solar power

Flickr: MG Green creative commons

Solar panel users in Kansas continue to pay higher electricity bills as they wait for utility company Evergy to keep a promise made during this year’s legislative session to remove a recently added fee.

Evergy says it will follow through on the promise by the end of May. But state regulators ultimately hold the power to decide whether or not to approve the request to change some solar customers’ rates.

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

A large ground-based solar array system being built at Maize High School is nearly complete, and will soon join the power grid.

Kansas News Service/File photo

Westar has reached an agreement with staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission and several other interested parties that would reduce Westar’s annual revenue by $66 million.

For the average residential customer, that will mean a decrease of about $3.50 a month.

Westar's original request was for a $52 million increase.

Michael Mazengarb / flickr Creative Commons

Solar energy advocates protested Westar Energy’s latest rate proposal Thursday and are lobbying state regulators to deny it.

The proposal would create a separate billing class for people who install solar panels on their homes. The change could effectively increase a typical solar user’s bill by as much as 50 percent.

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

A Maize High School teacher is working on a plan to use solar energy to help power the school.

Physics teacher Stan Bergkamp received approval from the USD 266 Board of Education to raise money for a rooftop array of 740 solar panels — a 240 kW system.

He says as soon as the system is up and running, the savings will be immediate. The panels are expected to save about $3,000 a month, or $36,000 a year, in electricity costs. The district currently pays about $30,000 a month for electricity at Maize High School.

Dave Dugdale, flickr Creative Commons

If you’ve got solar panels on your roof, Westar Energy wants to create a surcharge on your power bill.

The utility insists that if it doesn’t charge you extra, all of its other customers will get stuck with the tab of being ready with electricity when the sun lets you down.

Stephen Koranda

Supporters of solar energy and the electricity utility Westar Energy are sparring over a proposal that would increase costs for customers with solar panels. Kansas regulators held a hearing on the plan last night in Topeka.

Deborah Shaar

Westar Energy is testing solar energy technology across the state through partnerships with schools, nonprofits and government agencies.

The company is fully funding 15 innovative solar projects out of about 100 proposals submitted.

KMUW’s Deborah Shaar has a progress report on the three projects selected in Wichita.

Visitors to the Amphibian and Reptile Building at the Sedgwick County Zoo are searching for turtles, snakes and lizards in the glass aquariums built into the walls.

Some are small spaces, some large. Some have water and others just greenery.

A technical college in Kansas is taking another step toward energy self-sufficiency with the installation of solar panels.

The panels are being put in place this week at Flint Hills Technical College.

The school’s Emporia campus also has a half-dozen geothermal wells, and a turbine to generate wind energy.

Flint Hills moved a few years ago into a new building designed by architecture students from Kansas State University in order to be energy-efficient. The technical college is enrolled in Westar Energy’s solar program, which helped fund the solar panels.

Some customers using Midwest Energy will soon be able to use solar energy without having to install their own solar panels.

Midwest Energy, which is based in Hays, says it has signed an agreement with Clean Energy Collective of Colorado to build a 1-megawatt "solar garden."

The project will have about 4,000 solar panels spread across six acres.

Midwest Energy spokesman Mike Morley says customers will contract with Clean Energy Collective to buy the panels, and then get credit on their bills equal to how much energy their panels create.