On May 26, FreeState was scheduled to flip the switch on the new solar farms. The weather did not cooperate for us, and the event had to be canceled. So, instead, we've put together a dedication video with remarks for Jeanine Murphy, Steve Foss, and Michael Henderson.
FreeState Starts Harvesting Sunshine. Flips the Switch on Solar Farms.
Jeanine Murphy, FreeState Electric Cooperative’s board president flipped the switch on the cooperative’s Sun Farm projects on Tuesday, June 2 via video after rain dampened plans to hold an in-person event. The sites are two of many that Today’s Power (TPI) installed. The farms will provide power to FreeState’s members to maintain rate stability by low-cost contracted power purchased from TPI.
FreeState Electric Cooperative joins other rural electric cooperatives in Kansas investing in renewable energy. Participating electric cooperatives procured low-up-front cost solar energy to serve their members through the Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program (KCSPP) and reduce their peak demand. The KCSPP is 22 solar farms developed to harvest renewable energy in the state for participating electric cooperatives. This 25-year program has secured long-term, low-cost pricing. When completed, the KCSPP will result in the construction of more than 20 Megawatts (MW) of solar power across more than 800 miles of the sunflower state.
The first FreeState 1-MW array, the Oskaloosa Sun Farm, is located at the substation just south of Oskaloosa on 59 HWY. The second, Stranger Creek Solar Farm, is located at the Substation Northeast of Tonganoxie near Tonganoxie and Mitchell Roads. Both solar farms are located in the co-op’s east district because of the power contract with Kansas Electric Power Cooperative (KEPCo).
The Oskaloosa farm sits on 10 acres and includes 3,500 solar panels. The Stranger Creek farm sits on a similar site. Each farm is designed to maximize output during the cooperative’s peak demand time when power is most expensive. These solar farms will help FreeState control power costs and keep rates stable.
“This opportunity is great for FreeState,” said Steve Foss, CEO. “This goes hand in hand with the investment we made in 2018 to install peak demand generators at the Lakewood Hills and Oskaloosa substations, bringing our total to four. These investments have brought us to the maximum amount of supplemental power we can purchase under our wholesale power contract with KEPCo.”
“The benefit of a solar farm is that the panels produce year-round. Typically, the diesel generators run during the summer.”
Michael Henderson, President of Today’s Power, Inc. said, “I have spent my career serving electric cooperative members and having able to provide direct, quantifiable savings through projects like KCSPP is very gratifying.” He went on to say, “the leadership of FreeState should be commended for their forward-thinking efforts in serving their members.”
Foss said that the cooperative’s commitment to saving money by managing demand reduces the cost of the energy purchased, and that benefits all members of FreeState.
“FreeState has clear financial goals, so we completed a cost-benefit analysis on both projects to determine feasibility and payback.” Foss added.
“It’s about financial savings and rate stability, and these solar farms will help us achieve that,” added Foss. “This low-cost investment is a cost-effective way for us to not only save money but help reduce our carbon footprint.”
National data shows that solar power is growing quickly across the country. FreeState members currently produce more than 2 MW of energy by member-owned solar panels. FreeState supports all renewables, like solar.
Murphy said the trustees were not only impressed with the purchase power agreement and working with other Kansas cooperatives, but the ability to do something so forward thinking and innovative.
“Anything we do that involves renewables show that we are proactive and looking to the future,” Murphy said. “I’m excited about these projects. It shows that our management is forward thinking and interested in making a difference.”
“As a member first, I am excited about this project because I have four grandchildren,” added Murphy. “I’m excited that we are setting up programs and participating in projects that will not only help us now but will benefit the cooperative and my family for future generations.”