Newton area solar farm linked to power grid

Chad Frey
The Kansan
June 23 Butler Electric Cooperative " Flipped the Switch" on two 1 megawatt sun Farms one. Originally announced in November of 2020, Butler Electric Cooperative's two solar farms — one near Newton and one near Degraff —were formally linked to the grid by Today's Power Inc. (TPI) of North Little Rock, Arkansas.

A solar farm in rural Harvey County — just south of Harvey County East Park — was linked to the power grid on June 23, signaling the completion of a project announced in November of 2020. 

The farm is one of about two dozen constructed by a group of electric cooperatives across the state, and one of two constructed by the Butler Electric Cooperative this year. The other is near DeGraff. 

The Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program is a series of solar farms developed by Today's Power Inc. of Arkansas to harvest renewable energy in the state for 12 participating electric cooperatives. The 25-year program will result in the construction of more than 20 megawatts of solar power spread out across more than 800 miles of Kansas.

June 23 Butler Electric Cooperative " Flipped the Switch" on two 1 megawatt sun farms,  one near Newton and one near Degraff.

“Co-ops across the state have come together,” Sarah Madden, public relations director for the Butler Electric Cooperative, said in November. “ ... These 12 have banded together to provide solar for our customers at a low cost for decades to come. ... This is great for our entire state.”

Locations in the region include Butler, Harvey, McPherson and Sedgwick counties.

Originally announced in November of 2020, Butler Electric Cooperative's two solar farms were formally linked to the grid by Today's Power Inc. (TPI) of North Little Rock, Arkansas in coordination with the Butler Electric Flip the Switch Member Appreciation Lunch. These sun farms are a part of the Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program, a TPI solar power services agreement program that ensures low-cost renewable energy to 12 participating Kansas electric cooperatives.

Both of Butler Electric Cooperative’s sun farms were customized in the design process to maximize output during the cooperative’s peak demand hours, when power is most expensive. These factors will help Butler Electric Cooperative control power costs and stabilize rates for their members. Along with the other participating Kansas electric cooperatives, Butler Electric Cooperative negotiated very competitive long-term pricing. These farms will join two additional farms in Butler’s service territory. One owned and maintained by Butler, the other owned by Kansas Electric Power Cooperative

The new solar farms will represent the second and third operated by the Butler Electric Cooperative. The company constructed one of its own a couple of years ago near Rose Hill.

All systems installed will be sized in the 1-megawatt range. Each system is contracted through a 25-year power purchase agreement with additional five-year options. Local cooperatives will be responsible for the purchase of electricity generated from the solar farms and will have up-front costs associated with the development of renewable solar energy.

The cooperation of the 12 entities will lead to a reduced cost of construction.

“We got involved because teaming together,” Madden said. “... We were able to build solar power farms at an economies of scale. We can build them cheaper than if we did this all by ourselves. ... That is savings that we can pass on to our customers.”

Owned by Electric Cooperatives, TPI was created to provide solar facilities to Arkansas’ electric cooperatives that could otherwise not utilize federal tax incentives.

TPI has constructed solar arrays for 15 of the 17 electric cooperatives of Arkansas, as well as cooperatives and cooperative organizations in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Butler Electric Cooperative is owned by its members and governed by a board of directors elected from the membership by the members. The cooperative supplies electric power to 7,000 meters in Butler, Chase, Cowley, Greenwood, Harvey, Marion and Sedgwick counties. Construction schedules have not yet been announced for the projects.