Westar to build solar power farm in Baldwin City
photo by: Westar Energy Logo
Baldwin City Administrator Glenn Rodden says the hot summer sun should be working for residents of the southern Douglas County city by this time next year.
On July 17, The Baldwin City Council agreed to start negotiations with Westar Energy to build a solar panel farm at the city public works yard in the 1000 block of Orange Street.
Westar was one of five firms responding to the city’s request for proposals to build and manage a solar array, Rodden said. The city council’s review and one by the Kansas Energy Management Association, an organization of state municipalities with electrical generating capacity, found the Westar proposal offered the best economic deal for the city.
“Every one of the applicants could have done this,” Rodden said. “We were very pleased with the responses.”
Under the proposal, Westar will build and manage the solar farm and sell the electrical energy it produces to the city. Rob Culley, Baldwin City electrical production director, said the utility company’s proposal suggests it would sell the power produced at the rate of 5.4 or 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour. The final price will be determined in the coming negotiations.
The 5.4- to 5.6-cent price is more than the average of 4.9 cents per kilowatt hour the city pays for power generated by the other wind and hydroelectric assets it owns, but the Westar solar power price will be guaranteed for 30 years.
The city has ownership rights to power produced at a number of hydroelectric dams and two wind farms. Unlike those assets, which are located as far away as Marshall County and even Oklahoma, there will be no distribution costs associated with the solar array built within the fence of the Baldwin City public works yard.
Culley said the solar array would cover about two to three acres of ground on a southern sloping incline north of the city’s power plant.
The solar array will provide about 1 megawatt of power per day, Rodden said. For context, the city’s demand is about 10 megawatts when air conditioners are running on a hot summer day.
Westar’s initial proposal gives the city an option of purchasing the solar array in the future. The proposed price would be $853,357 after seven years and would decrease over time to $417,443 after 20 years.
Rodden said he suggested to the council that the city ask energy firms to submit proposals to build and operate a solar array after the city approved earlier this year a net meter policy that allows local homeowners or businesses to produce with their own solar panels up to 4 percent of the city’s electrical load.
“We were thinking what we could do next. I said, ‘Why don’t we do it as a community?’ There are a lot of businesses and residences that aren’t configured to place solar panels on their roofs,” he said.
Rodden said he was hopeful the solar array would be operational by the summer of 2019.