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City gets update on wind turbine project problems  

Credit:  By Julie Clements, El Dorado Times, www.eldoradotimes.com 9 March 2011 ~~

El Dorado, Kan. —

The wind turbine project for the Waste Water Facility hit a roadblock recently.

Kurt Bookout, public utilities director, updated the El Dorado City Commission on what was happening with the project during their meeting Monday evening.

“We’ve hit a significant roadblock and its name is Westar,” Bookout said.

The conversations with Westar began in March 2010 when the city first started looking into the wind turbine and met with an energy consultant.

Bookout said her advice to the city was to meet with Westar and get their OK for an interconnect agreement for net metering.

“We met March 22, 2010 with Westar and we received a verbal assurance that we would be allowed to do some sort of special agreement with net metering, understanding the current legislation has a 200 kilowatt cap,” Bookout said.

The net metering allows the city to give any excess electricity created beyond their daily needs to Westar to sell, then when the wind isn’t blowing, the city uses electricity from Westar at no charge, making up for what they gave them earlier.

Currently there is legislation that net metering has to be given up to 200 kilowatts, but it does not limit greater amounts. The city is anticipating producing 500 to 1,000 kilowatts.

“There’s nothing that precludes Westar from having a special agreement with somebody and that was kind of the assurance we received,” Bookout said.

Following that initial discussion, the city’s wind engineering consultant sent another e-mail to Westar asking about it again.

“They said they would allow net metering for the turbine if the city chose to go that way,” he said.

On those assurances, the city pursued a grant opportunity from the Department of Energy, which paid for the environmental assessment for the project. There also was a feasibility study done and an environmental assessment.

Bookout said they were at the point they needed to go back to Westar and finalize the agreement.

“What we found when we met with them a couple of weeks ago, now they’re saying the for the KCC regulations, we do not fit into the right box,” Bookout said, explaining Westar said the city was too big for the retail application and they wouldn’t be able to do net metering.

“Thankfully our consultant saved those e-mails, so we had some written documentation.”

Despite the e-mails, Westar still said it wasn’t possible.

“I’ve talked to the Kansas Energy Office and they say that is not true,” he said. “We are working with Westar right now to try to work out an agreement. We don’t have their final answer yet.”

If Westar won’t do net metering, then they would pay for the city’s excess electricity. They tentatively offered 3 cents per kilowatt, but asked for a formal request from the city to ask for Westar’s final offer on what they will pay the city per kilowatt.

“It is fairly discouraging that they’re not following through with their earlier commitment,” Bookout said. “They’ve said and done some other things that have made us feel like they are not being entirely honest with us, too.”

One other thing Westar would require if an agreement is worked out is to have all of the city’s renewable energy credits. Those credits are something the city could sell.

If the city did decide to go with a smaller wind turbine at 200 kilowatts, then Westar could not say no, but they want to continue to see if they can get the one megawatt one approved first.

One concern was the smaller turbines are not as well made in the opinion of the city’s consultant.

What the city is asking for is if they give Westar their renewable energy credits, then to be allowed to do net metering.

Bookout said there will be some negotiating with Westar in the next week or two.

“It seems like a very equitable agreement to us,” he said.

Source:  By Julie Clements, El Dorado Times, www.eldoradotimes.com 9 March 2011

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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