Westar Energy to buy power from new Kansas wind farm

Westar Energy said Tuesday that it will buy energy from a planned new wind farm, Cedar Bluff, in Ness and Trego counties.

Cedar Bluff wind farm, with 200 megawatts of capacity and developed by NextEra Energy Resources, is expected to start operations by the end of 2015. Westar has also agreed to buy 300 megawatts of power from the previously announced Kay Wind project in northern Oklahoma, set for completion by the end of 2016.

Together, the new wind farms will push Westar Energy’s renewable energy portfolio to nearly 1,100 megawatts of capacity – meeting the state’s 2009 requirement that major utilities get 20 percent of their overall generating capacity from renewable sources by 2020, said company spokeswoman Gina Penzig.

Wind farms in Kansas actually operate at about 35 to 45 percent of capacity and so typically won’t actually generate 20 percent of the company’s power supply.

Westar has continued to publicly support investing in wind energy, even as political opposition to a renewable energy mandate for Kansas utilities grows.

“Our customers expressed an interest in having renewable energy, and we were willing to do so as long as we can provide it without sacrificing reliability or driving up costs,” Penzig said.

She said the contract price Westar will pay for electricity generated at the wind farm was “competitive” with other forms available, but Westar would not release actual negotiated prices. Such contracts typically lock in electrical generation prices for 20 years.

“We have long been a strong proponent of a diverse portfolio, because every form of energy has its pros and cons,” she said.

Westar is also retiring two of its older natural gas-generating plants, based at the Murray Gill Energy Center southwest of Wichita, which provide a total of 85 megawatts of electricity, late this year.

There will be no job impact from the closing, she said.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

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