Thanks to the completion of its Western Plains wind farm, Topeka, Kan.-based Westar Energy Inc. is now meeting more than half of the annual electricity needs of its customers with emissions-free power.
The 280 MW Western Plains wind farm, located in Ford County and comprising 2.3 MW Siemens turbines, began full operations on March 1.
Westar will own and operate the wind farm, which Infinity Wind developed and Mortenson Construction built. Notably, the nacelles were manufactured locally in Hutchinson, Kan., says the utility.
Westar Energy, touting itself as Kansas’ largest electric utility, has approximately 700,000 customers. In total, the company has about 7.8 GW of electric generation capacity, fueled by coal, uranium, natural gas, wind, solar and landfill gas. Specifically, renewable energy sources meet about one-third of the annual electricity needs of the homes, businesses and organizations served by the utility; the Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station provides another 20%.
“By carefully selecting the locations for our wind farms, we’ve cost-effectively grown our commitment to renewable energy,” states John Bridson, senior vice president of generation and marketing at Westar Energy. “In February, on a day with particularly windy conditions, there was one hour where we met 90 percent of our customers’ electricity needs with renewable energy.”
Over the next 20 years of operation, the Western Plains project will provide about $75 million in land lease payments and payments to local and county governments, says Westar. Construction entailed about 200 temporary jobs, and the wind farm brings three dozen permanent jobs to the community, the utility adds.
Western Plains is the third wind farm owned by Westar. In addition, the utility buys power from eight other wind projects. Later this spring, Westar will add a 1 MW community solar installation in South Hutchinson, Kan., to further its renewable energy commitment.