T&D World Magazine

Westar Energy Receives Permission to Build New Transmission Line

Westar Energy, Inc. has received approval from the Kansas Corporation Commission to build a new 345 kV high-capacity transmission line from northwest of Wichita, KS, near its Gordon Evans Energy Center, to the Hutchinson area and then to the Summit Substation near Salina, KS. The Commission also selected the route the line should follow.

"We are pleased that the commission approved our request to build this line," Kelly Harrison, vice president, transmission operations and environmental services, said. "The line will benefit Westar Energy customers and the residents of Kansas and the region by providing increased access to power markets and lower cost electricity."

The line will allow Westar Energy to use its power plants more efficiently, saving its customers in fuel costs. Additionally, it will improve opportunities for all Kansas utilities to access wholesale power markets.

In its order, the commission approved the route Westar submitted as modified by landowner alternatives. The only landowner alternative the commission rejected was a suggestion to move the line further west near Inman.

The line will be built in two phases. Westar Energy will begin working with landowners near the route from northwest of Wichita to a new substation east of Hutchinson to acquire easements in the next month. Once easements have been acquired, construction of that section of the line will begin with completion expected between late 2008 and June 2009. Easement acquisition for the second phase of the project, from the new substation to the Summit Substation near Salina, will begin late this year. Construction on that phase will begin when construction between Wichita and the new substation is complete. Construction of the line from the new substation to the Summit Substation is expected to take about one year. Preliminary estimates of the project costs are between $80 million and $100 million.

Westar Energy applied for permission to build the line on Jan. 16, 2007, following a siting study and a series of open houses at which company representatives exchanged information with landowners near several routes being considered for the transmission line. Landowners generally indicated they preferred a route that would minimize the proximity to residences, oil wells or tanks, center-pivot irrigation systems and wetlands. Landowners also suggested that Westar use the route of existing transmission lines where possible. Using input from those landowners, a preferred route was selected. After the filing, area landowners submitted five alternative routes to the commission. Westar expressed support for four of the alternative routes. The commission accepted those four alternatives.

Westar plans to build additional high capacity power lines to improve the electric network in Kansas and strengthen Kansas' access to the broader regional wholesale power market. Lines under consideration are from its Rose Hill Substation south of Wichita to the Kansas-Oklahoma border, where it will interconnect with the facilities of an Oklahoma-based utility, and from its Jeffrey Energy Center to its Swissvale Substation about 15 miles south of Topeka. Westar's plan to expand its transmission network with new high capacity lines is one of several major initiatives to invest in long-lived electric infrastructure to serve Kansas into the 21st century.

Burns & McDonnell, of Kansas City, Mo., was Westar Energy's consulting engineer in siting this new 345 kV line. It is also consulting for the transmission line projects under consideration.

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