Solar farms are coming to the region, thanks to agreements between power cooperatives and Today's Power Inc. of Arkansas to create the Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program.

"Co-ops across the state have come together across the state," said Sarah Madden, public relations director for the Butler Electric Cooperative." ... These 12 have banded together to provide solar for our customers at a low cost for decades to come. ... This is great for our entire state."

The Kansas Cooperative Sun Power Program is a series of solar farms developed by Today's Power Inc. to harvest renewable energy in the state for 12 participating electric cooperatives. The 25-year program will result in the construction of more than 20 megawatts of solar power spread out across more than 800 miles of Kansas.

Locations in the region include Butler, Harvey, McPherson and Sedgwick Counties.

"We will have two. One in Butler County and one in Harvey County. We are in the process of ironing out the locations of those," Madden said.

The new solar farms will represent the second and third operated by the Butler Electric Cooperative. The company constructed one of its own a couple of years ago near Rose Hill.

That experience has been a good one, according to Madden.

"It has saved our members a lot of money building our own solar farm," Madden said. "To have this opportunity to build two at a reduced cost, is an amazing opportunity for our members."

All systems installed will be sized in the 1 MW range. Each system is contracted through a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with additional five-year options. Local cooperatives will be responsible for the purchase of electricity generated from the solar farms and will have up-front costs associated with the development of renewable solar energy.

The cooperation of the 12 entities will lead to a reduced cost of construction.

"We got involved because teaming together," Madden said. "... We were able to build solar power farms at an economies of scale. We can build them cheaper than if we did this all by ourselves. ... That is savings that we can pass on to our customers."

Owned by Electric Cooperatives, TPI was created to provide solar facilities to Arkansas’ electric cooperatives that could otherwise not utilize federal tax incentives.

TPI has constructed solar arrays for 15 of the 17 electric cooperatives of Arkansas as well as cooperatives and cooperative organizations in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

DS&O Electric Cooperative, an electric utility located in Solomon with a service area extends from Junction City to McPherson and from Glasco to Lost Springs. DS&O will operate a solar farm near McPherson.

The Butler Electric Cooperative will operate two locations in the region — one near El Dorado and the other near Newton.

Butler Electric Cooperative is owned by its members and governed by a board of directors elected from the membership by the members. The cooperative supplies electric power to 7,000 meters in Butler, Chase, Cowley, Greenwood, Harvey, Marion and Sedgwick counties.

Construction schedules have not yet been announced for the projects. Projects are in the engineering process and construction will take place in phases beginning in 2021 and running to 2022.

"We anticipate construction of approximately in March of 2021. We have not seen construction schedules yet, and I am unsure of the timeline," Madden said.