The state of Kansas has installed over 115 MW of solar capacity to date, enough to power roughly 16,000 homes, said the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). While Kansas only sources a quarter of a percent of its electricity from solar, it gets nearly half of its generation from wind power.
Over the next five years, however, Kansas is expected to add more than 10 times the cumulative solar installed today. SEIA projects 1.6 GW of solar will be added in that short period. This compares with the roughly 8 GW of wind installed today.
Over $216 million of investment in solar has taken place in Kansas, and that number is sure to grow considerably if the state meets SEIA’s 1.6 GW projection. Nearly 1,000 of its residents are employed in the solar industry, and six manufacturers have opened up shop in Kansas.
For homeowners shopping for solar in Kansas, there are a few incentives and programs that can make it an attractive investment. First, all residential solar installations in the U.S. qualify for the 30% investment tax credit, eligible for all final installed system costs.
Kansas also offers net metering for residential solar owners. Net metering involves the utility crediting a customer on their utility bill for sending excess solar production to the grid. In Kansas, net metering is offered at a wholesale rate, meaning that exported electricity is credited at about 2.1 cents per kWh, said SolarReviews. This compares with a retail rate of 11.3 cents per kWh for the retail rate of power. Because Kansas residents lose value with exported power, battery energy storage is recommended to capture solar production. The other option is to size a system smaller so that homeowners do not lose value from overproduction.
Solar is also property tax exempt in Kansas. Zillow estimates a purchased solar array can increase home value by 4%, but that increase in property value will not be taxed.
Residents of rural areas in Kansas may be interested in the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants. Available to agricultural producers with at least 50% of their gross income coming from agricultural operations, and small businesses in eligible rural areas with populations less than 50,000, the program funds various renewable energy technologies, including solar.
The REAP program offers loan guarantees on loans up to 75 % of total eligible project costs, grants for up to 40% of total eligible project costs, and combined grant and loan guarantee funding up to 75% of total eligible project costs. REAP loans approved in Fiscal Year 2023 will receive an 80% loan guarantee. Grants are capped at $1 million for renewable energy and $500,000 for energy efficiency.
Kansas is home to Senator Mike Thompson, who has taken a strong stance against the development of clean energy in his state. In February 2022, Thompson introduced laws that would require solar and wind facilities to be built only on lands zoned for industrial use. About half the state’s 105 counties are rural and unzoned, so the bill could effectively freeze renewable energy growth in the state.
Thompson said the bill is not about slowing renewables, but about transparency. “All I’m trying to do is make it so that (wind and solar developers) have to file something so that neighbors can kind of see what’s going on and understand it,” Thompson said. “Because obviously if you have a 500 or 600-foot turbine that’s going to be placed on your neighbor’s property but it’s 1,500 feet away from your house, which was happening quite a bit, there are health and safety concerns that you want a say over.”
Industry advocates say the bill is an example of government overreach, forcing zoning upon counties that have chosen not to be zoned.
More recently, Sen. Thompson introduced Senate Bill 86, which would force politicians to resign if they are found to have family or financial ties to a solar or wind project of 500 kW or greater in size.
“In some cases,” said Thompson, “it was a family member of the official that had signed the lease, and influence peddling was involved. Think Hunter Biden. We expect government officials to act in the best interest of their constituents, placing personal benefit aside when making important decisions. Even the appearance of impropriety undermines the public trust.”
Major retailer IKEA installed a 730 kW rooftop solar array in Kansas in 2015, marking the largest rooftop installation in the state at that time. The 92,000 square foot array consists of 2,394 panels, producing just under 1 million kWh each year.
For the development, design and installation of the Kansas City-area store’s customized solar power system, IKEA contracted with Chicago-based SoCore Energy a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortune 500 company Edison International.
The project marked that 41st for IKEA in the United States. The retailer has shown a strong commitment to solar adoption, and in 2022 announced it will offer SunPower solar installation packages to customers in select California stores, with potential to expand to other states.
Last time, pv magazine USA took a dive into the solar incentives in Montana, and next we will travel to Idaho to review the state of solar.
To read the ongoing series on 50 states of solar incentives, click here.
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