At Westar, we generate electricity from a variety of energy sources, such as fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable energy. Although renewables are a key part of our mix and our future, they need to paired with traditional generation sources to provide the 24/7 power our customers expect. We believe the best approach to meeting the needs of our customers and our state is to diversify by using some of each method. This ensures that we can keep your electricity reliable and affordable even if the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
What are fossil fuels?
These are fuels that come from very old geologic deposits of organic material – hence the name ‘fossil fuels.’ They are converted to coal and natural gas through exposure to heat and pressure, which is then used to generate electricity.
Advantages: Westar uses processes and technology to help reduce emissions from coal to better protect the environment, often referred to as "clean coal". Clean coal technology seeks to reduce harsh environmental effects by using multiple technologies to clean coal and contain its emissions. Clean coal plants also produce fewer emissions, are a low-cost, stable method of producing electricity from fossil fuels. Since 2005, we've reduced our emissions from coal by up to 90% and overall CO2 emissions by 27%. Clean coal is very reliable and can provide power around the clock.
Disadvantages: Coal produces higher emissions than natural gas. Even though we have invested to make our coal plants cleaner by reducing emissions, there is currently no method of eliminating all emissions that are created by this method.
Advantages: Natural gas is reliable, flexible and can produce power around-the-clock. It also has fewer emissions than clean coal.
Disadvantages: Natural gas is historically more expensive than coal and experiences occasional disruptions when used for electricity production.
Advantages: Nuclear produces very reliable, around-the-clock energy with no emissions.
Disadvantages: Plants are very expensive to build and operate because of the specialized skills required to ensure safety. Spent fuel at nuclear plants is secure but remains a challenge.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is energy from natural sources that are continually replenished, such as sunlight and wind. Westar harnesses Kansas wind and sun to generate electricity. Since renewable energy comes from a natural source, it is free from emissions.
Advantages: Wind energy produces no emissions and takes advantage of the plentiful Kansas wind and has become an affordable source for producing electricity.
Disadvantages: When the wind isn’t blowing, wind turbines can’t produce electricity. In the 24/7 electronic era, wind generation needs other sources for reliability.
Advantages: Solar energy produces no emissions as well. It takes advantage of the Kansas sun, and the panels that capture it can be easily constructed on building rooftops and solar fields.
Disadvantages: When the sun isn’t shining, solar panels can’t produce electricity. Like wind energy, in the 24/7 electronic era, solar generation needs other sources for reliability.
Advantages: Landfill gas captures the release of methane gas, which occurs in landfills as part of the decomposition process. Taking advantage of this gas results in fewer emissions. Landfill gas is also capable of producing power around-the-clock.
Disadvantages: This form of energy is small scale and has limited availability.
Why can’t we go 100% renewable?
As Kansans know, we can’t predict the weather. Sometimes the wind won’t blow and the sun won’t shine but our customers still want power. In order to provide affordable and dependable electricity 24/7, we must rely on clean coal, natural gas and nuclear energy to deliver when the renewable sources do not. Due to their reliability, controllability and affordability, these sources must supplement our renewable energy mix.
That being said, we want to preserve Kansas’ environment for generations to come. We are growing our renewable energy program to sustain natural resources and reduce our carbon footprint.
See how we are growing our green energy program and learn Westar’s renewable story.