This content was featured in the April issue of Kansas Country Living magazine and was part of the 2022 Annual Report.
In late 2021, Prairie Land began working with Summit Sustainable Ingredients on their expansion project at the former Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy corn ethanol plant in Phillipsburg. The newly-named Amber Wave project is transforming the operations of the current plant to include wheat processing, vital wheat gluten extraction, and low-carbon fuel production. The transition from corn ethanol to wheat processing will provide significant economic development to the area by adding around 50 good-paying jobs, enhancing domestic food product development and generating low-carbon fuel.
The Amber Wave project requires more than four times the power capacity they had previously used. In addition, upgrades to both the ethanol plant substation and the Phillipsburg 115 kV substation would be required to meet these needs with a total project cost of just over $1.5 million. To help fund the project, Prairie Land applied for a Building a Stronger Economy (BASE) grant through the Kansas Department of Commerce. In April 2022, we were awarded $1,130,490, leaving an investment match of $406,326 to be provided by Prairie Land. Any time Prairie Land can add new baseload to our system, our members, systemwide, benefit because the fixed cost associated with providing electric service is spread over more kWh sales.
Another important project is the completion of work to rebuild portions of our system damaged by the April 2017 ice and snowstorm in Decatur, Graham, Norton, Sheridan and Rawlins counties, causing over $4.7 million in damages. Of the more than 300 miles of line that were damaged, 89 qualified for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief. Crews completed the work to rebuild the damaged lines in June 2022.
As we were finishing up our FEMA 2017 storm damage, another ice and snow storm hit Phillips, Rooks and Graham counties on March 22, 2022. Prairie Land crews worked through that evening, restoring power to all but 800-900 of our members. Crews spent the next day continuing repairs, and all residential services were restored by 6:30 p.m. Most other services were restored the following day.
What happens when the ice gets on power lines? The buildup of ice creates an airfoil, much like an airplane wing. This produces a change in airflow which causes the line to bounce or “gallop.” Galloping lines can cause wires to eventually touch, resulting in a fault or subsequent power outage. The increased movement can also cause cross-arms to break, bringing lines to the ground.
While extreme weather events can wreak havoc on our system, with resiliency and reliability at the core of our mission and strategic planning initiatives, we will continue to invest in our distribution system.