Missouri utility to sign PV power deal with Strata Solar

City Utilities, based in Springfield, Missouri, has announced that it is close to striking a deal to purchase solar power from the state’s largest solar energy farm – a 5 MW plant from Strata Solar that is due to open in Spring 2014.

The 40 acre site is located in eastern Greene County, close to City Utilities’ McCartney natural gas turbine between Springfield and Strafford.

"I think this is exciting for us," said Cara Shaefer, City Utilities’ director of energy management and conservation. "This is exciting for all of our customers too, to be part of this ground-breaking initiative where we’re going to have the largest solar power system in the state of Missouri."

The farm will be owned, maintained and operated by Strata Solar, and will produce enough energy to power approximately 875 homes. The land on which the farm sits, however, is owned by City Utilities, with Strata Solar leasing it off them in return for a 25-year contract to purchase the solar energy.

"The capital part is the biggest part of it, so allowing another company to own and maintain this system and just for us to buy the power makes it more attractive," added Shaefer.

The former city councilman of Springfield, Dan Chiles, expressed his pride in this venture. "I think the financial arrangements look really pleasing, because it’s not a capital cost to the rate players," said the Sierra Club activist. "That capital cost is born by investors, and the reason you’re seeing that is because investors have come to their senses now.

"They’re looking at the declining cost of solar and they realize: ‘Oh my gosh. This makes financial sense’. It’s just as good as an investment on Wall Street."

The power provided by the solar farm will be added to City Utilities’s distribution system and could be used to provide power during peak demand, which for Missouri is hot summer afternoons. ??Once completed, the solar farm will generate 9.6 kWh per year.