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Archive for Friday, December 28, 2007

Westar’s wind plan deemed ‘prudent’

December 28, 2007

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Westar wind energy proposal approved

State utility regulators approved Westar Energy's proposal to produce almost 300 megawatts of wind power. Enlarge video

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Kansas Corporation Commission final order ( .PDF )

— Westar Energy Inc.'s proposal to produce nearly 300 megawatts of wind power is "prudent," state utility regulators said Thursday.

But the Kansas Corporation Commission rejected an additional 1 percent bonus that was requested by Westar.

Westar, the state's largest electric utility company, had no immediate comment. Officials said they needed more time to study the 44-page order.

"We are taking a look at the order and discussing some of the nuances of it," said Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig.

David Springe, consumer counsel for the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board, said although he disagreed with parts of the decision, he was pleased with the overall ruling.

"The commission didn't give them the sugar. It's a fair and balanced decision," Springe said.

The KCC ruling was highly anticipated because it was seen by many as providing a roadmap for future wind development in Kansas, and it dealt with the largest wind plan that had been made in the state.

Westar had sought pre-approval to increase rates on the average customer by $2.25 per month. The company said it needed the increase to produce 300 megawatts of wind power at a projected cost of $830 million over 20 years.

Included in its proposal, Westar wanted to get an additional 1 percent increase in profits as a bonus for taking the risk to develop more wind power.

Without the 1 percent bump in the rate of return, the average customer increase would be less than the $2.25 per month, but nobody involved in the rate case knew what that figure would be.

CURB, which represents consumers, said while it agreed with the need for more wind power in Kansas, it said Westar could develop it in a less expensive manner.

CURB said it would be cheaper for Westar to purchase wind power from private wind farms, instead of building its own wind farms. Westar had proposed buying half of the power and generating the other half with its own wind farms.

CURB also said Westar shouldn't be entitled to the extra 1 percent rate of return.

But the KCC said the cost of buying power and the cost of constructing wind farms would be allowed in future rate cases.

On the issue of increasing Westar's rate of return by 1 percent, the KCC said that it wouldn't be fair to ratepayers in light of some of the risks inherent in wind energy.

Earlier, the rate case had generated controversy after CURB found an internal Westar memo that said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had told utility executives that their companies would be "fully compensated" when seeking to recover costs for building more wind energy.

Because Sebelius had appointed all three members of the KCC, CURB asked that the members disqualify themselves from the rate case or state that they had no conversations with Sebelius on the subject of setting rates. All three members vowed they didn't have such a conversation. One commissioner did disqualify himself from the case, but the other two refused to do so.

Comments

none2 6 years, 3 months ago

salad (Anonymous) says:

"...Yes, the wind is free, but unless you've actually seen turbines from horizon to horizon, it may not be a reality we really like. Personally, I like the horizon the way it is now..."

I guess I don't understand the fuss about wind turbines. I have yet to hear a revolt in Holland about all their windmills. Furthermore, if we really wanted free view of the entire horizon, we would insist that all human building be done underground. I've seen the farms out in western Kansas, and I don't see the big fuss. I think they are attractive. I'd feel the same regardless if they are in the prairie, the mountains, the ocean, etc.

As to this idea that we have to have a few massive things such as power plants providing all our needs, I just don't buy it. I remember when the logic was similar in the computer world. You used to have to get time sharing on a mainframe, because that was the most efficient. Then we got the PC. They weren't nearly as big or as powerful as a mainframe or for that matter even a midsize server, but a lot of people could afford them and it was dedicated to you -- none of this time slicing. Now we have all these little computerized things. Sure there are still mainframes, but their significance has greatly diminished. Now we have computers in our cars, our phones, all over. Many are connected over the wires, and the future holds that more and more connections will be over the air.

I see a similar future for energy. If more people were producing a little energy (and maybe even using energy more efficiently) then the idea that we must have a centralize power plant with transmission lines running out of it seems a bit old fashioned. I don't claim to be an electromagnetic expert, but I would think that the model could be one where the energy is taken off the grid where needed, and MANY sources of small generation could add to the grid.

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salad 6 years, 3 months ago

Wind turbines are much more maintainance because it's like 10,000 small less complicated turbines instead of one to three really big complex turbines. Westar did a study at Jeffrey Energy Center and found that wind power was feasible, but that the maintainance was much more than expected. The plant manager said they were going ahead with it, because the public wants it and because it may make a difference in the future. Yes, the wind is free, but unless you've actually seen turbines from horizon to horizon, it may not be a reality we really like. Personally, I like the horizon the way it is now. The ultimate fact remains, that all the wind turbines from this project will only generate 300 mW of power....unreliable power, which is less than 1/2 the output of just one of the three coal units at Jeffrey EC. It can't meet baseload...period. The solution? nuke-yuh-ler!!!

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MyName 6 years, 3 months ago

Parts, labor, and maintenance are more expensive per KW Hour at the moment. Of course, part of that is because we've spent decades working with coal generators and know alot more about how to make it cheaper (economies of scale and whatnot).

On the other hand, if you include the cost of the environment, and the fact that at some point we'll learn enough to make it cheaper, wind is still a pretty good deal.

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funkdog1 6 years, 3 months ago

I've heard that parts and maintenance of the turbines is actually quite expensive.

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mommy3 6 years, 3 months ago

Isn't wind power suppossed to be cheaper? I mean, I know the turbines cost, but isn't wind free? So, shouldn't our bills remain about the same? After you take into account the cost of the materials, labor, and so on......shouldn't it be the same.

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none2 6 years, 3 months ago

I've got a great solution for Westar. If they just have to charge us more money, then make the rate payers part owners of these wind farms. Otherwise, I just don't trust Westar. I know they have different people at the helm, but I still don't trust them. Just too many unethical things went on in that company only a few years back.

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bd 6 years, 3 months ago

Because Nebraska sucks and Oklahoma blows, depending on the time of year!

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Crossfire 6 years, 3 months ago

Why is it so windy in Kansas?

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