Prairie Village, Mission sign on to KCP&L program that could provide clean wind energy for city needs

KCP&L is hoping to build a new wind farm to provide area customers with a source of renewable energy. Photo credit fionaandneil. Used under a Creative Commons license.

A group of northeast Johnson County area cities are hoping to play a driving role in the development of a new wind farm proposed by KCP&L — but the initiative will need much broader support to become a reality.

Prairie Village became the first municipality in Johnson County on Monday to sign on to KCP&L’s Renewables Direct program, which would provide customers with the opportunity to get the bulk of their electricity needs delivered through an emissions-free source. KCP&L’s Renewable Energy Manager Drew Robinson told the council this week that the utility was looking to find enough electricity customers to subscribe to the agreement to total between 100 and 200 megawatts of monthly demand. That’s the level needed to make the development of a new wind farm financially viable he said.

Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson said he hoped the city’s early support of the initiative would encourage other cities to sign on as well.

Prairie Village’s agreement, if it comes to fruition, to subscribe to the Renewables Direct program for 20 years would save the city an estimated $2,207.52 per year, or about 1.3 percent of its total electricity costs.

While the savings to the city would be relatively modest, Mayor Eric Mikkelson said the chance to take steps toward making the region less dependent on carbon emitting energy sources was an attractive option.

“[There] has been a great deal of discussion recently, including through the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition, about regional solutions to climate change and sustainability challenges,” Mikkelson said in an email. “Translating that good discussion into action requires bold leadership, particularly with first implementing steps. Prairie Village has a long history of such action leadership on environmental initiatives, from our geothermal-powered City Hall to recent significant expansions of our park system. I was thrilled Monday when the City Council, resident Environmental Committee led by Chair/Councilperson Jori Nelson, and City staff continued this tradition by uniting to make Prairie Village a first-moving City to sign on to this wind energy program.”

To become a reality, however, KCP&L will need to recruit additional subscribers representing an exponential amount of demand from the level committed by Prairie Village. The city’s average monthly peak demand of 400 kilowatts represents about .4 percent of the minimum commitment KCP&L will need to move ahead.

Still, other cities appear poised to get in on the program as well. Mission’s council on Wednesday approved an agreement committing to getting 800 kilowatts of monthly electricity through the program for 10 years. Officials in Shawnee and Roeland Park say their cities will likely consider signing on to the program in the coming weeks as well.

Robinson called the Renewables Direct program a “true unicorn” in that it provided a “clean product that provides a financial benefit.”

The wind farm would take between 18 and 24 months to build, so cities that sign on to the program would probably start seeing the wind-generated energy flowing their way in 2021.

Mikkelson said he hopes Prairie Village’s early action will get the ball rolling and make the project a reality.

“[We] are hopeful that our early action will make it more likely other cities and companies join so that the wind farm can be built,” Mikkelson said. “With a relatively small downside risk, the upside potential benefits in atmospheric carbon reduction and saved taxpayer dollars proved compelling.”