Westar delays site selection for new coal plant

Westar delays site selection for new coal plant

Westar Energy is postponing a decision on the possible site for a new base load coal plan, wanting to allow for further study about whether a coal plant remains the most viable option, the company announced Thursday.

“Our forecasts continue to show annual increases in our customers’ needs for electricity,” says Westar CEO James Haines.

But he says while a coal-fueled plan appeared the “lowest cost means” of providing additional energy a year ago, costs for equipment and construction have grown by $200 million to $400 million during the past 18 months.

“It’s necessary to proceed with caution,” Haines says.

Previously, Westar had said it would announce a preferred site for the plant by the end of 2006. The company on Thursday didn’t offer a new timetable.

Westar says few companies that manufacture equipment for coal plants, as well as major engineering firms, have expressed interest in taking on additional projects because they already are experiencing strong demand. Westar says as costs for coal-fueled plants go up, other energy sources become more viable.

Westar, meanwhile, is moving forward with plans to build a new natural gas-fired peaking plant near Emporia, which the company announced in August.

Westar is the largest electric utility in the state, serving about 667,000 customers.

Published December 28, 2006 by the Wichita Business Journal

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