SOURCE: Westar Energy, Inc.

Westar Energy, Inc.

December 14, 2010 15:01 ET

Westar Energy to Expand Wind Energy Portfolio

New Agreements to More Than Double Westar's Wind Energy

TOPEKA, KS--(Marketwire - December 14, 2010) -  Westar Energy, Inc. (NYSE: WR) announced today that it plans to add 369 megawatts of wind energy to its renewable energy resource portfolio. Westar Energy and two wind development companies have reached tentative agreements for Westar to purchase electricity produced by them at Kansas wind farms to be developed. On Nov. 10, Westar filed with the Kansas Corporation Commission for approval of the purchase agreements. The agreements are contingent on final negotiations, respective board approvals and satisfactory regulatory approval.

"With these agreements, Westar furthers its commitment to Kansas wind energy and continues as a national leader among utilities in regard to renewable energy per capita," Bill Moore, Westar Energy chief executive officer, said. "We continue to provide our customers with affordable, reliable energy and to be good environmental stewards."

Westar is entering into a contract to purchase 201 MW of energy from the Post Rock Wind Farm to be developed by Wind Capital Group in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties. The project plans to use General Electric 1.5 MW wind turbines. A contract with Duke Energy Generation Services will be for about 168 MW of wind energy produced at the Ironwood Wind Power Project site in Ford and Hodgeman counties, a development site already owned by Westar, but which Westar made available to developers. The current contract accounts for about one-third of Ironwood's 500 MW potential. The project plans to use Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines which will be supplied by the recently opened Siemens nacelle facility in Hutchinson. Additional information about each project is available at www.WestarEnergy.com/renewables.

"It's exciting to see utilities like Westar take advantage of local resources and increase their renewable energy portfolios," Gov. Mark Parkinson said, "Thanks to the passage of a state renewable energy standard and a wealth of wind, multiple energy ventures have recognized Kansas's potential and are coming together to maximize our wind industry. Westar is setting an example of how to push forward by partnering with energy companies, like the Siemens plant in Hutchinson, to benefit our economy and our environment."

Governor-elect Sen. Sam Brownback said, "Kansas wind is an important resource for our state that will provide clean energy for our residents and businesses and contribute to our economic growth. I applaud Westar Energy's leadership in wind energy."

The wind projects will be constructed and operated by the wind developers with Westar agreeing to purchase 100 percent of the electricity they generate through long-term agreements. Both projects are scheduled to begin construction in 2011 and be in service by the end of 2012. The first 200 MW of wind resources contemplated in the agreements will satisfy Westar's renewable energy needs through 2015. With the additional 169 MW, Westar will be well on its way to meeting the 15 percent renewable energy requirement that becomes effective in 2016.

Westar Energy owns 149 MW of wind generating capacity at its Central Plains and Flat Ridge Wind Farms and has previous power purchase agreements for 146 MW of wind energy. Westar Energy also purchases about 6 MW of electricity produced using landfill gas through an agreement with Waste Management Inc. from a Topeka landfill.

In 2009, Kansas passed a renewable energy standard that requires investor-owned utilities to commit to renewable energy equal to 10 percent of their average summer peak. The renewable energy standard increases to 15 percent in 2016 and 20 percent in 2020. Under the law, Westar Energy's 10 percent requirement is about 500 MW. 

Wind energy development historically has been limited because of transmission constraints. Westar Energy is a leader in Kansas, working to expand the transmission infrastructure needed to support the development of wind energy in the state as well as overall transmission system reliability, although this is often a multi-year process. Just in the past year, Westar placed into service more than 90 miles of new high-voltage transmission between Wichita and Salina and is building a new high-voltage line from Rose Hill to the Oklahoma state line by mid-2012. In addition, Westar Energy is a 50 percent owner of a transmission joint venture -- Prairie Wind Transmission LLC -- to construct a 345 kilovolt line that will connect a substation near Wichita to a new substation northeast of Medicine Lodge and extend south to Oklahoma. Westar also recently announced its commitment to build several new transmission projects over the next decade, as those projects are approved for construction. The projects are under consideration by the Southwest Power Pool.

Westar Energy, Inc. (NYSE: WR) is the largest electric utility in Kansas, providing electric service to about 686,000 customers in the state. Westar Energy has about 7,100 megawatts of electric generation capacity and operates and coordinates more than 35,000 miles of electric distribution and transmission lines.

For more information about Westar Energy, visit us on the Internet at http://www.WestarEnergy.com.

Formed in 2005, Wind Capital Group is an American company committed to harnessing a clean, renewable source of energy - creating jobs, generating economic opportunity and building a strong foundation for domestic energy independence. Currently, Wind Capital Group is developing utility-scale wind farm projects across the central U.S. and has offices in St. Louis, Missouri; Madison, Wisconsin; and Chicago, Illinois.

Duke Energy Generation Services, part of Duke Energy's Commercial Businesses, is a leader in developing innovative renewable energy solutions, including wind, solar and biopower projects. DEGS builds, owns and operates electric generation for large energy consumers, municipalities, utilities and industrial facilities. DEGS is also working to build commercial transmission capacity to help the U.S. meet its energy needs of the future.

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 500 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available on the Internet at: www.duke-energy.com.

Forward-looking statements: Certain matters discussed in this news release are "forward-looking statements." The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 has established that these statements qualify for safe harbors from liability. Forward-looking statements may include words like "believe," "anticipate," "target," "expect," "pro forma," "estimate," "intend," "guidance" or words of similar meaning. Forward-looking statements describe future plans, objectives, expectations or goals. Although Westar Energy believes that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, all forward-looking statements involve risk and uncertainty. Therefore, actual results could vary materially from what we expect. Please review our Form 10-K for the period ended Dec. 31, 2009 and our Form 10-Q for the period ended Sept. 30, 2010 for important risk factors that could cause results to differ materially from those in any such forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date such statement was made, and the company does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which such statement was made except as required by applicable laws or regulations.