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Planned network shows potential for wind farms

Still, wind developers aren't holding their breath, noting the project's time frame - it's set to be completed by 2011 - and other factors that bode against use of the network to transmit wind energy anytime soon.

A planned transmission network from Finney County into eastern Colorado potentially opens up western Kansas to further wind farm development over the long haul.

Still, wind developers aren't holding their breath, noting the project's time frame - it's set to be completed by 2011 - and other factors that bode against use of the network to transmit wind energy anytime soon.

"At this instant, it's not an obvious play," said Todd Eagleston, central states manager out of Austin, Texas, for Renewable Energy Systems, which is interested in wind farm development at a pair of western Kansas sites. "In the long run, it has to be."

The wind blows strong in western Kansas, and numerous plans are in the works to take advantage of the breezes, complementing the Gray County Wind Farm and a planned Ford County project near Spearville. However, the limited number of transmission lines to haul wind-generated power to the urban centers that would use it has been a key factor holding back development.

"The wind resource is there, it's the transmission constraint," said Jim Roberts, project manager for Horizon Wind Energy. The Houston-based firm is eyeing a potential wind farm site south of Bucklin in Ford County.

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A planned transmission network from Finney County into eastern Colorado potentially opens up western Kansas to further wind farm development over the long haul.

Still, wind developers aren't holding their breath, noting the project's time frame - it's set to be completed by 2011 - and other factors that bode against use of the network to transmit wind energy anytime soon.

"At this instant, it's not an obvious play," said Todd Eagleston, central states manager out of Austin, Texas, for Renewable Energy Systems, which is interested in wind farm development at a pair of western Kansas sites. "In the long run, it has to be."

The wind blows strong in western Kansas, and numerous plans are in the works to take advantage of the breezes, complementing the Gray County Wind Farm and a planned Ford County project near Spearville. However, the limited number of transmission lines to haul wind-generated power to the urban centers that would use it has been a key factor holding back development.

"The wind resource is there, it's the transmission constraint," said Jim Roberts, project manager for Horizon Wind Energy. The Houston-based firm is eyeing a potential wind farm site south of Bucklin in Ford County.

Enter Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which plans to build a 700- to 800-mile transmission network from Holcomb to eastern Colorado. The $1 billion network is designed to haul energy from a pair of 650-megawatt coal-fired generators to be built at the Finney County site by Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp.

At a project update in Garden City last week, Tri-State Executive Vice President J.M. Shafer alluded to the potential for wind farm development brought on by the transmission network. Tri-State is based in Westminister, Colo., and the Holcomb energy is needed to meet growing demand among its eastern Colorado customers.

On Wednesday, Tri-State spokesman Jim Van Someren elaborated.

"In general, yes, if we have new transmission facilities developed, it could very well be utilized by other power providers, including wind developers," Van Someren said.

He said "prospective developers" have been in touch with Tri-State, and Donna Johnson, a Lawrence-based wind energy consultant, waxed optimistically about the possibilities.

"I think it tremendously opens up market availability and gives another place to sell the wind energy to," she said. Without the planned Tri-State network, Colorado and the rest of the western United States largely have been viewed as off-limits to Kansas power because of differing transmission standards.

Whatever the positives, though, nothing wind-related is in the works in conjunction with Tri-State's plans "because it's too early," Van Someren said. And other wind developers aren't jumping for joy just yet.

Since Tri-State would own the network, any wind developer probably would have to interest the firm in buying its energy. Eagleston, however, said Tri-State thus far has expressed limited interest in such a prospect.

"It's just a matter of when their appetite (for wind energy) increases," Eagleston said. "Now, it's not high."

Roberts, meanwhile, said he thinks Colorado wind power projects would have a more likely in to the network.

Another potential limiting factor is the capacity of the transmission network to be installed. The 500,000-volt lines out of Holcomb would be bigger than anything else in the zone. Still, the 1,200 to 1,300 megawatts they would be able to carry equates to the proposed capacity at the two Holcomb generators.

"If Tri-State is forward-thinking, they will hopefully 'over-build' the capacity of those lines to allow wind energy in addition to the coal energy that is planned with the Sunflower projects," said Jeff Schlicting of HMH Energy Resources in Larkspur, Calif. HMH is developing a 198-megawatt wind farm in Stevens County called Conestoga Winds.



Source: http://www.hutchnews.com/ne...

APR 27 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2327-planned-network-shows-potential-for-wind-farms
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