Company scraps wind farm plan

Sunflower Electric instead will build another coal-powered plant

? After shelving its plans to build a wind energy facility in Wichita County, Sunflower Electric Power Corp. announced Monday it will build a fourth coal-powered plant near Holcomb.

The Hays-based utility provider already operates one plant near Holcomb, and two more are in the planning stages. But the fourth plant, which will produce about 700 megawatts and cost nearly $1.2 billion, will be the next to be built.

Steve Miller, a spokesman for Sunflower Electric, said construction could begin in 2007 and will take about 3 1/2 years to complete. The company is discussing the plans with Bechtel Corp., but a contractor has not been selected.

The company’s other planned Holcomb facilities, which are part of an earlier agreement with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association of Westminster, Colo., will each produce about 700 megawatts of power. Construction is expected to begin in 2008 and 2009, and all three facilities should be running by 2013.

Miller said more than half the electricity from the new plant will be owned by Golden Spread Electric Cooperative of Amarillo, Texas. Some of the remainder will serve customers of the new Mid-Kansas Electric Company – about 65,000 customers who are currently served by Kansas City, Mo.-based Aquila.

The purchase of the Aquila system is still pending, but once it is complete, it will more than double the number of customers served by the six cooperatives that make up Sunflower Electric.

“In the near, near future, we’ll have additional announcements of additional ownership,” Miller said.

The announcement of a new coal-powered plant came as Sunflower Electric canceled plans to build a wind energy facility near Leoti after its developer was unable to finance the project.

Brian Evans, senior vice president for RES America Developments Inc. in Austin, Texas, said the project isn’t economically viable because of the cost and difficulty in obtaining wind turbines.

“We’d like to build it. We’re still hoping one day we can build it,” Evans said. “But I don’t think it will happen this year.”

Miller said the two companies agreed to work on the 100-megawatt facility in February 2003. He said construction was expected to begin July 1 after a series of extensions.

But those extensions proved costly for Sunflower Electric, causing the company to cancel the contract. Miller said RES will pay a penalty for not fulfilling its end of the deal but declined to say how much it might be.