Sunflower Electric abandons proposed Kansas coal power plant

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Satellite view of the Holcomb power plant via Googlemaps Satellite view of the Holcomb power plant via Googlemaps

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. on Wednesday abandoned its proposed coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas after nearly 15 years of pushing for the project, handing a big victory to environmentalists who opposed the plan from the beginning.

The utility said in a news release that it will allow the air permit for the Holcomb expansion project to expire on March 27.

Sunflower Electric already operates one plant near Holcomb and proposed building an adjacent $2.2 billion, 895-megawatt facility. Sunflower Electric and its largest development partner, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, together invested more than $100 million in the now-abandoned project.

Proponents of the coal plant had argued the project would bring jobs to the area. Environmentalists objected to the facility, citing the potential for greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

The battle over the plant eventually reached the Kansas Supreme Court, which cleared the way for construction in 2017.

“Fifteen years ago, the price of natural gas was high, and wind generation was in its infancy,” Stuart Lowry, president and CEO of Sunflower said in a prepared statement. “At that time, the expansion of the Holcomb station emerged as the best way to meet our members’ long-term needs for generating reliable, affordable energy.”

The electricity market has changed over the last decade, with the growth of renewable energy and changes in the economy, Sunflower spokeswoman Cindy Hertel said in an email. Hertel also cited the implementation of the Southwest Power Pool Integrated Market, which has joined the rest of the nation’s regional transmission organizations in operating a day-ahead market for electric power.

No new coal-fired plants have been brought online in the U.S. since 2015 and there are none under construction.

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