No hitch in electric switch

1/3/2014

City makes smooth transition to KMEA power supply.

City makes smooth transition to KMEA power supply.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

As Garden City residents welcomed in the new year this week, a change in electric power suppliers went off without a hitch at midnight Wednesday.

"It was perfectly smooth, no issues whatsoever. The transition was 100 percent transparent," Mike Muirhead, public utilities director, said.

It was almost exactly a year ago, in January 2013, the city decided to switch electric power suppliers to the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency, ending a contract with Wheatland Electric Cooperative. The city decided to change power suppliers to find a less expensive alternative for its electricity needs after Wheatland indicated in early 2012 that several years worth of rate increases were on the way.

After many months of work and preparation in 2013, KMEA began providing Garden City's power on Jan. 1.

Muirhead said the city didn't need any additional manpower to be on hand for the switch to KMEA. Essentially, the switch involved taking readings of several different meters to make sure they were in line with what was expected.

"We knew when Wheatland's contract stopped, we got a meter reading there. That same meter reading took effect for KMEA as they started," he said. "We can tell what power is flowing through which meter, and we just get a reading at the appropriate time, actually the computer does it, and we're good to go."

Muirhead said the city took a meter reading at 11:59 p.m. to mark the end of Wheatland's billing to the city, and took another reading at midnight to mark the beginning of the billing period for KMEA.

In addition to the switch to KMEA power, Garden City is installing three Siemens gas-powered turbines located adjacent to and directly north of the city's wastewater treatment plant on South Jennie Barker Road.

Muirhead said the generators are still being installed and are anticipated to be ready for testing by the middle to end of March with a commercial operation date of May 1. The turbines will add to the city's future power supply but didn't have to be online for the Jan. 1 switch.

"We don't anticipate needing those until after June 1, but they'll be ready sooner," he said. "And, in the event of an emergency, we certainly could use them if called upon."

The three Siemens SGT-400 modular gas turbines are installed on foundations, but can be made mobile if necessary, and when running will provide about 27 megawatts of the city's 65 megawatt annual power load.

The rest of the city's power will be provided by KMEA through contracts. Garden City will buy excess power generated by other KMEA member cities in addition to the power it generates using the three turbines.

Garden City is a member of KMEA's Energy Management Project No. 2, which includes the cities of Ashland, Beloit, Hoisington, Lincoln Center, Osborne, Pratt, Russell, Stockton, Washington, Sharon Springs and Meade. KMEA also has two other energy management groups that include other cities in Kansas.

KMEA formed in 1980 when a group of northwest Kansas cities were looking to create adequate, economical and reliable long-term power supplies for their customers by sharing capacity, exchanging electricity and buying power on the open market. Initially, there were 21 member cities. Today, KMEA's membership includes 78 cities throughout the state.

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