criteria had been announced in Kansas in the first quarter of 2013, but the year recorded 2,788 green jobs announced -- with all but 38 coming from a project Clean Line Energy's project to build a wind farm and transmission line to sell power to states farther east.

Benzak acknowledged that a single large project can create a big swing in job numbers from year-to-year. …

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