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United States

Economics drive Kansas plans

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Midwest utility UtiliCorp United has agreed to buy the entire output of a 110 MW wind farm planned by US developer FPL Energy in southwest Kansas, one of the windiest states in the US. UtiliCorp plans to use 80 MW for customers in Kansas and Missouri and sell the remaining 30 MW as wholesale green power to local utilities.

FPL Energy, which will own and operate the facility, expects to begin construction this spring on dry farmland near Montezuma. It hopes to erect all 170 Vestas 660 kW turbines by December 31, the deadline for wind projects to qualify for the current US Production Tax Credit.

In November UtiliCorp asked several developers to provide bids on wind projects and gave them only three weeks to put together proposals. At that point, UtiliCorp was looking only for price information and was undecided about buying wind energy. That has changed. "We're looking to grow our involvement," says George Minter of UtiliCorp. "Kansas is a great area for wind and we're going to continue looking." Minter declined to name the kilowatt hour price for the project, but he says lower wind generation prices and better wind technology combined with higher prices for natural gas and coal make wind a good choice.

Another factor was the success of a UtiliCorp green pricing program. The utility receives 16% of the output of two 750 kW Zond at the Jeffries Energy Center in northern Kansas and had charged customers a $5 premium for each 100 kWh block of wind. Minter says that program is discontinued because the economics of wind had improved so much that the utility no longer needed to charge a premium.

The output of the FPL project will become part of the 2000 MW UtiliCorp delivers to WestPlains Energy in Kansas and Missouri Public Service, both divisions of the utility, which has about four million customers in North America, Spain, Germany, UK, Norway, New Zealand and Australia.

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