Solar installations continue to grow in Southeast Kansas

June 18, 2014

Just as the world looks to renewable sources of energy to provide more power, Southeast Kansas residents are installing more solar panels to provide the power they need every day.
Like nearly all electric utilities in Kansas, Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative is eager to work with members who are installing solar panels or wind turbines.
Consulting with co-op staff is critical in properly sizing an array, and to make sure that the required safety measures are followed. An improperly installed wind turbine or solar panel can create backfeed, potentially endangering Heartland linemen working on the system.

Heartland’s policy also requires co-op staff to inspect and approve any wind or solar generation before it can be connected to the co-op’s grid.

The latest array to go up on Heartland’s system is also the largest. Ken and Susan Fuhrman have recently installed a 56-panel solar system, capable of putting out a maximum of just over 13,000 watts in full direct sunlight. System installer Hugh Wentz of Wentz Energy says the Fuhrmans can expect 4.73 full sunlight hours in this part of Kansas, making the system between 15 and 19 percent efficient.

“An installation like this has an eight or nine year payoff,” said Wentz.
A recent report from the Solar Energy Industries Association says “common residential system prices ranged from less than $3 a watt to just above $7 a watt in 2013.
The Fuhrman’s system uses state-of-the-art microinverters to convert the voltage, and live monitoring of each panel’s output makes it easy to keep track of just how each part of the system is working.
The Fuhrmans use a super-efficient geothermal heat pump to heat and cool their home, making the most of their kilowatt hours.

“We’ve done everything we can to the house to make it efficient,” said Ken.

The Furhman’s are taking advantage of Heartland’s net metering policy, which credits the family for excess power generated by the panel.

Most of the time, the solar panels will generate only a portion of the power being used by the family. The solar panels provide what they can, and Heartland provides the rest.

But when the solar panels are generating a lot of power, and the Fuhrmans aren’t using it all, the excess solar power flows backwards through the electric meter, onto the co-op’s system for other members to use. A sophisticated electric meter measures the power flow in both directions, essentially “banking” the excess power to be credited to the Furhmans later in the month when they need more power than their solar array can generate.

In this way, Heartland serves as a kind of “battery” for the Fuhrmans, making it possible for them to “store” power for later use, and avoid the costly investment in a battery system.

This convenience, along with a 30 percent federal tax credit, has kept the solar industry growing rapidly in recent years. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, photovoltaic (PV) installations continued to proliferate in 2013, increasing 41% over 2012 to reach 4,751 megawatts (MW). In addition, 410 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) came online. Solar was the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S., exceeded only by natural gas. Additionally, the cost to install solar fell throughout the year, ending the year 15% below the mark set at the end of 2012.

At the end of 2013 there were more than 440,000 operating solar electric systems in the U.S. totaling over 12,000 MW of PV and 918 MW of CSP.
For more information on installing a wind or solar system, visit our web site at for forms and options.