Solar farms growing in electric co-op territories

Spoon River Solar Farm IMG_1646Two generation and transmission cooperatives ­serving distribution ­cooperatives in Illinois are adding solar farms to their generation portfolios. Prairie Power, Inc. ­dedicated two 500 kW solar farms in October, and Hoosier Energy had an open house at a 1-megawatt solar farm in September.

The Hoosier Energy solar farm is the second of 10 solar farms that the G&T cooperative is installing to benefit its 18 members in Indiana and Illinois. The solar farm covers about 10 acres and consists of 4,420 solar panels. Officials at Hoosier Energy say it is part of their “all-of-the-above” energy portfolio strategy. It also ­represents an opportunity to learn how this variable energy resource integrates with the grid and members’ demand cycle for energy.

Prairie Power, Inc. (PPI) completed two solar farms that combined will have a total output of 1-megawatt. Each was built on about five acres, one in the territory served by Shelby Electric Cooperative and the other at Spoon River Electric Cooperative. The solar energy will benefit all ten distribution ­cooperative owners of Prairie Power.

Dan Breden, PPI Interim President and CEO, says “Managing a power supply portfolio is similar to ­managing one’s personal investments, and diversity is essential. Solar and other forms of renewable energy will ­provide ­additional diversity in our power ­supply portfolio, which has the potential to reduce risks and costs over the long term.”

The Spoon River Solar Farm also has a unique “farm-based” learning center. Bill Dodds, the Manager at Spoon River Electric Cooperative in Canton, had the vision to engage young people through the schools in ­learning about renewable energy. He worked with Tracy and Scott Snowman, two prominent artists and ­designers from Canton, and they brought the vision to life in the form of the Learning Center that is designed for ages 5 and up.