Westar adds two wind projects

Two Kansas wind farms controlled by Westar Energy, Inc. (NYSE:WR) have been added to the utility’s portfolio in recent weeks. The 168-MW Ironwood Wind Power Project and the 201-MW Post Rock Wind Farm bring Westar’s portfolio to 670 MW. Both sites have 20-year power purchase agreements.

Kansas is poised to double its wind capacity this year to more than 2,700 MW. Westar will own or have under contract more than one-fourth of that total.

“I appreciate Westar’s commitment as a national leader in wind energy. Kansas ranks first in the nation for new wind construction with more than $3bn in investments this year,” Gov. Sam Brownback said. “Wind energy development provides economic opportunities to rural areas of Kansas, and our state can leverage the availability of clean energy to attract business.”

The wind farms brought online under agreements with Westar represent more than $700m in investment, as Kansas is poised to lead the U.S. in new wind capacity in 2012.

The Ironwood Wind Power Project is in Ford and Hodgeman counties on a site owned by Westar. A portion of the site was offered to the project development unit of Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) to build the 168-MW project for Westar. The wind farm began commercial operation Aug. 31.

The nacelles for the turbines were manufactured by Siemens Energy in Hutchinson, Kan., at a factory that has been open for less than two years. Layoffs occurred at the plant last month, as orders have plummeted as the federal production tax credit is lapsing at year’s end.

The Post Rock Wind Farm located in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties was developed and is owned by St. Louis-based Wind Capital Group. The 201-MW wind farm started production on Sept. 28.

Westar’s owns or has acquired rights to about one-fourth of that capability. In addition, Westar has completed several major high voltage transmission lines that have helped strengthen the state’s electrical grid and also provide the infrastructure needed to move wind power produced in rural areas to population centers.

“Wind energy is an important part of a balanced, diversified portfolio that powers much of our state’s economy,” said Westar Energy CEO Mark Ruelle. “We continue to rely on our low-cost coal and nuclear units to provide the reliable, always-on baseload energy customers depend on. We supplement it with wind and more nimble natural gas generators to provide the flexibility to meet customer’s changing needs.”