Is Solar Energy Used In Kansas?

Is solar energy used in Kansas?

Solar energy is an increasingly viable source of renewable energy in Kansas. While solar energy accounts for a small percentage of the state’s electricity generation currently, Kansas has significant solar resources and potential for growth. Favorable state policies, declining costs, and improving technology are driving more widespread adoption of solar on homes, businesses, and utilities in Kansas.

The main thesis is that solar energy is growing and holds promise in Kansas, even though it has lagged behind leading solar states so far. This content will explore the current use of solar in Kansas as well as the future potential, examining key factors like state policies, major projects, jobs and economics.

Current Use of Solar in Kansas

As of 2021, Kansas had around 269 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity, ranking it 32nd in the nation for solar deployment according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) (1). While solar currently makes up a small portion of the state’s energy mix, there has been significant growth in recent years. In 2016, Kansas had just 13 MW of solar capacity. By 2020, installed capacity had jumped to around 200 MW. And in 2021 alone, Kansas added over 60 MW of new solar. The leading solar company in the state is Tradewind Energy, which has developed multiple large-scale projects.

Solar Potential in Kansas

Kansas has excellent solar resources and high solar potential throughout the state. According to the Kansas Solar Radiation Map published by the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), average solar radiation levels range from 4.5 to 5.5 kWh/m2/day across the state. This indicates Kansas receives abundant sunshine to generate solar power (Kansas Solar Radiation Map). The highest solar potential is in the western half of Kansas. Data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also shows Kansas has high photovoltaic solar potential with average insolation of 4.5 to 7.0 kWh/m2/day (NREL Solar Maps). With ample solar resources across the state, Kansas has significant untapped potential to generate solar energy.

Policies and Incentives

Kansas has implemented some policies and incentives to encourage solar energy adoption in the state. Some key programs include:

Renewable Portfolio Standard – Kansas set a voluntary goal that 20% of electricity generation come from renewables by 2020 (Kansas Corporation Commission). While not a binding target, it signals support for renewable growth.

Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit – Kansas offers a tax credit worth 10% of the eligible capital investment in a renewable energy resource, applicable to wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar systems (Solar Reviews).

Property Tax Exemption – Kansas exempts 80% of the appraised property tax value for commercial and industrial solar energy systems, providing savings on local taxes (EcoWatch).

These incentives make solar more affordable for Kansas homeowners, businesses, and utilities. However, advocates note that more robust policies would further accelerate solar energy growth in the state.

Major Solar Installations

Kansas has seen significant growth in large, utility-scale solar projects in recent years. Some of the major solar installations in the state include:

The Flat Ridge 2 Solar Energy Project, located in Wabaunsee County, is one of the largest solar farms in the Midwest. Developed by Enel Green Power North America, the project has a capacity of 236 megawatts across approximately 1,100 acres. It came online in 2015 and provides enough electricity to power over 28,000 homes.

The Iron Star Solar Project, located in Labette County, has a capacity of 200 megawatts. It was developed by EDF Renewables and entered service in 2020. The project generates enough electricity to power over 27,000 homes.

The Soldier Creek Wind Farm, located in Nemaha County, integrated a 20 megawatt solar energy system alongside an existing wind farm. Developed by Enel Green Power, it was the first integrated wind and solar hybrid project in the state when completed in 2018.

These and other large-scale solar installations are helping Kansas diversify its energy portfolio and tap into its abundant solar resource potential.

Residential Solar

Residential solar adoption in Kansas has been increasing steadily in recent years. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), there were over 15,500 solar installations in Kansas as of Q2 2022, totalling over 175 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity. This represents a 34% increase in installed residential solar capacity compared to Q2 2021 1.

However, Kansas still lags behind many other states in residential solar adoption. As of 2021, Kansas ranked 27th nationally for installed residential solar capacity per capita, with 60 watts per person. Leading solar states like California and Arizona have over 5 times more residential solar capacity per person 2.

There is significant potential for further growth in the Kansas residential solar market. One factor driving growth is declining solar installation costs. The average cost to install residential solar in Kansas has dropped by over 40% in the last decade, making solar more affordable for homeowners. Additionally, supportive state policies like net metering, along with federal tax credits, help improve the economics of going solar.

Commercial Solar

Many commercial businesses and industrial facilities in Kansas are adopting solar energy. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), one of the largest solar installations in the state is the 7.7 MW City of Pratt Solar project in Pratt, which was completed by Innovaetus in 2019.1 This solar project provides enough electricity to power over 1,000 homes annually.

There are solar companies in Kansas focused on providing commercial and industrial solar power systems, such as SunSmart Solar in Kansas City. They offer financing options to help businesses of all sizes go solar, from small businesses to large industrial facilities. The benefits of commercial solar include lower and more predictable electricity costs, improved sustainability, and positive brand image.

Community Solar

Community solar allows utility customers to share the benefits of solar power even if they can’t install panels on their own property. Kansas has several notable community solar projects:

Midwest Energy offers the first community solar program in Kansas at their Community Solar Array in Colby. This 1 MW project has over 3,000 panels and Midwest Energy customers can subscribe to portions of the output.

The BPU Community Solar Farm in Pittsburg is a 1.2 MW installation that came online in 2018. BPU customers can subscribe to portions of the solar farm’s output through the SolarBlocks program.

These community solar projects allow Kansas utility customers to access solar energy without installing rooftop panels. By subscribing to a portion of a larger solar array, customers can offset their electricity use with clean solar power.

Solar Jobs and Economic Impact

The solar industry is a major source of jobs and revenue in Kansas. According to Indeed, there are currently over 100 open solar energy jobs in the state including positions for sales representatives, laborers, engineers and more. Another report from Indeed shows there are 98 total solar jobs in Kansas as of February 2023.

Specifically in Kansas City, there are 179 open solar energy positions listed on Indeed with high salaries, covering solar installers, electricians, sales reps and other roles. Clearly the solar industry is creating abundant employment opportunities for Kansas residents.

In addition to direct solar jobs, the industry stimulates economic growth through solar manufacturing facilities, supply chain vendors, and increased local spending. A 2016 study found Kansas’ solar industry employed 1,814 people and generated $213 million in direct economic impact. Solar is an important and growing part of the Kansas economy.

Future Outlook

The future for solar energy in Kansas looks bright. According to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association, Kansas is projected to install over 10,000 megawatts of solar capacity by 2030, a 35x increase over current capacity [1]. Several major projects are planned that will contribute to this growth.

The largest planned project is the Neosho Ridge Solar project being developed by NextEra Energy. Located in Neosho County, it will have a capacity of 800 megawatts when completed in 2024 [2]. Several other 300+ megawatt facilities are also planned in the next few years.

With declining solar costs and increased demand for renewable energy, analysts expect the solar boom in Kansas to continue. The state’s abundant solar resource and open spaces make it an ideal location for large-scale solar. As long as supportive policies remain in place, Kansas is poised to be a major solar energy producer.

Similar Posts