FreeState is taking advantage of a unique opportunity while practicing the sixth cooperative principle — cooperation among cooperatives. A group of Kansas cooperatives is collaborating on a progressive project that not only makes financial sense for the cooperative but for members, too.
The innovative project will give FreeState the ability to take on a leadership role when it comes to renewable energy and set an example for working together to benefit many.
“Our power supplier KEPCo (Kansas Electric Power Cooperative) allowed an additional 5% energy production by renewable energy,” said CEO Steve Foss. “This adjustment provided us some pretty significant opportunities when it comes to benefiting the cooperative and the members.”
Foss added that multiple Kansas cooperatives will be working together with vendor Today’s Power Inc. (TPI) to construct solar farms across the state with low up-front costs that will reap huge rewards. By working together all cooperatives will be able to save with a lower energy cost.
“The situation we find ourselves in is exciting,” Foss said. “We are able to work with TPI with little investment on the cooperative end to provide us with a clean energy source to supplement what we purchase from our provider.”
“FreeState’s costs are associated with land leasing, and not the construction or infrastructure investment of constructing two 1-megawatt solar farms.”
The cooperative has identified two 10-acre areas near substations in the East District to build the solar farms. The farms will then be connected to the FreeState distribution system.
“The fact that these solar farms are connected into our system will also help us with reliability because those areas will have additional infrastructure built in to account for the generation of power,” added Foss.
TPI will be installing and operating the solar farms and contract with FreeState to sell the power produced by each solar farm as a Purchased Power Agreement (PPA). The PPA is slated for an initial 25 years followed by additional five-year options.
“The way these solar farms are set up means there is very little investment from the cooperative, but we are able to benefit by being able to purchase up to 5% of our peak demand from these farms at a rate that is competitive,” Foss said. “We’ll be able to pass that savings directly to our members.”
TPI will be constructing, maintaining, and selling the power generated from these two solar farms. TPI is the for-profit subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI) with a rich history in working with cooperatives. They also are experts in renewable energy.
“We’re working with the best in the business, and that’s exciting,” said Foss. “We are realizing our core principle of working together for the common good, and this will be a great project for not just FreeState, but for cooperative members across Kansas.”