Independence Power and Light begins construction on its first-ever solar panel farm

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Work will begin on one of the largest solar panel farms in Missouri on Wednesday, and once it's up and running, Independence residents will be able to use it but at a cost.

Independence Power and Light broke ground on Wednesday for its first-ever solar panel farm.

Independence Power and Light broke ground on Wednesday for its first-ever solar panel farm.

Solar panel farms are good for the environment because utility companies such as Independence Power and Light can burn fewer fossil fuels when generating electricity for their customers.

"We as utilities are finding ways, innovative ways, to incorporate renewables and other resources into what we referred to as the energy cloud," Andrew Boatright said, Independence Power and Light's department  director. "But this is all for the purpose of trying to ultimately save money in the cost of generating electricity.

Independence Power and Light will build the solar panel farm on 15 acres of land in northwest Independence – right off Bundschu Road.

" As coal plants are retired, as natural gas becomes more the fuel of choice, for electric generation, we see that the cost of electricity is going to go up and this is a way to mitigate rising costs," Boatright said.

The city of Independence won’t own the solar panels. They’ll lease them and connect them to electric lines to bring the power into the city’s electric grid.

The hope is to have the system operational by the end of this year.

If Independence customers want to use this solar energy, it will cost them an extra $2-dollars a month – to help pay for leasing the panels. The advantage is that the extra cost will be frozen for the next 25-years. So if fuel costs rise and electric bills go up, those using solar will see lower price hikes.

"The thing about solar is the fuel is free," Boatright said. "There are some disadvantages to solar. As you can see we have a 40 acre lot here of which we’re going to cover about one-third of it, so it takes a lot of area to generate a fairly small amount of electricity and solar."

The new development is  Independence Power and Light’s first foray into solar energy, and only Independence residents can tap into it.

So far, more than 45 businesses and residents have signed up.

If you want to learn more about signing up for solar power through Independence Power and Light click here.