Solar farm projects part of a larger cooperative agreement for electric needs in Kansas

Michael Blackford
Pratt Tribune
Solar arrays may crop up this year yet in more parts of Pratt County as Ninnescah Electric pursues cost-cutting alternatives for area electrical customers.

Ninnescah Rural Electric Cooperative is planning on building two 1 MW solar farms to help reduce the cost of electricity for their members. One will be built about four miles west of their offices in Pratt County and require a zoning variance from the city of Pratt because it is within the three mile zone just outside the city limits. The second solar array will be in Kiowa County, just south of Greensburg.

The project is part of a larger cooperation between 12 rural electric coops and an Arkansas company named Today’s Power, Inc. The cooperatives are acting as one unit to enter a purchase power agreement for 21.7 MW of solar power. The agreement means there are no up-front costs or maintenance costs because TPI builds, owns, and maintains the solar equipment. The equipment/agreement is for 25 years with a possible 5-year add on.

The two solar farms NREC will receive power from will each occupy 10 acres. The panels will be tracking units to maximize solar collection. Other rural cooperatives under similar agreements with TPI are reporting better than expected outputs from the equipment.

Teresa Miller, General Manager, said the goal of the equipment is to reduce the peak need for power in the summer months. Miller said the cost of power for the winter months is determined by taking the peak demand of their members and multiplying by 70%. That is the cost charged through the winter. So reducing the peak load demand, not only do they reduce their cost for the summer, they reduce the charge for fall and winter.

The City of Pratt Planning and Zoning Commission was supposed to vote on the request for variance on July 15 but the wrong request was sent to the adjacent land owners for reply. The correct paperwork has now been mailed to adjacent landowners and the planning and zoning commission public meeting on the solar farm projects will be at 7 p.m. August 19, at Pratt City Hall.