Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, a cooperatively operated wholesale energy provider to seven distribution utilities serving central and western Kansas, announced the addition of a solar facility near Russell. The second solar facility in Sunflower’s generation system, the 20-megawatt Sunflower Electric Solar @ Russell project, will be developed, owned and operated by Sunflower.
Sunflower’s first solar project, the Johnson Corner Solar Project (JCSP) in southwest Kansas, was co-developed with the National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO). Sunflower is the sole energy recipient on the JCSP, which came online in April 2020. The JCSP is currently the largest commercial solar facility in Kansas, and it will be matched in size in January 2025 with the expected commercial operation of the Russell solar facility.
Sunflower is again working with NRCO on this project. Sunflower is a founder and member-owner of NRCO, an organization formed by electric cooperatives across the country to develop and deploy renewable energy resources.
Solar energy is desirable because it is available during times of peak energy use, which aids in ensuring affordability and reliability. The project near Russell will also reduce or eliminate the cost of expensive transmission upgrades due to its interconnection location on the bulk electric grid and offer an affordable solution for electric co-op members who want solar energy without the hassle of owning and maintaining their own solar panels.
Sunflower — which provides wholesale energy from natural gas, coal, solar and wind resources — supports an all-of-the-above approach to its electric generating mix.
“Each energy generation resource type has benefits,” said Corey Linville, Sunflower vice president, power supply and delivery. “Solar resources produce energy during the hottest days of the year when our system experiences its highest demand. The declining cost of utility-scale solar energy, combined with available tax credits and the opportunity to mitigate transmission costs, will further benefit Sunflower’s members and those they serve.”
Sunflower is partnering with DEPCOM Power to design and construct the Russell project, which will produce approximately 53,000 megawatt-hours annually, a total constituting 1% of the Sunflower system’s total energy needs. The facility, which will be located on 140 acres 3 miles east of Russell, will have approximately 45,000 bi-facial solar panels on a single-axis solar tracking system.
“As a member-owned cooperative, we make every decision with the best interest of our members in mind,” said Tom Ruth, general manager of Western Cooperative Electric, which serves parts of Russell County. “We analyze and consider new technologies to determine if and when they add value to our system and, ultimately, to those we serve. This is definitely the right time and place for the Sunflower Electric Solar at Russell project.”
Sunflower’s member cooperatives include Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative, Inc., Dighton; Pioneer Electric Cooperative, Inc., Ulysses; Prairie Land Electric Cooperative, Inc., Norton; The Victory Electric Cooperative Association, Inc., Dodge City; Western Cooperative Electric Association, Inc., WaKeeney; and Wheatland Electric Cooperative, Inc., Scott City. Southern Pioneer Electric Company, Ulysses, is also a member of Sunflower. For more information, visit www.sunflower.net.