Westar Energy Awarded EEI’s 2014 Edison Award


LAS VEGAS (June 9, 2014) — Westar Energy today received the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI’s) 2014 Edison Award, the electric power industry’s most prestigious honor, for engineering and constructing a full-scale wetland to treat wastewater at its coal-based generating facility, the Jeffrey Energy Center (JEC), in northeast Kansas.

“Westar demonstrated distinguished leadership and outstanding innovation and has set a precedent in the industry by completing the wetland system that reduces environmental impact and supports the efficient production of reliable and affordable electricity,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. A panel of former electric company chief executives selected Westar Energy for the 87th annual award from a group of distinguished finalists.

As part of recent investments to improve Westar’s JEC, the company rebuilt and upgraded the flue gas desulfurization (FGD) systems on each of the plant’s three units, resulting in a 97-percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions. Recognizing the need to improve the treatment of discharged wastewater from the FGD process, Westar sought a natural and cost-effective way to ensure the plant’s wastewater met Westar’s high environmental standards. After extensive research of viable scrubber wastewater treatment methods, Westar’s environmental and engineering staff determined the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly method of treatment was to construct a wetland paired with sulfate precipitation pretreatment.

The FGD wastewater would initially be treated in a traditional wastewater treatment plant for the removal of sulfate followed by release into the wetland treatment process, engineered and targeted for the removal of metals. The water released from the wetland could then be returned to the plant for reuse.

Westar developed a pilot system in 2010 to mimic biological processes occurring in natural wetlands. The company determined that 19 water quality constituents were effectively treated through the pilot wetland project, but sulfate was not. Therefore, Westar paired the wetland with a targeted sulfate precipitation process that would overcome the lack of sulfate removal by the wetland.

In 2013, positive results from Westar’s research and experimentation led to an optimized design and construction of the 24-acre wetland system that will treat 100 percent of the JEC’s scrubber wastewater by mid-summer 2014.

The wetland system offers numerous benefits including energy savings, sustainability, a natural solution to treating wastewater, water conservation, and an expected savings of $40 million over 15 years in capital and operational costs that will also benefit customers.

Westar involved, educated, partnered with and gained the support of the local Sierra Club chapter, members of Friends of Kaw, Kansas Riverkeeper and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

“The Westar team worked incredibly hard conducting research and experimentation in order to successfully develop and build the wetland treatment system,” said Kuhn. “This is a perfect example of how the electric power industry is creating partnerships and innovative solutions that respect the environment while also better serving customers and communities. The dedicated team at Westar is leading the way and truly deserves the 2014 Edison Award.”

# # #