The Reno County Commission Tuesday approved a conditional use permit allowing the development of a 1.4-megawatt solar farm in the northeast part of the county to serve Ark Valley Electric Cooperative customers.
The development is actually one of two being built in the county to provide solar-generated electricity to the South Hutchinson-based cooperative, said Ark Valley General Manager Jackie Holmberg.
The other is in an unzoned part of the county, so it doesn’t require a conditional use permit.
The 3,500 cell array that the commission OK’d will be on 8.6 acres at 108th Avenue and Sunshine Road, which is just east of K-61 and south of the McPherson County line.
The array will be capable of generating one megawatt of AC power or 1.4 MW of DC power, with a single access tracking system, said Reno County Planner, Mark Vonachen.
The property will be constructed in two sections, one with collectors in 18 rows of 100 arrays per row, and the other in 17 rows, Vonachen said. A six-foot chain-link fence topped with barbed wire will secure the property. There will be no lights on the property, Vonachen said.
The landowner to the east of the site owns the land, which is currently farm ground.
The second array will be the same size, located on land in western Reno County near the company’s Huntsville Station, Holmberg said. They’re still working on final siting due to a nearby pipeline.
“The goal is to have them both in place at the same time,” she said.
They’re hoping to draw power by June 1, 2022.
Today’s Power, a company created by electric cooperatives in Arkansas to serve its members, is building the two farms.
Ark Valley has a 25-year purchase power agreement with TPI, which will fund the development, Holmberg said, with five-year renewal options after that.
“The benefit to our customers is that we can purchase the power for cheaper than we can through a wholesale power agreement,” Holmberg said. “It will also produce (power) at a time when energy is most expensive, at peak hours in summer.”
For context, this summer the cooperative’s peak demand was 18.9 megawatts of power, Holmberg said.
“There have been a number of Kansas cooperatives who’ve gone together to contract with Today’s Power,” Holmberg said. “Through economy of scale, we were able to get this power purchase agreement priced the way it was. (TPI) will own and operate it. We’ll just purchase power from it.”
Reno County Commissioner Daniel Friesen said it costs an average of $1 per kilowatt for solar power development, so he estimated the northern farm is a $1.4 million investment “in an area that probably would never see that kind of investment if we hadn’t fostered this.”
During its discussion of the conditional use permit, the commission debated adding conditions requiring the grass be mowed but eventually approved it without any conditions beyond what the Reno County Planning Commission recommended when it unanimously approved the permit.