Wind blowing in northeast Kansas is set to energize Ottawa next year.
City commissioners Wednesday voted in support of Ottawa’s partnership in a small-scale wind farm project located in Marshall County.
The 20-year contract will be the city’s first investment in wind energy, Dennis Tharp, Ottawa utilities director, said. Even though municipal electric utilities are not required by the state to have renewable energy in their portfolios, using wind will keep the city’s carbon footprint low, he said.
Of the Marshall Wind Farm’s 72 megawatts, Ottawa has agreed to tap 2.5 megawatts, or enough to power a subdivision, Tharp said.
But that’s if the wind blows.
“As we all know, the wind doesn’t blow all the time,” Tharp said.
The project is forecast to have a yearly capacity factor of 50 percent, or 1.25 megawatts, according to documents provided by Tharp.
Currently, Ottawa is powered by an average of 25 megawatts, Tharp said. At total capacity, participation in the wind farm could account for about 7 percent of the city’s total energy.
The 72-megawatt project by RPMA Access of West Des Moines, Iowa, has been in the works since 2009, according to the Kansas Energy Information Network (KEIN). In September 2013, RPMA signed on Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission, Kansas Power Pool and the City of Independence in Missouri’s Department of Power and Light.
The remaining 7 megawatts was purchased by Kansas Municipal Energy Agency (KMEA) to eventually contract out to four cities: Gardner (2.5 megawatts), Baldwin (1 megawatt) and Garnett (1 megawatt) and Ottawa (2.5 megawatts).
Tharp said other generation projects typically averages more than 300 megawatts, which is a capacity too large for a community like Ottawa.
“To our benefit, there is at this point of time 7 megawatts left, which for smaller communities makes it a very good option for us,” Tharp said. “We’re not in a position as a small community to take those larger 20 megawatt lumps of power.”
The Marshall Wind Farm is the smallest of four total projects under construction in Kansas, according to the KEIN. The majority of 17 wind farms existing in Kansas, listed on the KEIN website, each transmit more than 100 megawatts and some up to 250 megawatts.
At a 20-year fixed price of $33.80 per mega watt hour, the city could pay about $1,058,500 per year depending on how much the wind blows. A positive return on investment is expected to start the seventh year in 2022, saving the city $2,721,995 over the contract’s 20 years.
“We don’t see these opportunities every day,” Tharp said.
The construction of the farm is about 20 percent complete, he said. Ottawa is projected to begin receiving energy transmissions in July 2016.
At 2 megawatts per wind turbine, the farm could have 36 300-foot turbines. By calculations, Ottawa could be using energy from one whole turbine and a quarter of a second turbine.
To further diversify the city’s green portfolio, the utilities department is expected to install a 15,600-watt solar photovoltaic system at the city’s power and water plant on the corner of West Second and Beech streets. Tharp said the city also utilizes hydropower.
Amelia Arvesen is a Herald staff writer. Email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AmeliaArvesen.