Kansas is in the midst of another wind energy boom.
At a Friday news conference called to announce that construction had begun on a massive wind farm in southwest Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback said the project was among 10 in various stages of development across the state.
“This year, we should have north of $3 billion of new wind investment announced in the state of Kansas,” Brownback said.
Already, he said, when the existing wind generation facilities in the state are working at or near maximum capacity, they’re capable of generating up to one-third of the power distributed to a large group of states by the Southwest Power Pool.
The $613 million Cimarron Bend Wind Project will consist of 200 turbines scattered over about 60 square miles near Minneola in Clark County. It is being built by Enel Green Power North America, an arm of the Enel Group, a renewable energy company based in Rome, Italy.
Brownback said the project will further the state’s efforts to become “a dominant player” in the renewable energy industry.
“It’s going to be one of the lowest-cost energy resources that we have in our generation mix. It’s a 20-year contract that creates stability for us in our pricing.”- Don Gray, general manager of the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
Cimarron Bend is EGPNA’s fourth Kansas wind farm and its largest worldwide. It will have a generating capacity of 400 megawatts, which already is committed under long-term power purchase agreements to the tech giant Google and the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities, also known as BPU.
The 200 megawatts purchased by BPU will make it among the greenest utilities in the nation.
“With this 200 megawatts, we are now at 45 percent roughly of our generation mix coming from renewable energy,” said Don Gray, general manager of the Kansas City, Kan.-based utility.
In addition to wind, BPU’s renewable portfolio includes hydropower from the Bowersock Mills & Power Co. in Lawrence and electricity generated from landfill gases, Gray said.
There was a time when energy produced from renewable sources wasn’t competitively priced with coal and natural gas. But that is no longer the case, Gray said.
“One of the reasons we were aggressive in obtaining 200 megawatts is because of the price,” he said. “It’s going to be one of the lowest-cost energy resources that we have in our generation mix. It’s a 20-year contract that creates stability for us in our pricing.”
For several years, Kansas legislators with ties to the fossil fuels industry fought to repeal a state law that set renewable energy targets for the state. But Brownback said a compromise reached last year that leveled the competitive playing field among renewable generators and traditional energy companies helped clear the way for the wind energy projects now in development.