Midwest, CEC will partner to build community-owned solar farm

Customer-owned utility Midwest Energy and community solar developer Clean Energy Collective announced in a news release Monday they have signed an agreement to build a 1-megawatt community solar photovoltaic array, the largest in Kansas, with panels owned by Midwest Energy members throughout central and western Kansas.

A 1-megawatt community solar array in Paradox Valley, Colo., owned by San Miguel Power Authority. Photo courtesy of Clean Energy Collective

A 1-megawatt community solar array in Paradox Valley, Colo., owned by San Miguel Power Authority. Photo courtesy of Clean Energy Collective

The 4,000-panel solar garden will be located within the Midwest Energy service territory, making renewable energy ownership available to all of Midwest Energy’s 50,000 electric members. The specific location of the project has yet to be made public.

The purchase price for panels in the array will include all available rebates and tax incentives, as if the system were located on the customer’s roof.  Customers will receive credit for the power their panels produce directly on their Midwest Energy electric bills.

“We’re excited to be the first utility in Kansas to offer community-owned solar to our members,” said John Blackwell, chairman of Midwest Energy’s board of directors. “Our customers have signaled they’re supportive of renewable energy, and we’re pleased to bring this solar ownership opportunity to them.”

CEC’s community solar model employs economies of scale to build optimally sited, fully maintained solar projects.  The PV arrays are designed for maximum power production and maximum lifespan, delivering the lowest possible price for renewable energy. Midwest Energy members purchase the panels directly from CEC; Midwest Energy then purchases the power from Colorado-based CEC, while Midwest Energy provides a credit directly to the member’s bill. Customers get the benefits of solar ownership, yet bypass the research, construction and ongoing maintenance and repair required of a rooftop system. It also provides the flexibility of having the energy credits move with each owner, as long as they stay within the utility territory, and have the ability to resell their panels at any time.

“We applaud Midwest Energy for taking a lead role in helping Kansas make great use of its natural resources to make clean power,” said Jim Hartman, CEC vice president of strategic development. “Midwest is being very proactive in responding to high member interest in community solar and planning well for the future.”

Renewable energy is playing an increasing role in economic development for Kansas, credited with helping generate jobs, reducing electricity bills, and pumping millions of dollars into local economies. Innovations like community-owned solar are showing that this burgeoning industry is poised for growth in the state.

“This is a win-win-win solution that provides tangible benefits for everyone — ease of implementation for the cooperative, cost-effective solar ownership options for our members, and impressive environmental contributions,” said Earnie Lehman, Midwest Energy general manager.

For more information on community solar or the Midwest Energy project, visit www.MWEcommunitysolar.com or call (800) 646-0323.

  • Duh?

    You would think they would wait and see how Courts in other states decide if utilities have to pay back the full rate of electricity to there customers in there credits. because you know if they decide they can credit there customers a lesser rate they will. Wait MWE is customer owned so I would assume that would not be the case.
    Curious as to how that 76 megawatt 60 million dollar Goodman Energy Center that is suppose to offset peak rates in the summer factors in to this. It probably doesn’t, but it does. How that thing doing anyway MWE why dont you release some info on how are $60 million we spent has benefited us.
    Biggest and the Shiniest Utility in the Country your well on your way, keep going dont stop till you get there. I pretty sure that there motto.

    • Midwest Energy

      @Duh, MWE will purchase the power back from Clean Energy Collective via a purchased power agreement; the Midwest Energy member will see the value of the power generated from their panel(s) deducted from their monthly electric bill. In setting the price, MWE took into account the value of offsetting capacity; we looked at historical hourly market prices during the day, plus the cost of firm capacity. Unlike wind, peaking solar energy is much better suited to match our peak load.

      Second, before the Goodman Energy Center was built, studies showed it was the most economical way to add capacity compared to purchasing firm capacity from other utilities. A recent update of that study shows that this remains the case today. Goodman was not built to run around the clock, but rather to be available to ramp up quickly and to meet our customer’s needs during peak times.
      Is it working? In 2013, Goodman accounted for just 2% of MWE’s energy resources, supplying 28 million kWh of our customer’s energy needs, thus avoiding some incredibly expensive hourly market energy. Since Mar. 1, when the Southwestern Power Pool implemented its “day ahead market,” there have been brief periods where the hourly market price has exceeded $1,300 per MWH (more than 20 times typical hourly prices); Goodman was operating on those days, preventing us from having to purchase expensive spot energy at those times. Early indications are that it will be beneficial for utilities to have quick-starting generation capability in this market area.

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