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Checking in on Farmington solar farm
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Checking in on Farmington solar farm

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It’s been more than two years since Farmington cut the ribbon on MC Power’s solar farm west of town, when then-IDA President Chip Peterson lauded steps the city was taking to bring in renewable energy sources.

“Change doesn’t necessarily bring about progress, but progress inherently requires change,” Peterson said Oct. 11, 2017, with representatives from the city, Farmington IDA, MC Power Companies, Missouri Public Utilities Alliance, and financer Gardner Capital Inc. on hand at the 20 acres of land off Korber Road near Route H.

And indeed, the 9,000-some panels do seem to be generating power at predicted levels, according to City Administrator Greg Beavers. Of course, the rate was also predicted to drop during winter months like these, when daylight hours are shorter and skies are a bit grayer.

“The generation curve for the facility is based on the available daylight hours for generation, so less daylight necessarily translates into lower overall production,” Beavers said. “The peak hours of generation are between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.”

A dashboard on the solar farm’s energy output can be found on the city’s website.

The $4 million project was partially funded through renewable energy tax credits. The energy pool on which Farmington relies, Missouri Public Energy Pool (MoPEP), wanted to include additional solar energy in its portfolio, so it entered a power purchase agreement with MC Power Companies to develop several 3.2 megawatt (MW) solar energy projects within the service area of MoPEP member cities, Beavers said.

“We agreed to have one of the solar projects in Farmington,” Beavers said, but “the project is owned and maintained by MC Power. Farmington has no obligation for current or future maintenance of the facility.”

Beavers said MoPEP has similar power purchase agreements for additional renewable energy.

“MoPEP’s renewable energy within its power portfolio includes 5 MW from the Rock Port Wind facility, 5.6 MW from the Lamar Landfill methane plant, 35.2 MW from MC Power solar, 20 MW from Mid-Kansas Wind, 3.8 MW from the Black Oak Landfill methane plant, and 60 MW from the Ironstar Wind project,” Beavers said. “Farmington’s pro-rata share of the renewable resources is 8.79% of the capacity, or 11.4 MW.”

To put that in perspective, each megawatt produced by Missouri’s solar efforts can power an average of 110 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. At the time of the ribbon cutting, Beavers noted the farm would generate about one-third of the energy needed in the industrial park.

“MoPEP is currently evaluating other wind and solar opportunities where energy cost savings might be realized,” Beavers said. “Renewable energy is more expensive than some other resources, so the all-in cost of energy and transmission must be evaluated before any additional resources are purchased.

“Additionally, wind and solar do not generate consistently with the customer demand, so there are limits on how much of those resources can be included in the resource mix.”

Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at shaas@dailyjournalonline.com.

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