A sister company of Hays-based Sunflower Electric announced Tuesday it will purchase energy from what likely will be the state’s largest solar facility when it opens in 2019.
The 20-megawatt Johnson Corner Solar Project will be located on 241 acres 2 miles southwest of Johnson in Stanton County. The field’s 86,000 solar panels will produce approximately 55,000 megawatt hours annually, according to a press release.
Mid-Kansas Electric Co. has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Lightsource BP, who will build, own and operate the facility.
The project is now in design, engineering and finance stages, said Kevin Christy, chief operating officer of Lightsource BP. Construction will start by the beginning of 2019, with completion a few months later.
Mid-Kansas consists of five rural electric cooperatives and one wholly owned subsidiary in 33 counties. Its members include Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative, Dighton; Prairie Land Electric Cooperative, Norton; Southern Pioneer Electric Co., Ulysses; Victory Electric Cooperative Association, Dodge City; Western Cooperative Electric Association, WaKeeney; and Wheatland Electric Cooperative, Scott City.
Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann was among those who spoke at the announcement at Sunflower’s headquarters in Hays, 301 W. 13th.
Mann, a Quinter native whose great-great-great grandfather homesteaded approximately 10 miles from the project’s location, said the solar project capitalizes on two great resources the state has to offer — environment and human.
“I know western Kansas. I know your expertise, tenacity and work ethic. I know of your visionary and cooperative approach to life. These qualities have positioned Kansas as a leader in many areas including ag production and wind energy. These same qualities are at the foundation of your new innovative Johnson Corner Solar Project,” he said.
Stuart Lowry, president and CEO of Sunflower and Mid-Kansas, said the location was selected for its generating potential and because a generating facility at the location will reduce loading on an existing transmission line that is operating near its full capacity.
“The ability to inject generation at this location could potentially help us to defer or eliminate a costly transmission upgrade that would otherwise be needed in the near future,” he said.
That transmission upgrade potentially would cost $10 million, Steve Epperson, Mid-Kansas chairman of the board, said after the press conference.
The solar project will especially help during the summer months, when Mid-Kansas and Sunflower both see their peak demands for energy, Lowry said.
“While wind energy tends to be most abundant when we need it the least, i.e. during the night and the winter, the solar project is going to generate most of the energy when our system has the highest demand,” he said.
It also will provide a non-peak, fixed-price hedge against the market prices of energy, he said.