As one of the most widely discussed topics with a vast array of stakeholders, the future of renewable energy in Kansas is unclear. Taking into consideration the environmental and economic impacts of various forms of energy, we look at what direction Kansas is headed and where it could go. Join us with Climate + Energy Project Program Director Allison Thomas, Douglas County Planning Commission Chair Gary Rexroad, and State Geologist of Kansas Jay Kalbas to discuss the future of renewable energy development in Kansas by means of public policy, community action, and environmental necessity. Karen Willey will lead this semester’s four-part Discussion Group Series.
This series is presented in partnership with the Kansas Rural Center.
Allison Thomas is a staff member at the Climate + Energy Project, a Kansas-based, nonpartisan nonprofit driving practical solutions for an equitable transition to a clean energy future. Thomas’s work at CEP focuses on renewable energy education and community outreach efforts, including the Wind Energy Advisory Group, a pilot program that connects Kansans with hands-on learning opportunities around wind energy. Her approach in this work prioritizes connecting people, organizations and ideas, presenting science-based facts and analysis, facilitating critical thinking and community engagement, and co-creating equitable and productive solutions. In addition to clean energy programming, Thomas manages CEP’s summer internship program in partnership with the Empowering Diverse Climate Talent (EDICT) Internship program.
Gary Rexroad is a retired Microsoft Executive who has called Lawrence and Douglas County their home for the past 30 years. Gary is passionate about our community and serves in various efforts such as The Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation, Cottonwood industries, Cadre Lawrence and is the Chairman of the Lawrence and Douglass County Metropolitan Planning Commission. Through his work on the Planning commission, Gary served on two separate committees to draft regulations governing Commercial Scale Solar and Wind Energy giving him the opportunity to understand renewable energy through the lens of our Urban and rural residents as well as industry.
Jay Kalbas is the State Geologist of Kansas and the Director of the Kansas Geological Survey. He brings 18 years of energy industry management and project execution experience including seven years leading large-capital international offshore exploratory and development drilling projects. In 2022 and 2023, he led the development of Kansas’ clean energy and hydrogen integration strategy establishing partnerships between the Kansas Department of Commerce, the University of Kansas, and a range of national and international energy developers. His work primarily focuses on dual challenge of addressing growing energy demands while reducing stress on our environment and economy.
Brandon Sack is a Clean Energy Development Manager and earned his BS in Business Administration from the University of Kansas. He has been in the energy industry for over twenty-five (25) years and has gained experience through different roles in analytics, planning, energy trading and clean energy development. He now focuses on developing clean energy products for Evergy and with customers across the Midwest to help in the pursuit for clean and economically viable energy solutions. In the clean energy development role, he has negotiated over 1,000 MW of wind PPA’s, developed over 50 MW of small-scale utility solar and is currently developing over 1,000 MW of large-scale utility solar.
Karen Willey serves as the Douglas County, Kansas Commissioner for District 3. Dr. Willey holds a BA in Environmental Studies and a PhD in Geography, both from KU. She works as a nonprofit consultant through Futureful, a local company providing organizational health and fundraising support to health, housing, and human services organizations in urban Kansas City. She leverages this social impact work along with her science and entrepreneurship experience in crafting grounded local policy.
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