Customer-owned utility Midwest Energy and community solar developer Clean Energy Collective (CEC) 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.
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, Chair 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 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 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 CEC’s VP of Strategic Development, Jim Hartman. “Midwest is being very proactive in responding to high member interest in community solar and planning well for the future.”
Mutual Wins Driving Renewable Growth
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’s General Manager. A member-owned electric and natural gas cooperative, Midwest Energy serves 92,000 electric and natural gas customers in 41 central and western Kansas counties.