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A superhighway for Kansas renewables -- Exporting wind power

Westar Energy is teaming with Electric Transmission America (ETA) to form Prairie Wind Transmission, a joint venture company that expects to bring a new 370 kilometre, 765 kV transmission line to Kansas by 2013. The main purpose of the $600 million project is to create a superhighway that allows the export of renewable energy from the wind-rich areas of western Kansas to other states.

The new line fits in with plans to expand transmission capacity in the Southwest Power Pool, which operates the grid in a seven-state area, to increase reliability. "By building this line, we would be able to benefit a broad region," says Karla Olsen of Westar, based in Topeka, Kansas. The project, which awaits approval from regulators, will be the first 765 kV line west of the Mississippi River.

The 765 kV line can carry about six times the amount of electricity that a 345 kV line can carry, says Olsen. "But it has about the same environmental footprint as far as the line and the land needed and the poles and such," he adds. The line will interconnect to one 345 kV line near Wichita and another 345 kV line near Dodge City.

No mandate

Kansas does not mandate the uptake of renewable energy, but that has not stopped wind development. The state has 465 MW of wind plant online with another 448 MW in construction. Westar, the state's largest utility, plans to connect nearly 300 MW of wind power by the end of 2008. RES America will develop the 99 MW Central Plains Wind Farm in Wichita County, which Westar eventually plans to own. BP Alternative Energy will handle the 100 MW Flat Ridge Wind Farm in Barber County; Westar will own half and buy the remaining 50 MW under a power contract. And Westar will buy the 96 MW of output from Horizon Wind Energy's 201 MW Meridian Way Wind Farm in Cloud County. Westar intends to add another 200 MW of wind by the end of 2010.

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