City of Pratt's solar station provided ample electricity to avoid blackouts last week

Fran Brownell
Pratt Tribune
Pratt Sun Garden, the City of Pratt's solar farm, provided ample electricity last week so that rolling blackouts did not affect the city residents.

There were no power outages in Pratt during last week’s arctic freeze when other areas of the state were experiencing mandated rolling blackouts.

“Our solar farm worked up to its potential,” said Pratt Director of Electric Utilities Jamie Huber. “It can generate six megawatts per hour.”

The solar farm east of Pratt Community College, going into its third year of energy production, is not affected by cold weather, Huber said, although cloud cover and snow on panels can impact solar energy production.

The 36-acre solar farm has 22,232 solar panels each 10-foot high, in 500-foot rows, plus 32 combiner boxes and two inverters.

The solar farm is a supplement to the city’s steam generator and two duo-fuel generators at the South 10th Street Pratt Power Plant which run on natural gas or diesel fuel.

“Our generators and the solar farm and kept city power online for our utility customers,” Huber said. 

“We were prepared and we were able to provide electricity to all 4,800-plus of our customers throughout the five-day run of sub-zero temperatures,” Huber said.

Huber heads a 12-member team who operate the power plant and maintain 155 miles of power lines throughout the city.

“We’ve gone almost six weeks without an after-hours call-out,” Huber said Monday. “That’s the way I like it.”

While local control of electricity provides some stability to Pratt,  Kansas Gas Service customers may see a jump in energy costs in the near future.

“I was very pleased to see that the City of Pratt was able to provide power to its customers through the bitter cold,” Pratt City Manager Bruce Pinkall said. “However, there’s been a spike in natural gas prices that could affect our utility costs during this period.”

Billie Blair, Circles of Hope coordinator, a group that provides support to  low-income and poverty-line families and individuals in the Pratt area said that she was getting reports of possible automatic draw accounts being hit for much more than expected by Kansas Gas Service for heating expenses from natural gas. She recommended people stop automatice payment plans before overdrawing their account.