A division of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is proposing to build a solar energy facility covering more than a square mile just north of Lawrence, near Midland Junction. The “Kansas Sky Energy Center” would supply electrical power to local utility Evergy Inc., which would ultimately own the facility.
Savion LLC, based in Kansas City, said it has acquired more than 1,100 acres of land — currently used as farmland — on which to build the giant solar array. It said the solar collection equipment would cover as much as 734 acres of the land.
The company did not disclose any financial details or announce the timing of the proposed project. A company official declined to answer questions unless they were submitted by email and referred a reporter to the press release on the project’s website.
Savion said it plans to hold a public information meeting about the project at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Sunflower Cafe, on the second floor of 804 Massachusetts St.
“We are excited to be working in partnership with county officials, community stakeholders and landowners to bring community residents the opportunity to host a clean, environmentally compatible, renewable energy generation installation,” Savion said in its statement.
The location of the proposed project is just over the Kansas River from Lawrence, about a half-mile west of Lawrence Regional Airport.
A plan from Savion included this map of the proposed project area:
Evergy’s coal-fired Lawrence Energy Center electrical plant is nearby, just south of the river. Evergy had promised a couple years ago to close the Lawrence electrical plant by the end of this year and replace it with solar generation, but reversed that plan a few months later and said it would convert the plant to run occasionally on natural gas.
At the time, Evergy said it hoped to invest to build 190 megawatts per year of solar power production, down from its original plan to build as much of 700 megawatts of solar facilities by 2024. The proposed Kansas Sky Energy Center would generate 159 megawatts of electricity per year.
According to Douglas County land records, the property where the solar plant is proposed has been largely owned by two trusts and a management company. It is not immediately clear if Savion has already purchased the land or simply has agreements in place to do so, subject to regulatory approval of the proposed plant.
According to its website, Savion has built more than 160 projects in 33 states, accounting for 36.5 gigawatts of power generation and storage. A map on the website indicates that the proposed Lawrence facility would be Savion’s first project in Kansas. Founded in 2019, the company was acquired last year by Royal Dutch Shell, which like other major energy companies is trying to diversify away from fossil fuel.
“Savion is actively developing utility-scale, greenfield solar photovoltaic power projects across the country for utilities seeking renewable and cost-effective energy, as well as commercial and industrial organizations committed to sustainable energy goals,” the company says on its website. “… We oversee every aspect of solar project development and work closely with landowners and host communities.”
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Mark Potts (he/him) is a former reporter and editor for the Associated Press, San Francisco Examiner, Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post.