Special to The Hays Daily News

TOPEKA -- Westar Energy Inc. announced today it will purchase wind energy from an affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC produced at the soon to be constructed Cedar Bluff wind farm in Ness and Trego counties in western Kansas. The new wind farm will add 200 megawatts to Westar Energy's renewable energy portfolio, bringing the total to nearly 1100 MW.

Coincidentally, the expansion of the renewable program happens as some older generating plants are ready to retire. Late this year, Westar will retire two small natural gas units that have been serving customers for over a half century at its Murray Gill Energy Center in Wichita. Those units provide a total of 85 MW of electricity.

"These plants served our customers well for longer than expected, but they've reached a point where it is not cost effective to maintain them. It is good news that we can rely on wind resources to provide energy at competitive prices," said John Bridson, Westar Energy vice president, generation. "We believe it is important to maintain a diverse mix of generation resources, and wind power helps us improve that diversity. Customers want renewable energy choices, and today about 10 percent of the electricity they use is generated from renewable sources."

The Cedar Bluff wind farm is expected to be in operation by the end of 2015 and the previously announced Kay Wind project by the end of 2016. With these additions and the retirement of the small units at Murray Gill Energy Center, Westar will have about 7500 MW of generation. Westar's renewable generation portfolio will meet all requirements of the state's renewable energy standard.

The Cedar Bluff and Kay wind farms are expected to bring about 300 to 350 construction jobs and about 20 permanent jobs upon completion to nearby communities. Wind energy development has attracted about $7 billion in investment to Kansas.