Using the sixth cooperative principle of cooperation among cooperatives, Sumner-Cowley Electric Cooperative is joining 12 other rural electric cooperatives in Kansas to invest in 20 megawatts (MW) of solar power to be installed across 800 miles of the state making a small investment for the next 25 years or more in the harvesting of sunshine. Participating electric cooperatives will be able to procure low-up-front cost solar energy to serve their members through the Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program and reduce their peak demand.

Under their unique cooperative programming, the Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program is a series of solar farms developed by Today’s Power, Inc. (TPI) to harvest renewable energy in the state for participating electric cooperatives. This 25-year program has attracted the best possible long-term pricing and will result in the construction of more than 20 Megawatts (MW) of solar power spread out across more than 800 miles of the sunflower state.

This opportunity began when the wholesale power contract between all participating cooperatives and their G&T, Kansas Electric Power Cooperatives (KEPCo), was recently modified to provide their member electric cooperatives with the ability to self-procure up to 15% of peak demand, with 5% of that amount specifically earmarked for the addition of solar.

Proving that utility-scale solar provides more cost-effective ways to benefit all consumer-members of the cooperatives, TPI was chosen to be the developer and energy partner for this venture through extensive research undertaken by participating cooperatives and a comprehensive Request For Proposals (RFP) process administered by GDS & Associates. 

Owned by Electric Cooperatives, TPI was created to provide solar facilities to Arkansas’ electric cooperatives that could otherwise not utilize federal tax incentives.  Fellow cooperatives in neighboring states quickly learned of TPI’s program and wanted a “known business partner” to provide their solar system.

TPI has constructed solar arrays for 15 of the 17 electric cooperatives of Arkansas as well as cooperatives and cooperative organizations in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

All systems under the Kansas program installed will be sized in the 1 MW range. Each system is contracted through a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with additional 5-year options. Cooperatives will simply be responsible for the purchase of electricity generated from the solar farms and will have low-up front costs associated with the development of renewable solar energy.

This method of generation makes it possible for these cooperatives to increase the production of renewable energy year-round and to reduce peak demand. The reduction of peak demand will enable each cooperative to provide financial stability to its members while also reducing their carbon footprint. This is just another way electric cooperatives in Kansas are helping support local businesses, industries, and individuals with the resources they need to grow as efficient, responsible, and successful contributors to our communities.

Sumner-Cowley Electric Cooperative’s portion of the project consists of one array sized at 891 kW/DC.   The sun farm will be in Sumner County and will be near Sumner-Cowley Electric Cooperative’s Miller Substation.

“It is our responsibility to provide affordable electricity to the member owners of the cooperative,” stated Sumner-Cowley CEO Coni Adams. “Demonstrating cooperative principle #6 – Cooperation among cooperatives, we are able to work together and provide this cost-effective solution for our membership today and for years to come.” Adams stated, “Our members live in rural Kansas for a reason. Whether it’s their family farming operation, rural machine shop or simply because they love the rural way of life, we are forging opportunities to keep living rural achievable.”

“We are proud to be part of the Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program. This program not only provides low cost power to our distribution cooperative, but furnishes an educational opportunity to the youth of our region,” says Adams. Investing in solar power ensures that the clean, affordable power generated would help all Sumner-Cowley Electric Cooperative members, not just those who placed panels on their own homes. The expenditure of Sumner Cowley Electric Cooperative in solar is only one more way the cooperative operates to reduce the usage of electricity during peak hours and regulate the cost of power.