Westar Energy is inviting Kansas schools, non-profit organizations and government agencies to submit proposals for solar projects and, for selected projects, the utility will partner with them by providing funds to purchase and install the solar panels.
“Solar technology is improving, and with time it could become a cost effective energy source for customers,” Mark Ruelle, Westar Energy CEO, said. “We’re installing solar on some of our own buildings and looking for opportunities to work with others to install solar panels. Through these projects we can assist some local organizations with their energy needs, and we and our customers can learn more about how solar panels perform under Kansas conditions and with these applications, and use that knowledge to make good decisions about how we might best produce electricity in the future.”
Target projects for the program will be 10 to 30 kilowatts and must provide electricity to a facility in Kansas. Westar expects to provide funding for purchase and installation of about 15 to 20 solar systems. Projects will be selected based on the opportunity to provide education about solar energy, the characteristics of the site, the organization’s readiness to have the solar panels installed and geographic diversity. This program is in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Full program details and the application are available at www.WestarEnergy.com/solarproject. Applications are due by March 1, 2014.
A solar installation at Flint Hills Technical College in Emporia was the first to be awarded funding from Westar. Three solar arrays will provide electricity to the Jones Education Center, 1702 Graphic Arts Rd. One will be mounted on the roof and two on the ground. One array will be adjustable allowing students to manipulate the panels seasonally, compare generation outputs and improve efficiency.
In 2012 Westar installed a wind turbine at this model center as part of the Wind for Schools program. Geothermal wells are also installed at the facility.
In addition to the community projects, Westar is installing solar systems on several of its own buildings to study the performance of solar panels in this area. Westar is fitting its service centers in Manhattan and Lawrence with 40 kW solar arrays, and installing a 75 kW solar system on the roof of its Shawnee Service Center. Westar will share data gathered from the installations with customers to help them make informed choices regarding solar energy.