Purchase photos

Midwest Energy plans $30 million expansion





Construction on a $30 million expansion at the natural gas-powered Goodman Energy Center could start next year if Midwest Energy receives regulatory approval.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced and started taking comments Thursday on the proposed construction at the existing plant, originally designed to cover peak demands during the hottest part of the summer.

Three additional Wartsila natural-gas generators would be installed after the north side of the Goodman center is expanded.

Currently, nine natural gas-powered engines sit in the building northwest of Hays, each one capable of producing 11,500 horsepower -- about as much as two locomotive engines. Each one weighs approximately 150 tons.

Comments on the proposal, required under rules governing the issuance of air quality construction permits, will be taken until noon Sept. 2. And they have to be submitted in writing.

A public hearing on the air quality construction permit is planned for Sept. 9, but only if a "pertinent request is received," according to the KDHE notice.

The request must be made in writing or faxed to KDHE's Gerald McIntyre at (785) 291-3953. If no request is made, the public hearing will be canceled.

Midwest Energy designed the Goodman Energy Center, put into service in 2008, with an eye toward expansion.

But it's going to take adding on to the metal building and running natural gas lines to supply the engines, said Midwest Energy spokesman Mike Morley

That work as well as the cost of the engines from Wartsila, based in Finland, will put the total cost at about $30 million -- depending in part on the exchange rate between the Euro and the dollar.

Morley wasn't immediately able to say what the added cost will mean for consumers, but he said it should be "negligible."

Each of the three engines to be installed will add another 9.2 megawatts of electricity to the 76 megawatts already installed.

The original cost of the center was about $60 million.

Adding on has been under consideration for some time now, in part because of growing demand for more electricity by Midwest customers, but also from the Southwest Power Pool, a Little Rock, Ark., based regulator.

"SPP has the ability to ramp up Goodman as needed," Morley said. "They have controls, remote controls."

He said SPP has been running the plant nearly every day since March 1, when a new set of rules came into place to let them switch the plant on.