TOPEKA, Kan. — The largest electric utility in Kansas has signed a contract to buy 200 megawatts of electricity from a wind farm that will be built in northern Oklahoma, the first in what is expected to be a wave of regional projects sparked by the renewal of a federal tax credit.
Westar Energy announced Wednesday it has a deal with Apex Clean Energy, which plans to complete its wind farm in Kay County, Okla., by late 2015. The project will sit on about 18,000 acres near one of Westar's recently constructed high-voltage lines about six miles south of Arkansas City, Kan., a local newspaper reported.
A large number of projects are expected to begin across the country in the fourth quarter, the American Wind Energy Association said. In Kansas, there are more than a dozen wind-farm proposals waiting for a utility to sign a contract, said Kimberly Svaty, a spokeswoman for the AWEA in Kansas.
“I know that Kansas projects are being pushed hard, but I just don't know what will end up crossing the finish line,” she said.
When Congress renewed the Production Tax Credit subsidy this year, it allowed developers to start construction in 2013 and not have to finish until Dec. 31, 2015. The Internal Revenue Service clarified that policy, saying either construction must begin this year or a developer must have spent 5 percent of the cost of the project.
That means a developer can place an order and write a check by Dec. 31 to a turbine manufacturer for a portion of the turbines he will eventually need, and the rest can be done later, said Matt Riley, CEO of Infinity Wind Power in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Only one major Kansas wind farm — Buffalo Dunes, with 250 megawatts of capacity in Finney, Grant and Haskell counties — will be completed this year. Contracts to build wind farms don't have to be signed until the middle of next year, and until then, much of the progress will go on behind the scenes.
It won't be clear until 2014 how many new projects came out of the renewed tax credit, unlike in 2012 when wind farms had to be finished by Dec. 31 to qualify for the break.
Developers last year installed 1,441 megawatts of capacity in Kansas, more than doubling the state's wind-power capacity to 2,713 megawatts.