Construction of a new source for renewable energy is underway in one Parkland community.

The groundbreaking for the solar farm on property in the southern part of Farmington was held in October. Since that time, crews working for MC Power are busy installing around 9,000 panels on the 15 to 20 acres located off Korber Road.

The farm will generate about 3 megawatts against a peak load of about 50 megawatts for the city and will be 100 percent solar during a solar generating period – meaning when skies are not cloudy or at night.

Ewell Lawson, vice president of government affairs, communications and member relations for MPUA, explained the role of MPUA at the ground breaking.

“(MPUA) is an umbrella name for an organization that represents a number of entities and alliance of entities relating to municipal utilities,” he said. “One part of that leg of that stool is…MJMEUC – the Missouri Joint Municipal Electrical Utility Commission.”

Within MJMEUC are three power pools – with Farmington belonging to the oldest pool of the three.

The city of Farmington purchases energy through the MoPEP Energy Pool, which is a group of municipal electric utilities purchasing power collectively through their participation in the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC), a non-profit commission established in 1979.

There are 35 member cities in the MoPEP energy pool – which began operations in 2000 – and includes the following communities: Albany, Ava, Bethany, Butler, Carrollton, Chillicothe, El Dorado Springs, Farmington, Fayette, Fredericktown, Gallatin, Harrisonville, Hermann, Higginsville, Jackson, La Plata, Lamar, Lebanon, Macon, Marshall, Memphis, Monroe City, Odessa, Palmyra, Rock Port, Rolla, St. James, Salisbury, Shelbina, Stanberry, Thayer, Trenton, Unionville, Vandalia, and Waynesville.

During the groundbreaking, Lawson said solar farms bring a diversive portfolio to the table - providing strength to the pool, stability to their rates and bolstering long-term price stability.

“And, having a diversified portfolio with predictable costs and production protection for decades in the future is good for Farmington and every other city in the power pool,” Lawson said in October.

MoPEP agreed to purchase 16 megawatts of electricity from MC Power Company. And, the only way to get that power is to put these systems in communities that are MoPEP communities, Farmington City Administrator Greg Beavers explained earlier this week during a tour of the solar farm.

Farmington is the last of six solar farms in Missouri being completed, he said. As a part of the pool, the city has already paid for the solar power from the other solar farms.

Beavers gave an analogy of how the pool works.

“What happens is…all the energy bought by MoPEP energy pool is – I use the term, ‘socialized’ – all that cost is socialized,” he said. “We pay MoPEP energy pool for our prorated share of the energy we use.

“So, while we say the energy we’re reserving on the market by paying for it at the wholesale level – and putting it on the grid is our energy…we don’t know where it’s coming from.”

Beavers further explained the process by giving the example of a farmer harvesting corn and a grain elevator to show the energy is distributed through the pool.

“When the farmer gets ready to sell the corn, it’s not necessarily his corn he takes out of the elevator and sells…he put corn in,” he said. “The electric market is the same way. You put (electric energy) on the supply system.”

The solar farm is a little different, in that even though the cost of the electricity is billed to Missouri Public Energy Pool and then, in turned, billed to all the member cities, the city will actually be taking the energy off of the farm here in Farmington.

“To a lot of people (the solar farm) communicates or demonstrates a commitment to renewable energy (and) shows that we’re trying to be out front,” he said.

A new development by Engler Park will be the first “stop” for energy generated from the solar farm due to the location near the connect line – therefore, noting 100 percent of that energy for the development is from a renewable source.

The current plan is to commission the facility on, or about, Dec. 20 for testing.

“The system will not be fully commercial until we have installed the system protections required by AmerenUE to ensure that energy from the solar system does not feed back onto the AUE transmission system,” Beavers said. “The system analysis was completed by AUE and submitted to the City last week, which provided us with the requirements for the interconnect protection. We have forwarded that report to our engineering consultant to finalize the interconnect design, which will be sent back to AUE for review.

“Upon completion of their review, and availability of the required equipment, we will complete the interconnect and the solar system will be in full commercial operation. The best schedule anticipated for completion of those tasks is mid- to late-February 2018.”

Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or srobinson@farmingtonpressonline.com

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