Co-op ‘flips the switch’ on solar projects

Several Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative employees pose for a picture in front of the solar installation east of Cheney.

Staff report 

Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative dedicated two sun farms in Sedgwick County with a ceremonial flip of the switch on May 27.

The sun farms are intended to minimize the cooperative’s peak demand and maintain stable rates for its members. One of the solar installations is located just east of Cheney, and the other is located near Maize. Both were powered up in May.

Originally announced in November of 2020, Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative’s two solar farms were formally linked to the grid by Today’s Power Inc. (TPI) of North Little Rock, Ark. These sun farms are among the first of the 22 systems to be built as part of the Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program (KCSPP), a TPI solar power services agreement program that ensures low-cost renewable energy to 12 participating Kansas electric cooperatives.

Both of Sedgwick County 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 all help Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative control power costs and keep power affordable for its members. Along with the other participating Kansas electric cooperatives, Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative negotiated competitive long-term pricing.

“We are very excited to partner with Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative on this project,” said Michael Henderson, president of TPI. “I have spent my career serving electric cooperative members and being able to provide direct, quantifiable savings through projects like KCSPP is very gratifying.”

Henderson commended the leadership of Sedgwick County Electric for their forward-thinking efforts in serving their members.

“This is a new direction for us, and we’re excited that we’ve figured out a way to make it work financially,” said Henderson.

Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative officials shared that enthusiasm.

“Incorporating solar into our portfolio is another way our member-owners can benefit, by reducing electrical usage during our peak demand months,” said Scott Ayres, Sedgwick County Electric Cooperative’s General Manager and CEO.

 “A major portion of our annual wholesale power bill is based on power consumed during June through September, when temperatures are above 95 degrees,” said Ayres. “As an electric cooperative owned by the people we serve, it is our job to do our part to make a difference at home and for the greater good of our members.”

TPI was chosen by the Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program, consisting of 12 Kansas Electric Cooperatives, in 2020 to provide solar-produced power for cooperative use. Work on the two sun farms began in early 2021 and was completed in May of this year, after all regulatory and engineering approvals were issued. For the length of the 25-year-or-more agreement, the cooperative will purchase electricity generated by the sun farms at a fixed low cost. TPI owns and operates the solar array.

Both sun farms near Cheney and Maize are 1.42 megawatts in size, and have about 3,500 solar modules. Each site incorporates single-axis sun tracking technology.

Today’s Power, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based utility service cooperative owned by 17 Arkansas electric distribution cooperatives. Today’s Power, Inc. offers turn-key solar photovoltaic systems, energy storage systems, electric vehicles and charging stations for all sizes and applications.

On Nov. 10, 1937, 21 men of Sedgwick County signed the Articles of Incorporation for a rural electric company.

“We currently have 20 employees, more than 6,952 services, more than 5,900 members, approximately 1,175 miles of energized lines, nine substations and more than 142 million kilowatts sold yearly,” said Ayres.

Michael Henderson, president of TPI, stands in front of the solar installation east of Cheney.