Iola officials considering solar energy partnership, other energy generation options

Westar energy proposes solar farm partnership
Iola officials considering solar energy partnership, other energy generation options
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Sid Fleming, Iola City Administrator:”We have an electric utility for the city of Iola. We purchase our power and then we distribute it to our customers.”

For the last couple of years, the city of iola has been looking for a way to increase their electric capacity — in other words, their ability to generate energy.

Fleming:”If we have capacity to cover our load, which includes our peak energy demands, that allows us to buy energy a little bit cheaper. Cause otherwise, we’re gonna buy energy plus capacity from somebody.”

Right now, the city’s peak load is 25 megawatts.. but their capacity is just short of covering that at 22 and a half megawatts.

Fleming:”We are looking at purchasing some used generators to help close that capacity gap for us. Another component of that would be a potential solar project.”

That project is a proposed partnership with Westar to build a 20-acre, four and a half megawatt solar farm in Iola west of the Russell Stover plant– which would add both energy and capacity.

If the city decides to move forward with the solar project they would have to pay Westar for the energy for the first seven years. After that, they would have the option of buying the solar farm outright for between three and four million dollars.

Fleming:”So, if you look at the long term costs of that project, that makes that energy piece around 35 dollars a megawatt. When we’re looking down 30 years down the road, that energy price is gonna be favorable.”

Officials haven’t made any formal decisions yet, but hope the project will move forward saying it would eventually make the city even less dependent on other energy sources.

Jonathan Wells, Iola Mayor:”The ideas is if you can lock in a rate for 30 years to your customers, which is the citizens of Iola, the businesses, that we hope to attract more citizens and more businesses by keeping our rates low and competitive.”

Officials don’t anticipate rates increasing regardless of the decision they make.

They will be discussing their options during the next few city council meetings — and hope to take some kind of action within the next two to six weeks.

Westar Eenergy sent us a statement, which says — “We work hard to create energy efficient solutions for our customers, renewable energy sources for our state and projects that better each of our communities. Currently, we’re discussing options of additional solar throughout the state”.

Westar also stressed over the phone that no agreement has been signed, so particulars of the project aren’t set in stone.