EMMETT Western Resources dedicated two commercial windmills in a pilot project for Kansas.
Electricity just might be next on the list of cash crops produced on the Kansas prairie.
Western Resources, the state's largest energy utility, dedicated two giant windmills -- and the first two commercial wind turbines in the state -- Friday near its Jeffrey Energy Center, the state's largest coal-fired electric plant.
"Our customers, and others in the state of Kansas, have demonstrated an interest in an option for renewable energy," Western chairman David Wittig said. "We're proud to become the first company in Kansas to offer wind generation for sale to electric customers."
The two 750-kilowatt wind turbines, rising more than 170 feet above the prairie near St. Marys, will produce enough energy to supply the annual electric needs of about 400 households, the utility company said.
"This is pilot project," explained Western Resources spokeswoman Robin Lampe. "This project has two objectives -- first, ensuring the feasibility of turbines in Kansas, how they will react to wind, lightning strikes and weather. The second is to gauge customer demand. If there is more and more support for this, the potential for a wind farm is very real."
Customers can start signing up for wind-generated power beginning in July. The energy they receive won't necessarily come from the wind-powered turbines, but the $15 to $25 per month extra they pay for wind power will indicate an interest in supporting the project, Lampe said.
"It's not like one house can get it, and the next house can't," she said. "It's part of an entire project."
Wind power isn't the only renewable energy resource produced in the state.
Bowersock Mills & Power Co. has been producing hydroelectric energy since 1874 at its plant on the Kansas River in Lawrence. The plant is the only functioning hydroelectric plant of its kind left in the state. A former hydroelectric plant in Oxford has been turned into a restaurant.
"Over the last four years we've supplied over 10 million kilowatt hours each year," Bowersock plant manager David Readio said.
Western buys energy from Bowersock, and much of what the plant supplies is used to service downtown Lawrence, Readio said.
"We're small potatoes compared to other sources," he said.
Readio said he supports the idea of wind-generated turbines.
"It all goes into the grid and comes out," he said. "You can't say for sure that you're getting the energy from the turbine, but it does reduce the amount of coal they have to burn."
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