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.
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.