State and local leaders and landowners joined executives from NextEra Energy Resources and Westar Energy to celebrate the commissioning of the Kingman and Ninnescah Wind Energy Centers, which has created hundreds of construction jobs as well as millions of dollars in economic benefits to the region.
"Wind energy is good for Kansas and it's good for our economy," said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, addressing landowners and guests at the commissioning ceremony. "When these blades are turning in the wind, it's just like the combines harvesting wheat from our land – we are creating value from our natural resources to the benefit of our people and I'd like to see more projects like these."
"These projects represent a more than $650 million investment in Kansas," said Armando Pimentel, president and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources, the world's largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and the sun. An affiliate of the company owns and operates the Kingman and Ninnescah projects. "We are very pleased to bring these wind energy centers online to help serve the state and boost the local economy."
The Kingman and Ninnescah Wind Energy Centers feature more than 240 GE wind turbines designed to pivot to capture the prevailing wind and convert it to clean, renewable electricity. Together, they have a generating capacity of 400 megawatts, capable of powering more than 100,000 homes. The energy serves customers of Westar Energy as well as its wholesale partners Midwest Energy and the cities of McPherson, Chanute, Iola, Fredonia and Sabetha through energy management service agreements.
"These projects modernize and diversify Kansas' energy supply, and provide low-cost, clean energy to our customers," said Mark Ruelle, president and CEO of Westar Energy. "We are also pleased to make this renewable energy available to several of our wholesale customers who now have an opportunity to share in this tremendous investment in our state."
The projects have created a significant economic boost for Kingman and Pratt Counties, creating approximately 500 jobs during the construction phase in 2016, and approximately 35 full-time jobs once the projects became operational in December. The projects will provide more than $40 million in guaranteed payments to the county governments over their projected 30-year operational life, and nearly $100 million in payments to local landowners. From labor and materials, to housing, health care and construction - a wide variety of local businesses have benefitted from the influx of economic activity.
"Kansas, and Kingman and Pratt Counties in particular, are fortunate to have some of the best wind in the nation," said Rep. Jack Thimesh of Spivey. "These projects are evidence of what we can do when we build strong partnerships to develop this resource, create good jobs and long-term benefits for our communities."