Wind power in Waterville

Chuck Tryon supervises Waterville’s city-owned electric lines, meters and poles. Waterville is part of the Kansas Power Pool, which has contracted to buy 25 megawatts from Marshall Wind Farm starting later this spring. 


Photo by Sarah Kessinger

The city of Waterville will benefit from the new Marshall Wind Farm’s power generation.

Waterville is a member of the Kansas Power Pool, which plans to purchase 25 megawatts of electricity from the generator at a locked-in rate for the next two decades, said Waterville Mayor Don King.

“I think it’s great,” King said, adding that “I’m no tree hugger” but renewables are a sustainable choice.

The Kansas Power Pool is made up of 23 cities. Wind energy will become part of KPP’s overall portfolio, which also includes coal, nuclear, natural gas and hydroelectric power produced in a 10-state area.

Talks with the local wind farm’s developer started a couple years ago, King said. Marshall Wind Farm, owned by BHE Renewables, is expected to become fully operational by the end of April at its site near Beattie. 

It will transmit power to four regional off-takers: the Kansas Power Pool, Kansas Municipal Energy Agency, the city of Independence, Mo., and the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission.

Adding the locally generated energy means KPP will have about 20 percent of renewables in its portfolio, said Mark Chesney, KPP’s chief executive officer and general manager.

“We were pleased because we were able to negotiate a fixed price. Economically, it certainly has some benefits,” Chesney said. “Besides economics, there’s a growing interest in the country in getting less dependent on fossil fuels.”

The power pool also purchases renewables from the Greensburg Wind Farm and has sources of hydro-electric power from Colorado in its system.

“We feel like we’re doing our part to be good corporate citizens, and it also works well for the economics in this case,” Chesney said.

On the grid

Waterville joined the power pool in 2013 and has been pleased with the results. About half of KPP’s member cities have their own electricity plants. Waterville does not, but it owns its poles, meters and power lines. They have been maintained for the past 40 years by Waterville’s superintendent of electricity, Chuck Tryon.

The localized effort helps keep property taxes stable in the city, Mayor King said.

“Most towns have water and sewer that they make money on. We have water, sewer and electricity,” King said.

About 75 percent of revenues generated by the power system goes into Waterville’s city general fund.

Tryon said the KPP’s been a good partner, offering better rates than the city’s previous power providers. The feeling is mutual at the KPP’s headquarters in Wichita.

“We’re certainly glad to have them,” Chesney said.

Waterville joins St. Marys and Clay Center as the only KPP members in north central Kansas.

“We’ve got a real good unity,” Chesney said.

Tryon agreed. If member cities need help with their power system, he is willing to go lend a hand. Likewise, they help here when needed.

Tryon also serves on KPP’s membership committee, contributing his voice in setting wholesale rates and policy. 

“We’ve got real good consensus and synergy from Waterville and appreciate having them,” Chesney said.