Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative is leading the way and joining with 11 other Kansas rural electric cooperatives to invest in 20 Megawatts of solar power to be built across the state, and power 80,000 homes across rural Kansas.
Heartland’s portion of the project consists of two solar arrays of 1 Megawatt (MW) each. Preliminary work has already begun on the two tracts of land purchased by Heartland for the project. Groundbreaking was held on Tuesday, December 8. Construction should be completed by June of 2021.
One Heartland 1-MW array will be located in Crawford County, just west of Girard near Greenbush along Highway 47. The second Heartland 1-MW solar array will be built in Neosho County between Erie and Chanute along 160th Road (Shaw Road.)
The two Heartland solar arrays, and the 18 other arrays in Kansas, will all be built and owned by Today’s Power Inc, a North Little Rock-based company established by rural electric cooperatives in Arkansas. Today’s Power Inc. has successfully installed more than 25 solar projects totaling more than 40 Megawatts over the last five years in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Heartland has signed a purchased-power-agreement with Today’s Power Inc. to buy the solar energy produced by the two arrays for the next 25 years.
This opportunity began when the wholesale power contract between all participating cooperatives and their forward-thinking generation and transmission cooperative, Kansas Electric Power Cooperative, was recently modified to provide Kansas electric cooperatives with the ability to self-procure up to 15 percent of peak demand – with 5 percent of that amount specifically allowing for the addition of solar.
By joining together in the Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program, all of the participating Kansas rural electric cooperatives were able to negotiate very competitive long-term pricing. In addition, the solar arrays will be 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 Heartland control power costs and keep power affordable for those served at the cooperative’s 11,200 service locations.
“Like those we serve, Heartland wants to be good stewards of our resources,” says Heartland CEO Mark Scheibe. “We live and work in rural Kansas for a reason. What we do helps feed and fuel America, and this project will help us provide affordable power for our consumer-members.”
“Everyone in rural Kansas works hard for their money and deserves some of the financial security that these solar projects will provide,” says Scheibe. “Heartland is here not just to sell electricity, but to promote the quality of life here in rural Kansas.”
“Investing in utility-scale solar is the most cost-effective way to benefit all consumer-members of the cooperative, while also investing in a green, clean, renewable source of generation right here in our own community,” says Scheibe.
National data shows that solar power is growing quickly across the country. Heartland currently has more than 60 members benefiting from the almost 700KW of solar panels installed on their own property. Investing in these two large arrays means that all of Heartland’s consumer-members will benefit from the clean, affordable power supplied, not just those that put panels on their own homes.
Heartland’s investment in solar is just one more way the cooperative works to lower power use during peak hours and control the cost of power. Since 2013, Heartland’s Peak Savers program has successfully enlisted co-op consumer-members to voluntarily reduce their use of power during peak hours. Over the past eight years, Heartland has paid Peak Savers more than $250,000 to program participants for helping lower peak power use during the summer.
Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative provides power to more than 11,000 locations in Southeast and Central Eastern Kansas. Heartland’s service area includes consumer-members in 12 counties, including Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Cherokee, Coffey, Crawford, Labette, Linn, Miami, Neosho, Wilson, and Woodson counties. Heartland REC traces its roots back to three original rural electric cooperatives, Cooperative Electric Power & Light Company, Sugar Valley Electric Cooperative Association, (which came together to form United Electric Cooperative in 1975) and Sekan Electric Cooperative Association (which combined to become Heartland in 1996.)