Kansas to plant first community-owned solar farm

Customer-owned utility Midwest Energy and community solar developer Clean Energy Collective (CEC) have signed an agreement to build a 1-MW community solar photovoltaic (PV) array — the largest in Kansas — with panels owned by Midwest Energy members throughout central and western Kansas.

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 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.”

Accessibility and Flexibility Keys to Partnership
CEC’s community solar model employs economies of scale to build optimally sited, fully maintained solar projects. The solar PV arrays are designed for maximum power production and maximum life span, delivering the lowest possible price for renewable energy.

Midwest Energy members purchase the panels directly from CEC; Midwest Energy then purchases the power from CEC, and 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. The owners may 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, vice president of strategic development at CEC. “Midwest is being very proactive in responding to high member interest in community solar and planning well for the future.”

Mutual Wins Drive Renewable Growth
Renewable energy is playing an increasing role in economic development for Kansas and is 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, general manager at Midwest Energy.

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