Electric co-ops, whose customers are the shareholders, have become leaders in developing solar projects and in planning for the future.
The Prairie Sky Solar Farm sits on eight acres of former farm ground northeast of Andover. It is owned by KEPCo, a utility cooperative based in Topeka.
The co-op built the facility as a way to diversify its energy sources and because it’s slightly cheaper than the average cost for it to buy power wholesale from other utilities, said Mark Barbee, vice president of engineering and the project’s manager.
The state-of-the-art farm cost about $2.5 million. The price of solar panels has come down so dramatically in the last five years that it is only slightly more expensive than the lowest cost sources, such as natural gas and coal, Barbee said.
“You have to plan for 30 years down the line,” he said. “And in our view the need for carbon reductions will not go away, so we see this as a key part of our portfolio long term.”