Kansas electric company harvesting solar power to curb higher customer bills

Local

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Call it a growing trend. Butler Electric says why not harvest the sun? Kansas gets a lot of it.

Butler Electric is also able to immediately hold down electricity prices by more than 5% for customers. With a fourth farm now in operation, they say the future is ‘pretty sunny.’

South of Andover, you might not see it, but tucked away off of Andover Road is a one-megawatt solar farm that covers eight acres.

“Solar is part of the mix,” said the CEO of Butler Electric Cooperative, Tim Lindahl. “We believe in all of the above energy strategy. We have a little bit of everything.”

Lindahl says they use coal, nuclear power and hydroelectric power to provide homes with energy in several counties.

With the additional use of four wind farms, three owned by Butler Electric, the sunshine power is helping curb higher customer bills.

“Our members and owners are seeing instant relief,” said Lindahl. “There’s also a long-term benefit where it’s going to offset cost increases in the future.”

With supply issues last winter from multiple energy sources, they hope their solar farms will stabilize their supply to customers.

The farm has been immune to Kansas hail and wind, so far.

“It’s all programmed in software, so if we would have a significant wind event they would actually tip, not flat like you might think, because that would create kind of an airplane wing, so they will actually go into a position like they are now,” said Lindahl.

The panels, like the Kansas sunflower, can be programmed to follow the sun for maximum energy.

And while some people have complained about the look of a solar farm, they are using Kansas trees to grow up around the facility.

“We planted nice trees, so hopefully, in a couple years people will drive by and never even realize the farm is here,” said Sarah Madden, Butler Electric.

Butler Electric’s next big push is studying battery storage to help the grid when peak power times hit in extreme weather.

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