Mid-Kansas Electric breaks ground on Rubart Station
By RUTH CAMPBELL
Mid-Kansas Electric Co. LLC held a groundbreaking celebration Tuesday for Rubart Station, an electric generating station located 13 miles east of Ulysses.
Officials of companies involved in construction, Mid-Kansas board members and state and local dignitaries, along with Perry Rubart, the longtime Pioneer Electric Cooperative and Sunflower Electric Corp. trustee for whom the facility is named, attended the morning event.
A photo of the groundbreaking was taken at the site, but due to blustery weather conditions, remarks to about 100 audience members followed at Pioneer Electric headquarters in Ulysses. Rubart said he has served on the Pioneer and Sunflower boards since 1985 and greatly respects those with whom he has worked over the years.
"It's a great honor to me because I really believe in the concept of the rural electric (cooperative)," Rubart said. He added there are many other people equally deserving of the recognition he has received — having the station named after him.
Rubart moved to the Ulysses area in 1960. He and his family have owned five successful businesses and been involved in another three.
The 110-megawatt Rubart Station is scheduled to come on line in April 2014. It will be made up of 12 natural gas reciprocating engines designed by Caterpillar Power Generation Systems, making this the first installation of Caterpillar's new G20CM34 sets. Burns & McDonnell is providing engineering, procurement and construction services, and as general contractor, Casey Industrial will contract multi-craft specialty services, according to a company press release.
Sunflower and Mid-Kansas are electric utilities operated as cooperatives that provide wholesale generation and transmission services to their members. Member-owners include Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative, Dighton; Prairie Land Electric Cooperative, Norton; Southern Pioneer Electric Co., Ulysses; the Victory Electric Cooperative Association, Dodge City; Western Cooperative Electric Association, WaKeeney; and Wheatland Electric Cooperative, Scott City.
These entities also own Sunflower Electric Power Corp., a regional wholesale generation and transmission supplier that operates wind, gas, and coal-based generating units, including its 349-megawatt coal-fired plant outside Holcomb.
Combined, Mid-Kansas and Sunflower serve approximately 400,000 Kansans, Hertel said.
"It's exciting to break ground on a station that will bring great benefits to our members and the region," Mid-Kansas Board Chairman Allan Miller said in the release. "These units will help meet our members' growing need for electricity and can be deployed individually within minutes, allowing for rapid response to wind and market conditions."
Site preparation began in late February and construction in March. The units are scheduled to arrive in the fall. Caterpillar will ship them from Rostock, Germany, to Houston, where they will be transported by rail to southwest Kansas and then trucked to the site. During construction, the project will generate an estimated 150 jobs at peak construction, and once operational, the facility will generate six to 10 jobs, according to the company.
"It's good for the community; it's good for the state," Ulysses Mayor John Battin said, noting Tradewind Energy of Lenexa also is planning to develop a $600 million wind farm to be built across Grant and Haskell counties.
Cindy Hertel, spokeswoman for Mid-Kansas and Sunflower, said the location was chosen for its proximity to natural gas and transmission lines. The need for voltage support in the region also was seen.
Electrons can be forced to move through a conductor (e.g., transmission line) in an electric circuit, and voltage (or electromotive force) is the pressure pushing on the electrons in a circuit, Hertel said in an email to The Telegram.
High voltage — 110,000 to 765,000 volts — is needed to send the electric current over long distances via electric lines. When a voltage drop occurs, more electromotive force (which is created by a power generator or fuel cell) is needed to move the electrons through the conductor. The southwest area of Mid-Kansas' operating system needs more voltage (or electromotive force), and this was one of the reasons Grant County was chosen for the location of Rubart Station, Hertel wrote.
"At a time with ever-increasing challenges to the electric industry, our board has remained steadfastly focused on meeting member electricity demand in a reliable, cost effective manner," Stuart Lowry, Mid-Kansas president and CEO, said in the release. "The decision to build this state-of-the-art facility is but one example of the Mid-Kansas board's effort to balance energy demand and resources in way that most benefits our members."