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February 29th, 2024

230602 johnsoncornersolarfacility jw 17A solar farm based in Kansas. It was recently announced Sunflower Electric Power Corp. is partnering on a 150-megawatt solar energy project near Fort Dodge Station, the company’s electric generating facility one mile southeast of Dodge City. The project is expected to go live in 2026. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Renewable energy continues to be a major discussion topic throughout the U.S. and soon, Southwest Kansas will be home to a piece of that. 

Wednesday, Sunflower Electric Power Corp. announced it is partnering on a 150-megawatt solar energy project near Fort Dodge Station, the company’s electric generating facility one mile southeast of Dodge City. The project will be located on approximately 1,000 acres one mile southeast of Dodge City and will include 300,000-plus solar modules with single axis tracking. Construction will begin in 2025, with expected commercial operation coming during the first half of 2026. During the approximately yearlong construction phase, the project will require approximately 200 workers at peak buildout. 

The project will join Sunflower’s 20-megawatt Johnson Corner Solar Project, which came online in April 2020, and Sunflower’s 20-megawatt Sunflower Electric Solar at Russell Project, scheduled for commercial operation in January 2025, in providing solar power to Sunflower’s members and those they serve, according to a release from Sunflower Electric Power Corp. As Sunflower Electric Power Corp. Communications Manager Cinthia Hertel tells it, the project has been in discussion for about two years. 

“Sunflower’s Board of Directors considers all generation technologies to determine whether those resources will benefit our seven member-owner distribution utilities and those they serve,” Hertel said. “The cost of solar technology has decreased significantly in recent years, so it was a resource the BOD chose to analyze and further consider. The abundant sunshine in southwest Kansas make the area a desirable place for this project. In addition, locating the facility in this specific location gives the project transmission advantages.”

Hertel also talked about some of the particular benefits that will be seen from this project. 

“The project will provide energy on the hottest days of summer, which is when demand for energy is the highest on the Sunflower system,” Hertel said. “Thus, the project will serve as a fixed-price hedge against the market price of energy and help keep our members’ energy costs as low as possible. Renewable energy is attractive to existing and new Commercial and Industrial (C&I) customers. This project will capitalize on an abundant, renewable source of energy in Southwest Kansas. We’re excited to add this resource to our diverse generation portfolio. Each generation resource has benefits, and this project will complement our existing resources: natural gas, wind, coal, and solar.”

The Victory Electric Cooperative Assn., Inc., located in Dodge City, joins Sunflower’s six other member-owners in supporting the Boot Hill Solar Project, which will surpass the JCSP and the Sunflower Electric Solar at Russell projects as the largest operating solar facility in the state, the Sunflower Electric Power Corp. release noted, and strategically locating the Boot Hill Solar project near existing Sunflower assets will provide cost and schedule benefits to all of the member-owners. Sunflower Electric Power Corp. will be partnering with Alluvial Power to design and construct the project, and the two entities have executed a power purchase agreement for the energy generated by the Boot Hill Solar Project, according to the release.

“We are always glad when we can provide more value to our members,” Shane Laws, Victory CEO, noted in the Sunflower Electric Power Corp. release. “But having what will be the state’s largest operating solar facility located in our community makes this project even more exciting. Thank you to everyone who has helped us get to this phase.”

Others involved with the project also shared praise for the upcoming work.

“We are excited to bring the Boot Hill Solar Project to the Ford County community,” Brian Kirk, an Alluvial Power executive, noted in the Sunflower Electric Power Corp. release. “Our team enjoyed collaborating with the Sunflower team, Victory and Sunflower’s other members, Ford County officials and local community members. We look forward to delivering a high-value, cost-effective resource to Sunflower’s members and system.”

“Each energy generation resource type has benefits, so Sunflower supports an all-of-the-above approach to our generation portfolio,” Steve Epperson, Sunflower interim president and CEO, noted in the Sunflower Electric Power Corp. release. “Sunflower’s Board of Directors has carefully analyzed the factors and variables associated with adding more solar energy to our system and believes the time is right to capitalize on the economic efficiencies and other benefits of this project for our members.”

Overall, Hertel said, there is quite a bit of excitement about the project and other upcoming work. 

“As always, Sunflower’s BOD will continue to analyze generation resource technologies to determine if they will benefit our members and those they serve,” Hertel said. “As always, the timing, location, need, and cost are considered and must be right for Sunflower to move forward with facility development.”