Washburn University gathered with representatives from Westar Energy today to announce a 20-year agreement for green energy produced by a new wind farm. The university will be purchasing 4 megawatts of energy from the new 300-megawatt wind farm to be constructed in northeast Kansas. That purchase will cover about 80 percent of the energy needs of the Washburn University and Washburn Tech campuses. The new wind farm is expected to come online in the fourth quarter of 2020.
“We have been exploring ways to increase our use of green energy so this opportunity came at an opportune time,” said Jerry Farley, Washburn University president. “But, just as important, this new arrangement will save the university upwards of $100 thousand a year.”
The savings come through a reduction in the fuel factor costs which are part of the power charges. Those fuel factor costs help offset the varying cost of the fuel used to generate electricity.
“We all know that fossil fuel costs have been increasing over the long term and there is very little likelihood that will change,” Farley said. “Wind energy, however, gets cheaper as you scale up the size of the wind farm – particularly when the generation facility is located near transmission lines.”
Under the arrangement, the fuel factor costs – which are currently 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) is replaced by a fixed charge of 1.8 cents per kWh.
“When we analyzed our past usage, that arrangement – had it been available at the time – would have saved us more than $300 thousand over the last five years,” said Farley, “and we expect those potential savings to grow in the future.”
Consistent wind and proximity to transmission lines were, in fact, among the main factors in the placement of the new wind farm project in Nemaha County. The new facility -- Soldier Creek Wind Energy Center -- is being developed by an affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources LLC, which is based in Juno Beach, Fla. Westar has arranged for exclusive access to the output of the facility which will help serve large Westar customers throughout Kansas.
“Westar commends Washburn for its leadership and commitment to sustainable energy,” said Jeff Martin, vice president, customer and community operations for Westar. “Affordable Kansas wind energy is great for the university, and it’s great for the Kansas communities that benefit from the wind farm investment.”
Martin said the wind farm is expected to bring 250 construction jobs and 15 to 20 permanent jobs to Nemaha County. In addition, landowners will receive more than $50 million in land-rights payments during the first 30 years of the project.
The new facility will also help support Westar’s own commitment to renewable energy which now provides about a third of the energy the company supplies to homes, farms and businesses.