Archive for Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunflower chief likes coal plant chances

August 8, 2010


— Sunflower Electric Power Corp. chief Earl Watkins says he believes chances are good that Sunflower’s proposed 895-megawatt coal-fired power plant will be built.

“I think that the political winds are moving back toward a state of reasonable recognition about what this country really needs,” said Watkins, president and chief executive officer of the Hays-based utility.

Watkins’ comments came after last week’s three public hearings conducted in Overland Park, Salina and Garden City by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Several groups have fought the project based on environmental and economic concerns, and they had their largest presence at the Overland Park meeting. But as the hearings moved west to Salina and then Garden City, support for the project grew into a large majority, coming from organized labor, economic development officials and politicians.

Three years ago, supporters of the project, which would be built near Holcomb, about 20 miles west of Garden City, were stunned when KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby rejected a permit for two 700-megawatt plants. Bremby cited concerns over the environmental and health effects of carbon dioxide emissions. Sunflower Electric sought a legislative reversal of Bremby’s decision but then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed those attempts.

When Sebelius left office to join President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, her replacement, Gov. Mark Parkinson, brokered a deal with Sunflower Electric to build one 895-megawatt plant.

The Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club has criticized the coal-burning plant’s emissions and the effect that would have on climate change and the health of Kansans.

And they also say the project’s electrical output is unneeded.

“A decision to construct a substantial amount of additional excess generation capacity puts Kansas ratepayers and all American taxpayers at risk,” said Amanda Goodin, an attorney with Earthjustice, which is representing the Sierra Club.

Under the proposal, 695 megawatts of the 895-megawatt plant will be owned by the Colorado-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and used by customers in Colorado and other states.

But Sunflower Electric says its 200-megawatt portion is needed because it will lose a contract for 173 megawatts from Westar’s Jeffrey Energy Center in 2019.

With the new plant, Watkins said, Sunflower Electric gets new power and receives payments from Tri-State to operate the plant.

“It replaces the baselaod resource we need and imports cash to reduce our operating costs,” which, he said, will help Sunflower Electric’s ratepayers.

But Watkins said getting the permit from KDHE doesn’t necessarily mean the project will go forward.

If a permit is granted, he said, the project would be engineered to the permit specifications and put out for bid. Once the costs of the facility and interest rates are nailed down, he said, “That is when you are going to make the reasonable decision to go forward or not go forward.”

If the permit is granted by the end of the year, Watkins said, “Eighteen months to two years from now, you’d expect a shovel to get stuck in the ground if we’re going to go forward.”


blindrabbit 7 years, 9 months ago

For his sake, I hope he lives upwind from the stacks.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

There are far more long term jobs connected to wind,solar and hydroelectric power.

Not only that this coal power plant is dependent on taxpayers for construction and insurance. The risks are too great for banks and insurance companies. Too much money at risk.

Wind, solar and hydroelectric are readily available as we speak and they provide less expensive electric power.

White collar coal power executives and politicians are feeding all of us nothing but BS. Politicians get their comments direct from the industry.

Fact of the matter is politicians are the most uninformed group on the planet. Again their comments are fed to them by way of industry executives.

Politicians don't do homework. They take special interest money and do as they are told.

Centerville 7 years, 9 months ago

He knows that the only way to have windmills and keep rates within a politically acceptable limit is to have every kilowatt of base and intermediate power come from nuclear and/or coal. The chimera of wind power can't be maintained without a huge supporting cast.

independant1 7 years, 9 months ago

Wind, solar are readily available as we speak and they cannot provide enough output to power 5% of electricity requirements.

The greens will stop any thought of hydroelectric, it's too easy to delay and stop. Much easier than stopping startup of a coal plant. (fungi and algae are people too (don't forget mullosks))

independant1 7 years, 9 months ago

according to greens, people are somewhere between single cell creatures and mullosks, fish are the higher order creatues on the earth esp. minnows.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 9 months ago

5 years ago your statement would have been accurate with" less than 1% of electricity requirements". Any projections of what your thesis will look like in 2015? 2020?

independant1 7 years, 9 months ago

Nope, but if the technology can compete for a larger share it will win in the marketplace. There is ample funding in private and public available for research and development. Solar and wind can only generate only when sun shines and wind blows. Solar wouldn't be feasible in area where sun shines bright 110 days of year and average consumer finds other more pressing needs for cash over 5 year payback for investment (maybe next year we'll get that panel). Wind? Locally generated where wind blows the best. There's a whole lot of loss in transmission and we just can't store it and ship it efficiently.

On whole use 'em all existing technologies and new. Hydro? One would think we could use the tendancy for water to run downhill more in good old USA. I just don't get our neglect on that one.

In 2015-2020? about the same, transmission loss will not go away and don't see any radical breakthrough in solar/wind or battery technology that can make appreciable difference on horizon.

The market for electricity will handle it though. There are no silver bullets.

Stu Clark 7 years, 9 months ago

And they won't consider natural gas, why?

Bill Griffith 7 years, 9 months ago

Because Tri-State is going to pay Sunflower to run a coal plant and send the majority of the power westwards.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

"“I think that the political winds are moving back toward a state of reasonable recognition about what this country really needs,” said Watkins, president and chief executive officer of the Hays-based utility."

That's one way to look at it, but the political winds in this country are still driven by money, and the vested interests behind the status quo have plenty of it to throw around-- damn the torpedos.

Centerville 7 years, 9 months ago

Natural gas is the perfect peaker fuel. And is a part of any rational electric power supply. Wind, because of it's tendency to happen when least needed (look outdoors now), is largely run into the ground, but looks cute along I-70.
The political winds are driven by money - the kind of money that everyone pays each month for electricity. And they won't be expected to be happy if they get high bills AND poor reliability.

geekyhost 7 years, 9 months ago

Natural gas: Because everyone enjoys tap water that lights on fire.

blakec 7 years, 9 months ago

200 years later and we are still using coal. 200 more years, please?

RogueThrill 7 years, 9 months ago

The political winds are changing everywhere but the handful of other places you originally wanted to build the plant.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 9 months ago

Did you notice Earl mention "reasonable decision to move forward"(?), that is corporate-speak for "If Tri-State decides to continue investing in this coal plant endeavor." Tri-State is the puppet master here and is not as enamored with coal as it was 3-4 years ago. The only wind I can see shifting is that the Senate did not enact a cap-and-trade this year.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 9 months ago

Don't know where the pessimists are getting their information, but the DOE says that the US is already getting a full 10 percent of its energy from renewables, and they also think it is perfectly reasonable to have a full 20 percent of the entire energy needs of the US met by wind alone.

Don't believe it? Look at what is ALREADY being produced: 2010 numbers for Wind United States: 35,159 MW Germany 23,903 MW Spain: 16,740 MW

Then there's China. No ability to produce wind power or to build their own windmills in 2000. Today, they are the biggest producer of windmills in the world. In 2008, they were producing 12,200 MW of wind powered electricity. In 2009, that number more than doubled to 25,100. Their goal? 100,000 MW of wind generated electricity by 2020. Maybe the reason they won't sign a climate treaty is so we will continue to produce fossil fuel based electricity long enough that they will own the renewables technology lock, stock and barrel while we sit on our butts. You only have to look at the car industry to see what can happen, no?

We here in Kansas have more at stake than most states, since we're the #2 windiest state in the country (recalculations moved us up from #3). But we're the ones who have to wake up to our potential. We can't expect others to convince us.

geekyhost 7 years, 9 months ago

The problem with wind is that you'll get fringe protests that it kills wildlife or disrupts prairie chicken habitats. Personally, I tend to wonder if maybe the prairie chickens might be a bit more bothered by acid rain, but apparently power sources that destroy the environment both in the extraction and consumption are the only things the "political winds" would prefer we have on the table.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 9 months ago

So what? These things are always a trade-off, and if accommodations are made instead of supressing these complaints, Kansans have a pretty good record of getting on board. Prairie chicken enthiasts I suspect will be willing to embrace a sincere accommodation with wind power if given half a chance.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 9 months ago

As a Kansan, you have the opportunity to provide KDHE with your input on this matter. August 15 is the deadline for public input, and GPACE has made it extremely easy to both research and write your letter. Just go to

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