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Westar ponders winds of change  

Westar Energy Inc., which once said that wind energy was uneconomical for the company and its customers, is having second thoughts.

The company is seeking bids for projects that could produce up to 500 megawatts of electricity from renewable resources such as wind, solar energy and biomass.

“When looking at the options we have to invest in providing for Kansas’ growing needs, it is important that we evaluate renewable resources in addition to traditional fuel generation,” Jim Haines, Westar’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Westar in 2004 requested similar bids and received 17 proposals. Most of them were for wind farms. In the end, they were rejected as uneconomical. But the company now says that new technology has been developed and that the alternative is worth considering again.

Gina Penzig, a spokeswoman for the Topeka utility, said the company was hopeful that the proposals would be economical. While all bids using any renewable resources are being requested, it is expected that most of the proposals will again be for wind energy. Proposals are due April 2. The request calls for Westar to own the projects after they are built, but other options could be considered as well.

The company would like part of the projects to be operational in 2008 and the rest by the end of 2010. But the request for bids does not ensure that any of the proposed 500 megawatts will be built. That will be determined after the proposals are reviewed. If 500 megawatts of electricity were produced, that would be sufficient to power about 350,000 homes, but wind energy cannot be relied on to operate at all times.

Renewable energy projects are getting renewed attention in part because of future costs of curbing carbon dioxide, which is produced by coal-fired power plants. TXU, a Texas energy company, on Monday said it would be sold to big buyout groups. Part of the deal, which was endorsed by some environmental groups, calls for the new owners to cancel several coal-burning plants TXU was planning. Also, last week, the governor of Minnesota signed a law to get that state’s utilities to provide 20 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Westar, the largest electricity utility in Kansas, has 6,000 megawatts of generation capacity and serves about 669,000 customers.

By Steve Everly
The Kansas City Star

kansascity.com

28 February 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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