BP backs 20 MW solar project in Kansas

If you thought BP was just dipping its toes into the U.S. solar market when it purchased Lighthouse Power in December, it appears they are not – and they are backing a project in Kansas as a potential jumping off point.

Under a 25-year power-purchase agreement with the Mid-Kansas Electric Company, which is comprised of six electrical cooperatives in the state, the newly formed Lighthouse BP company will build a 20 MW solar farm which, when completed, will be the largest solar farm in The Sunflower State.

Lighthouse BP will build, own and operate the project, with construction expected to begin in early 2019. It will also provide the project financing.

“Harnessing the power of the sun is not a new concept, but the economics are what have changed,”said Steve Epperson, Mid-Kansas Chairman of the Board. “The decreasing cost of photovoltaic technology, along with other industry dynamics, makes it the right time to bring solar energy into our generation mix.”

In addition to generating cost-effective on-peak energy and capacity, the solar facility will also reduce loading on a transmission line that is nearing full capacity, thus deferring or eliminating a costly upgrade requirement for the Mid-Kansas transmission system.

Lightsource BP says it is actively developing projects for cooperative, municipal and investor-owned utilities throughout the United States. The Kansas project has been collaboratively developed with the National Renewable Cooperative Organization (NRCO), which worked with its member-owner Mid-Kansas in structuring the Lightsource BP partnership.

In the past week, two new community solar plans were announced in neighboring Nebraska.

What makes these developments particularly interesting is that Plains States are far more well-known for their wind resources than solar, and while the wind industry has boomed here they have been much slower to build large solar.

But as the recent activity in Nebraska and Kansas show, that may soon be changing.