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Kansas may get first large scale plant -- Enron's 100 MW brief

Two years of wind monitoring near a natural gas compression station in south-west Kansas is ballooning into a full scale project that could be the state's first large scale wind farm. Enron Wind Corp has approached the Kiowa County Commission to brief them on the project, which could produce as much as 100 MW of wind energy by December 31, 2001 -- the deadline for new projects to be completed under wind's current Production Tax Credit.

Enron has also approached Kansas utilities in search of power purchase agreements for the project's output. Gary Johnson, a long time wind advocate in Kansas, says Enron met with the Kansas Electric Power Co-operatives and Kansas investor owned utilities. While he does not believe the co-operatives will buy any of the output, he says it is likely that Kansas' largest investor-owned utility, Western Resources, will. "It's definitely beyond the what-do-you-think stage," Johnson says. "Enron is moving forward on the project." He adds that the Kiowa County Commission favours the project, notable due to a recent state bill exempting wind turbines from property tax payments. Enron declines to comment.

The Kiowa County site is one of six premium areas for wind development in Kansas identified by Joe King, a Kansas architect and wind advocate who has recently completed a wind energy assessment of the state. King confirms that Enron has also talked with Kansas City Power & Light and UtiliCorp, which owns transmission lines near the project. He adds that Enron is offering farmers and ranchers at the proposed site about $2000 per year to install turbines on their property.

In Kansas, any entity that produces power -- other than power for its own use -- is considered a public utility and must have a "certificate of convenience" to sell electricity. Enron has yet to approach the Kansas Corporation Commission to apply for such a certificate, says the group's Larry Holloway. He predicts the application would probably not be very controversial and Enron would be granted the certificate quickly.

Les Evans of Western Resources confirms he knows about the project but declines to comment more. The company installed two 750 kW Zond turbines in 1999 near its Jeffries coal plant in northern Kansas. It sells the output to 600 customers through a green pricing program at a $0.05/kWh premium. The utility has 630,000 customers.

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