Westar announces new Kansas wind farm partnership

Source: By Megan Hart, Topeka Capital Journal • Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cost ‘competitive’ with gas, coal

The Cedar Bluff wind farm in Kansas' Ness and Trego counties will produce up to 200 megawatts of wind energy.  2012 FILE PHOTO/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL

The Cedar Bluff wind farm in Kansas’ Ness and Trego counties will produce up to 200 megawatts of wind energy.
Westar Energy has signed a contract to buy all of the output of a wind farm under construction in western Kansas.

The Cedar Bluff wind farm in Ness and Trego counties will produce up to 200 megawatts of wind energy, which Westar is under contract to buy, said Gina Penzig, spokeswoman for Westar. It will only pay for the electricity that is actually generated on any given day, she said.

That will bring Westar’s total renewable portfolio to about 1,100 megawatts, though it doesn’t get that much every day. Penzig said customers had indicated they wanted more renewable energy in their mix.

Westar didn’t release the cost of electricity generated at Cedar Bluff, but Penzig said it was comparable with other options. Westar gets much of power from coal and natural gas.

“It is competitive with producing energy from our other plants,” she said.

The Cedar Bluff wind farm is expected to be online by the end of 2015. Between 300 and 350 jobs will be created during the construction phase, with about 20 permanent jobs linked to the wind farm.

Westar will buy an additional 200 megawatts from a wind farm which is expected to come online in 2016 near Arkansas City. That project, called Kay Wind, will produce a maximum of about 300 megawatts.

The renewable portfolio standard calls for 20 percent of a utility’s generation to come from renewable sources by 2020. The formula doesn’t count all renewable megawatts equally, so the 1,100 renewable megawatts Westar will have out of 7,500 megawatts total will be sufficient, Penzig said.

Westar also announced Tuesday that it will shut down two small natural gas units at the Murray Gill Energy Center in Wichita at the end of the year. The two units produce a combined 85 megawatts. Penzig said they no longer are economical to maintain after about 50 years of use, but the company won’t need to immediately replace them.

“We will have ample resources available to meet customer demand,” she said.

Natural gas has been widely discussed as an alternative to coal under new Environmental Protection Agency standards to limit carbon dioxide emissions, so it isn’t likely public policy played a substantial role in the decision to shutter those two units.