Amy Bickel Kansas Agland
As winds blew across Kansas on Wednesday with gusts of more than 50 mph, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official told rural community leaders that the state should embrace its renewable resource.
John Padalino, administrator of the USDA's Rural Utilities Service, spoke at the Kansas Rural Water Association annual meeting in Wichita on Wednesday morning. He told The News after the meeting that his speech was about rural decline, water infrastructure issues and the need to harness the Kansas wind, along with other sustainable energy sources.
"Eighty years ago, Kansas was suffering from the wind. We plowed up the buffalo grass and planted more and more wheat," he said.
Those conditions during the Great Depression caused the Dust Bowl.
"That same wind is still here," he said.
It's just one tool in the toolbox for energy efficiency, he said, adding he knew of the Kansas Senate plan to end the state's renewable energy standards.
House Bill 2014 would have ended the renewable portfolio standards that require Kansas utility companies to receive 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.
But Padalino compared wind expansion to the work by USDA and others for rural electrification. He noted that in Kansas where in some areas water is scarce, it made sense to use wind and solar energy.
"Wind and solar don't require water," he said. "Wouldn't it make a lot of sense in Kansas - where there is a lot of wind" to push wind energy?
After a question about the Senate proposal, Padalino said, "I just think in general we have to have a diverse energy economy. ... I think we need to rely on all sources as we think about becoming more and more sustainable."
He said states should embrace their portfolio of renewable energy sources, adding that "our members want energy efficiency, they want to have community solar gardens. Rural Kansans want that. I think in the big tide of history, these things will all work themselves out."
Wind is always blowing in Kansas and should be one of the state's strong points.
"It is not anti any other technology," he added. "It is we have to become sustainable."