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How the Midwest Can Advance the Future of Renewable Energy

Subash Alias's picture
CEO Missouri Partnership

Subash Alias is the CEO of Missouri Partnership, a public-private economic development organization available to assist businesses today, in six months, and in six years.

  • Member since 2021
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  • May 28, 2021 4:45 pm GMT
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California might be leading the charge for renewable energy, but that alone isn’t enough. Despite a 46-fold increase in solar generation from 2008 to 2018, fossil fuels still make up 80% of the energy consumed in the U.S. About 77% of Americans think the nation should invest more in alternative energy sources, which is why energy leaders would be wise to look to the Midwest to meet the growing renewable energy demand.

 

To drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the nation’s energy needs, renewable installations will need to be placed strategically. According to researchers from Harvard and Carnegie Mellon, renewable energy in the Midwest offers the greatest potential benefits. For instance, each megawatt-hour produced by Midwest wind turbines generates an estimated $113 in health and economic benefits — more than four times what California generates ($28).

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Renewable Energy in the Midwest

 

It’s no surprise that Midwest renewable energy is on the rise, with states in the region emerging as leaders in the clean energy space. Missouri, for example, is home to the leading producers of battery and energy storage devices for the defense, space, automotive, and consumer industries. It’s also a hotbed for innovations in the development and production of energy: Missouri’s solar production tripled in 2013, and it continues to improve with every installation.

 

But perhaps the cornerstone of the Midwest green energy movement is wind power. The wind belt includes states like Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, making the Midwest a great place to install wind turbines. Iowa and Oklahoma are the second- and third-biggest producers of wind energy behind Texas, which generates the most due to its sheer size.

 

Kansas particularly stands out because it generates enough wind power with its Midwest wind turbines to meet more than 50% of its energy needs, even though its government doesn’t set renewable energy requirements. These numbers will continue to grow as more energy leaders select the Midwest for their renewable energy installations.

 

The Business Benefits of Midwest Renewable Energy

 

In 2020, member homes of the Associated Electric Cooperative in Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma received 25% of their power from renewable resources — 16% from wind and 9% from hydropower. Ameren Missouri recently acquired two new wind farms, so these figures will continue to grow as green energy benefits the region.

 

Energy leaders who want to move away from high-cost coastal regions can explore Midwest wind and solar opportunities. A business location analysis will quickly reveal how impactful renewable installations can be for companies that want to expand their operations. Not only will new installations reduce emissions and improve the country’s health, but they’ll also make the region more attractive to other innovative organizations that want to cut back their carbon footprints.

 

The Midwest energy industry has long been powered by coal and other fossil fuels, but that’s rapidly changing. Thanks to Midwest wind and solar, the likes of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma are some of the best states for renewable energy installations. As the U.S. continues to prioritize clean energy and the companies that support a green future, these areas will attract additional attention and investment from businesses.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 29, 2021

Subash, your claim

"California might be leading the charge for renewable energy..."

is linked to an article titled

"California pledged to achieve 100% clean energy. That was the easy part."

No, California isn't "leading the charge for renewable energy". It's leading the charge to conceal its policy objectives using spurious public relations, while importing electricity from coal and gas plants in Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada.

It's leading the charge to hide the provenance of those imports by claiming they come from "unspecified sources", a new category invented in 2008 by fossil fuel interests (AB 62).

It's leading the charge to close nuclear plants by promising to replace their electricity with 100% renewable electricity - then replacing it with fossil-fueled power.

Did you really think the world's fourth-largest economy could be powered by windmills and solar panels? Come on!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 1, 2021

Kansas particularly stands out because it generates enough wind power with its Midwest wind turbines to meet more than 50% of its energy needs, even though its government doesn’t set renewable energy requirements.

Do they not set requirements because they are seeing success without such intervention? Or is the private wind energy industry simply succeeding despite the lack of focus from the state gov? 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 17, 2021

Kansas wind installations are not mandated by law. The ridgelines in Western Kansas see a fair amount of wind that can be profitably harvested, largely because the Federal government provides a fairly significant subsidy.

Simply put, there is a lot of wind in Western Kansas.

Why should the state mandate using wind when private industry makes a profit? Unlike say California, Kansas is not a corrupt socialist state kowtowing to elite liberals. We may be old fashioned, but we are fine with free enterprise.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jun 1, 2021

Subash, thanks for the FACTS in the article I have not read before. I know that wind is huge but I had no idea a renewable energy unit was worth so much more than one in California. Hydro power was also not on the list until I read your article. Battery storage is also a good surprise. My awareness has doubled after knowing these FACTS. Thank you. 

Subash Alias's picture
Subash Alias on Jun 17, 2021

Hi Jim. There is a lot happening in this space - very exciting! Thanks for the positive feedback. 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 2, 2021

As I live in the Midwest, I’m perfectly happy to let the fools in California race over the cliff edge and win the irrational 100% renewable energy race. 
A balanced mix of energy resources is a key to a vibrant economy. The debacles in Texas and California demonstrate the stupidity of excessive reliance on renewable energy while simultaneously dumping a balanced portfolio. Kansas, with a good mix of coal, nuclear, gas and wind energy weathered this winter just fine. 
Kindly visit your propaganda on some other region.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jun 3, 2021

A balanced mix of energy resources is a key to a vibrant economy. The debacles in Texas and California demonstrate the stupidity of excessive reliance on renewable energy while simultaneously dumping a balanced portfolio. Kansas, with a good mix of coal, nuclear, gas and wind energy weathered this winter just fine. 

Do you actually live in Kansas?

The state where your governor just recently announced that Kansas is back to No 1 in wind energy...

In 2020, Kansas reclaimed the top spot it held in 2018 in percentage of energy generated by wind, as it was No. 2 in 2019 behind Iowa. Kansas also increased its installed wind power capacity significantly in 2020 in claiming the fourth-place spot.

The state where wind share of generation was over 43% in 2020...

The state where coal usage has plummeted by almost 50% in the last decade...

The state that just passed a new bill which will make it easier to close coal plants...

A bill that would permit utilities to refinance remaining debt on retiring coal-fired power plants cleared its final legislative hurdle Monday in the state House. The legislation (HB 2072) passed both chambers with large bipartisan majorities and was widely expected to be signed by Gov. Laura Kelly.

The tool, known as securitization, is a way to reduce the financial impact when utilities retire coal plants before they have finished paying for their construction. Outstanding debt is repackaged as ratepayer-backed bonds at far lower interest rates.

The state that has plenty more wind in the pipeline. Even some solar...

Evergy plans to add 700 MW of solar in Kansas and Missouri by 2024

Evergy said it plans to add 700 MW of utility-scale solar in Kansas and Missouri by 2024 as part of its integrated resource plan, which the utility filed with Missouri state utility regulators in late April and Kansas regulators in late May.

The plan calls for retiring 484 MW of coal-fired generating capacity in late 2023. And it said it will use a competitive contracting process to select projects for the planned 350 MW of solar capacity to be added in 2023 and 2024.

Through 2030, the utility said it plans to add 3,200 MW of renewable generation, including both solar and wind. It said this is an increase of 2,700 MW over its 2020 IRP update.

 

We are not in Kansas anymore Toto.

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 5, 2021

Kansas gets its electricity from the Southwest Power Pool, Joe, and like all states that rely on wind its electrical grid was a disaster in February.

Evergy says more rolling blackouts, power outages possible through Wednesday morning

Evergy restores power to 60,000 customers, calls to conserve energy continue

Only posting local generation sources, like posting capacity numbers, is another tired page from the renewables playbook. Why? In Kansas, it's imported fossil power from Wyoming and Missouri that keeps the lights on:

"We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto."

Like Dorothy, time for renewables advocates to wake up and smell the coffee.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jun 11, 2021

Only posting local generation sources, like posting capacity numbers, is another tired page from the renewables playbook.

 

Bob, thanks for the reminder. Because, of course, this story is much bigger than just Kansas. Renewables are replacing fossil fuels across huge swaths for the US and SPP is a great example of that.

 

For 2020, while wind is still behind coal and NG in capacity on the SPP grid it is now ahead of them in generation.  It's a new trend - renewables having higher capacity factors vs fossil fuels.

Wind accounts for nearly 27% of SPP's generation capacity so far in 2020, behind coal at nearly 30% and natural gas at 36.5%, SPP Spokeswoman Meghan Sever said. However, wind has averaged 31.36% of the generation mix year to date, an increase of 3.6 percentage point year on year, and outpaced coal annually for the first time in SPP's history, according to ISO data.

"SPP saw wind overtake coal as our primary fuel source in 2020," Sever said. "We anticipate this will continue going forward as we see more growth in renewables."

Coal generation fell 4.2 percentage points to average 30.4% of the stack so far in 2020 and although gas leads SPP's capacity, it ranks third in the fuel mix at nearly 27%.

As for the near future - 

SPP added 4.84 GW of wind and 20 MW of solar in 2020, with plans to add 4.84 GW of wind in 2021 along with 100 MW of solar, Sever said.

The wind added in 2020 translates to increased wind generation in 2021 plus we have new wind being installed in 2021 as well.

As for nuclear - I don't see any mention anywhere.

In SPP - more and more of that coffee is being brewed with renewables.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 11, 2021

Wind is not replacing coal in Kansas. Is providing additional energy that can be used with the rest of the balanced portfolio that includes nuclear, coal and natural gas. Some of the Western Kansas wind energy also appears to be headed towards Denver which is actually closer than Kansas City.

Kansas has several thousand megawatts of coal fired power plants, including Iatan, LaCygne, Jefferies Energy Center. Pretty much saved our butts during the Texas debacle.

Unlike California, we are doing just fine.

 

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Jun 12, 2021

Wind is not replacing coal in Kansas. Is providing additional energy that can be used with the rest of the balanced portfolio that includes nuclear, coal and natural gas. 

I'm fine with you guys keeping the coal capacity as long as the generation number keep heading to zero.

Unlike California, we are doing just fine.

I wouldn't be too proud of the the fact that a 44GW winter peak caused so many problems. The SPP grid is going over 45 GW every day this past week.

 

California and I think the West as a whole are gonna have a very tough summer. Going forward hydro the West have to be less dependent on hydro.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 17, 2021

I agree, it is going to be a long hot summer.

Instead of permanently shutting down so much fossil capacity, the West should have followed the old farmer adage: Better to have and not need, than need and not have.

A lot of politicians are likely to have a well deserved very tough Fall election season. Anybody remember Governor Grey Davis?

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 17, 2021

As for hydro, the West has historically experienced mega decade droughts over the last several thousand years. Was not that much of problem with few people living in the region. Now there are tens and tens of millions. 

As the West coast has been voting in feel-good incompetency for years and years, I have zero sympathy for their plight. 

Rao Konidena's picture
Rao Konidena on Jun 24, 2021

Subash

Living in MSP and having family in DFW, I have traveled by road 3 times in the past 12 months along I-35 South. And yes, there are plenty of wind farms in Iowa (MISO) and Oklahoma (SPP), and Texas (ERCOT).

I also saw plenty of large-scale solar farms popping up now.

What is missing? I believe energy storage is missing. Energy storage was not cost-effective in the early 2000s when the wind went thru the boom cycle. You might notice now, 20 years later, wind capacity credits have fallen with a lot of wind penetration on the grid. One way to increase the capacity of wind is energy storage at the same point of interconnection. These are called “hybrid resources.”

Another missing feature is the lack of market coordination on renewable project interconnections across the organized markets. As I mentioned at the outset, driving on I-35 south from Minneapolis to Dallas – you go through 3 market operators – MISO, SPP, and ERCOT. Texas does not fall under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdiction, but both MISO and SPP do. That means for renewable projects, interconnection rules to interconnect a solar farm in MISO are a tad bit different than SPP’s, and if RE developers have a problem with that, they can go to FERC. But different rules apply in ERCOT, and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) is the deciding body. We got to get consistent rules across the board.

With more energy storage on the transmission grid and a consistent set of interconnection rules across multiple market operators, I am sure we can see more renewable energy interconnect in the Midwest.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 24, 2021

I do not believe the Federal government should dictate generator and transmission system interconnection specifics just to please the renewable energy mafia, particularly since the Federal government bureaucracy is utterly unanswerable to the citizens living within the state and local regions. The independent system operators can work things out without involving big-brother socialists.

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