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Towns could turn on to solar

Staff writer

Both Marion and Hillsboro are candidates for a Kansas Power Pool project to build arrays of solar panels to generate electricity in nine Kansas cities.

In November, Hillsboro approved leasing land to KPP for the solar array. Marion approved leasing land Jan. 22.

Hillsboro city administrator Matt Stiles said KPP started eyeing building solar panel arrays 11 months ago.

“They directly engaged with us in June, and we approved participation in November,” Stiles said.

To build the panels, KPP applied for a forgivable loan from Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Powering Affordable Clean Energy program.

“Right now there’s a lot of support, and there are a lot of federal programs that people are taking advantage of,” Stiles said.

If KPP’s application is successful, the company plans to build solar arrays in Hillsboro, Marion, Clay Center, Ellinwood, Greensburg, Kingman, Mulvane, Wellington, and Winfield.

While waiting to see whether the forgivable loan is approved, KPP is doing feasibility studies on the potential locations.

Hillsboro plans for the array to be built west of its wastewater facility. The array is expected to cover seven acress.

Marion plans its array to be built north of the county transfer station.

If all goes as planned, Stiles said, construction of arrays at Hillsboro and Marion is likely to begin this fall and the solar panels could be running by the end of the year.

“The area we’re talking about is around six acres,” Marion Mayor Mike Powers said. “I don’t know if they’re going to use all of it. My understanding is they may expand later.”

The panels, which have a 30-year life expectancy, will move with the sun, Stiles said.

“They will still generate after 30 years, but the materials degrade so that they generate less over time,” he said. “With solar panels, as technology improves, they tend to have upgrades that can be installed, so we’d anticipate those investments to come from KPP over time to keep the panels working as long as possible.”

Stiles said Hillsboro’s solar array was expected to produce one megawatt of electricity. Marion’s is expected to produce 0.9 of a megawatt.

Stiles said that allowing the array to be built there could lower electricity costs. But the electricity itself will be sold by KPP to Evergy and could end up anywhere in Evergy’s coverage area.

“KPP had a need for more capacity, and we had to figure out a way to do that,” Stiles said. “There will be no Hillsboro expense. Our people will likely do some maintenance on it, but KPP will reimburse us.”

Powers added: “My understanding here is, it will be a benefit to KPP’s grid and a benefit to us in what we pay for the power.”

Last modified Feb. 1, 2024

 

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