IPL withdraws proposal for three more community solar farms

UPDATE: The community solar RFP was retracted on June 25.

Independence Power and Light (IPL) is considering adding another three community solar farms in an aggressive expansion to increase renewable energy through solar.

The plans are outlined in a Request for Proposal (RFP) which the city issued in May with a potential City Council decision in mid-July.

The RFP follows a resolution adopted by the City Council in April "to advertise a request for proposals for projects supporting energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources."

The RPF outlines plans for two community solar farms within the city limits and participation in a third "off-system" community solar farm.

The RFP asks bidders to construct an 8 megwatt community farm on top of the closed coal ash ponds located at the IPL Blue Valley power plant on Truman Road and another 3 to 10 megawatt community solar farm elsewhere within the city. No size for the "off-system" solar farm is specified.

With the three additional projects, IPL would potential buy solar power from more community solar farms than any other Missouri utility with a combined solar generating capacity of more than 20 megawatts.

IPL has 56,000 customers. Ameren, the state's largest electric utility, serving over 1.2 million Missouri electric customers and has a 5.7 megawatt solar farm in O'Fallon, Mo. 

The push for additional community solar farms occurs before the city has received a long-awaited master energy plan which will outline various alternatives to generate energy over the next 20 to 25 years. The study is being done by Kansas City-based Burns and McDonnell - a major engineering company with an international energy practice.

Burns and McDonnell will assist in evaluating the community solar bids which are due June 22.

everal utility companies - Kansas City Power, Ameren and Light and City Utilities of Springfield (MO) have made major commitments to wind power.

Springfield, a municipal utility, in March agreed to a major wind purchase adding 100 megawatts from a Salina, KS wind project. KCPL announced a major purchase of Kansas wind power in February and the recent completion of a 300 megawatt Rock Creek Wind Farm in Atchison County, MO. Ameren this spring announced plans to build wind turbines in northeast Missouri.

The advocacy group RenewMissouri summarize the potential of wind power in a report Opportunity Blowing By: Ameren Missouri Should Take Advantage of Low-Cost Wind.

The well-regarded Lazard Levelized Cost of Energy Study shows that in 2017 wind was less expensive than community solar though the costs of both wind and utility-scale solar have been declining.

IPL currently has committed to two community solar farms - both constructed by the Lee's Summit-based MC Power. The first community solar farm is located on Bundschu Road opposite Indian Trails Elementary School.

The second community solar, nearing completion, is located on the former Rockwood golf course.

The city acquired the 94.6-acre former golf course for $985,000. The city's cost will be offset by a $500,000 30-year upfront lease payment by MC Power which will install solar panels on the southern portion of the property to generate an additional 4.5 megawatts of solar power.

The Independence City Council, earlier this year, adopted a resolution to become the Greenest City in America."

Currently IPL's base power is provided through longterm purchase power agreements with two coal-fired plants - 57 megawatts from Nebraska City and 52 megawatts from Iatan. Those contracts expired in 2049 and 2050 respectively.