June 22, 2023—Sunflower Electric Power Corp., a cooperatively operated wholesale energy provider to seven distribution utilities serving central and western Kansas, announced the addition a solar facility near Russell, Kan. 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 that was 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 cooperative 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 three 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, Kan. Southern Pioneer Electric Company, Ulysses, is also a member of Sunflower. For more information, visit sunflower.net.
March 29, 2022—Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and the Russell County Commission came to agreement on a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the first ten years of the Sunflower Electric Solar @ Russell project on March 21.
Since current Kansas law provides a 10-year property tax exemption for renewable energy projects, Sunflower offered a PILOT to the county. The payment illustrates Sunflower’s appreciation for the ability to site the project in Russell County and helps to support the county’s infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, that will be used during the construction of the solar facility.
Next steps include finalizing the Generation Interim Interconnection Agreement with the Southwest Power Pool and determining whether Sunflower will self-build or contract with a third party. At each juncture, the Sunflower Board of Directors will evaluate the project to ensure it remains in the best interest of Sunflower’s member-owners and the thousands of Kansans they serve.
Feb. 7, 2022—Sunflower Electric Power Corporation applied for a Solar Energy System Permit in Russell County on Feb. 7, 2022. Sunflower plans to develop the Sunflower Electric Solar @ Russell project, a 20-megawatt solar farm located three miles east of Russell. The next step for the project, expected to be commercially available by the last part of 2023, is for the Russell County Commission to review and approve the Solar Energy System Permit.
Sunflower is a cooperatively operated wholesale generation and transmission utility serving seven member distribution utilities with a diverse fuel electric generation mix, including traditional and renewable resources. The Russell project is the second solar development by Sunflower. The 20-MW Johnson Corner Solar Project came online in April 2020 and is the largest operating solar facility in the state of Kansas.
Gov. Laura Kelly and Sen. Elaine Bowers voiced their support for the new solar development.
“Kansas is uniquely positioned to lead the way in the development and expansion of clean and renewable energy,” Kelly said. “I am pleased to see this project move forward. Kansas must have a diverse renewable energy portfolio as we power our future and grow our rapidly changing economy.”
“I commend Sunflower in its efforts to build a second 20-MW solar array in the state,” Bowers said. “As the need for electricity continues to grow, I’m pleased to see that Kansas is taking a great part in developing more resources.”
Sunflower is again developing the project with the National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO) of which Sunflower is a member-owner.
“It’s a good day any time we can capitalize on Kansas resources for the good of our communities, state, and beyond,” Rep. Troy Waymaster said, “but it’s especially exciting to see it happening near my hometown. Russell County continues to embrace changes that bring benefits today and well into the future.”
The public is invited to learn about the project during a come-and-go, informational gathering at Fossil Creek Hotel and Suites, 1430 S. Fossil St., from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 15, 2022.