KCC approves route for high voltage line

The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved the transmission line route for a planned high-voltage line through southern and southwestern Kansas, a key piece in the development of windpower in western Kansas.

Prairie Wind Transmission, a joint venture that includes Westar Energy, proposed the route after extensive consultation with landowners, state and federal environmental and wildlife agencies and environmental groups.

The 110-mile double-circuit 345 kilovolt transmission line, part of the project commonly referred to as the Y-plan, will start near Colwich, run through Medicine Lodge and then head to the Kansas-Oklahoma border.

The line is part of the higher capacity power grid needed to develop a large-scale windfarm industry in windy western Kansas.

The route avoids the Red Hills with its ecosystem inhabited by sensitive species, including the lesser prairie chicken and a number of bat species.

Prairie Wind will begin trying to buy rights of way from landowners this summer. Construction will begin in mid-2012 and is scheduled to be in service by the end of 2014.

The estimated cost for the Prairie Wind portion of the line is about $225 million.

Average Kansas electric customers are expected to see an initial cost increase of about 25 cents per month. That amount will decrease over time.

The cost for this and related high-voltage projects will be shared with 5 million customers of utilities across nine states.

Prairie Wind Transmission is a joint venture between Westar Energy and Electric Transmission America, itself a joint venture between subsidiaries of American Electric Power and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.