Solar panels bring renewable energy to South Hutchinson

Westar Energy celebrates the completion of their community solar field in South Hutchinson. (Carly Willis/KSN news)

SOUTH HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – A low hum is audible amidst 4,000 solar panels at Westar Energy’s community solar field in South Hutchinson. The hum is the sound of the panels turning to face the sun.

Hormel Natural Choice sponsors the field of solar panels but they are simultaneously benefiting from the renewable energy the panels put off.

“Really, it comes down to that our customers have demanded clean energy, clean products and our Natural Choice has always been a clean product and it’s giving us a chance to bring clean energy into that,” Joe Peine, plant manager at Dold foods said.

Westar Energy says the field, which is the biggest community solar field in Kansas, puts Kansas atop California on the amount of renewable energy sources used.

Peine’s plant uses 20 percent of the energy produced in the solar field. Energy from the panels go into the Westar grid which can then be redirected to Dold Foods’ power sources.

“It’s always nice to be able to use local. Locally grown, locally sourced and in this case, it’s locally grown powers so that’s always a good thing. But also being a renewable energy source in that you know you’re not hurting the environment, you’re utilizing your environment to help you continue your process,” Peine said.

Westar reps say 90 percent of the field is spoken for by 450 customers, leaving 10 percent open for people who want to utilize energy in their homes. More information is available here.

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