Evergy to Build Solar Array at Kansas City Coal Power Plant Site

Evergy, a Kansas City, Missouri–headquartered energy provider serving about 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri, announced plans on Jan. 5 to build a 10-MW solar array at the company’s Hawthorn power plant.

“Our Hawthorn power plant is a prime location to showcase Kansas City’s commitment to renewable energy and our city’s forward-thinking progress,” said Chuck Caisley, Evergy senior vice president and chief customer officer. “Bringing this renewable energy to Hawthorn will limit the expense by using infrastructure already in place.”

The Hawthorn Generating Station is located in northeast Kansas City, Missouri, and includes a 564-MW coal-fired unit known as Unit 5 and a 225-MW natural gas-fired combined cycle unit known as Unit 6&9. Hawthorn 5 was built in 1969, but after an explosion in February 1999 destroyed the power plant boiler, the unit was substantially rebuilt and returned to service in 2001.

Evergy plans to build the solar array on 67 acres to the northwest of the plant. The site is expected to include more than 22,000 solar panels and be operational in fall 2022. The new solar array is part of Evergy’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2045. Those plans include adding 500 MW of renewable energy in the next two years and nearly 4,000 MW in the next 10 years.

Evergy, which formed in 2018 when Kansas City Power and Light Co. (KCP&L) and Westar Energy merged, has historically relied on fossil fuels for the majority of its power supply. In 2010, 52% of its generation was fired by coal and 38% was fueled by natural gas and oil. However, the company is transitioning to cleaner sources of power. Evergy reported in its latest Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), issued in 2021, that coal had declined to 40%, and natural gas and oil had decreased to 26%, while wind had grown to 27% of the company’s capacity mix in 2020. Those trends are expected to continue as Evergy strives to be carbon-neutral by 2045.

The company’s IRP projects 350 MW of solar capacity will be added each year in 2023 and 2024. It also shows 500 MW of wind capacity being added each year in 2025 and 2026. The most significant generation reduction in the near-term is the planned retirement of the remaining units at the Lawrence Energy Center—Units 4 and 5, totaling 484 MW—in late 2023. Several additional coal unit retirements are slated to occur by 2040. They are:

  • Lake Road Unit 4/6 (97 MW) in late 2024.
  • Jeffrey Unit 3 (669 MW) in 2030.
  • La Cygne Unit 1 (746 MW) in 2032.
  • La Cygne Unit 2 (662 MW), Jeffrey Units 1 and 2 (1,335 MW), and Iatan Unit 1 (616 MW) in 2039.

Notably, Hawthorn Unit 5 is not included on the retirement list provided in Evergy’s 2021 IRP.

Half of the energy produced by the new solar array being constructed at the Hawthorn site will be available to customers who enroll in Evergy’s “Solar Subscription Program,” to which the company said nearly 1,200 customers have already subscribed. The remaining 5 MW fulfill state of Missouri requirements that direct large electric utilities to invest in utility-scale solar facilities located in Missouri or adjacent states.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).

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