The Sunflower Electric Power Cooperation has announced that it will let the Holcomb Expansion Project’s air permit to expire on March 27.

Colorado-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Sunflower’s largest development partner, announced that they are no longer going to pursue the project as an energy source.

While Sunflower cites their reasons for letting the air permit expire, “The industry has changed over the last decade.

“The implementation of the Southwest Power Pool Integrated Market, growth in renewable energy, and changes in the economy have impacted the electricity market for Sunflower and our members.”

Another statement released by Sunflower president and CEO Stuart Lowry in a company news release, available on their website, said, “Fifteen years ago, the price of natural gas was high, and wind generation was in its infancy.

“At that time, the expansion of Holcomb Station emerged as the best way to meet our members’ long-term needs for generating reliable, affordable energy.”

The Holcomb Expansion Project originally began when Sunflower allowed the air permit for the similar preceding Sand Sage Project to expire in 2005.

That same year Sunflower partnered with Tri-State and in 2006 applied for a Prevention of Significant Deterioration air permit for three 700 MW supercritical pulverized coal units, though the application was later reduced to two 700 MW units.

Another year later, Sunflower and Tri-State enter a Purchase Option and Development Agreement and Tri-State sought two extensions for the air permit with Sunflower backing them up, though former Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby denied the air permit.

Later in 2009 there was a compromise between Sunflower and the State of Kansas for an 895 MW unit, along with some renewable initiatives, and in 2010 were instead granted the air permit for that unit.

In the years following, after various legal battles and proposed federal environmental regulations, by 2018 Sunflower had filed for and been granted two extensions to the PSD air permit granted in 2010 and so began the 18 month initial construction timeline.

Had the expansion unit been built, it would have capitalized on the infrastructure and workforce in place at the existing station near Holcomb.

“All along the objective was to capitalize on the synergies at Holcomb Station that we already have,” Sunflower communications manager Cindy Hertel said. “We were seeking to leverage the location and workforce at our existing facility in a way that would lower overall cost of operation.”

Construction for the unit was expected to take between 48 and 52 months.

Despite the project no longer going forward, Hertel affirms company operations will continue as usual.

As of March 27, the air permit is set to expire, and Sunflower will move on to other projects to fit the current dynamics of the industry. 

“We have a diverse portfolio, that includes natural gas, coal, wind, a little bit of hydro and then in the second quarter of 2020, we will have a 20 MW solar project, that’s coming online,” said Hertel regarding future plans to meet energy needs.

More information about Holcomb Expansion Project expiring and forthcoming projects can be found on www.sunflower.net.