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Newsletter - July, 2015

In this edition:

An important information from The Climate & Energy Project:

The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) will be hearing cases requesting increases to fixed charges for KCP&L and Westar. See below for an OVERVIEW, WESTAR and KCP&L specifics, and RESOURCES.

CEP will keep you informed of these rate cases across the state. To best serve you, please tell us who your electric utility is in this simple form.

FAQ about the Rate Cases
Check out this FAQ sheet.

How you can help:
1. Attend a Public Hearing
Westar Public Hearings are on July 21 and July 22 - more info. KCP&L hearings have concluded.

2. Offer comments at a Public Hearing
The KCC will hold public hearings to provide customers an opportunity to speak to the Commission about proposed rate increases. The public hearings will consist of brief presentations by each of the Parties and an opportunity for customers to make official comments before the Commission.

3. Submit public comments
The KCC will accept written comments from customers through June 16 for KCP&L customers and August 11 for Westar customers.

Important dates.
Westar customers:
July 21- Open House and Public Hearing
July 23 - Open House and Public Hearing
August 11 - Public comments are due
October 28 - KCC decision on Westar Docket

KCPL customers:
June 16 - Public comments due
September 10 - KCC decision on KCPL Docket

For Westar Customers (15-WSEE-115-RTS):
  1. Westar is proposing to increase residential rates by 12.1% or about $9 per month for the average residential customer.
  2. Additionally, Westar proposes to increase the monthly customer from $12 to $15 next year and additional $3 dollar increases yearly until the monthly customer charge reaches $27 in five years.
  3. Westar is proposing three different rate designs for residential customers.
  4. Customers with new solar panels will be forced to pay much higher rates.
Why: The primary driver is to recover the remaining costs of the $1.2 billion environmental upgrade at the La Cygne generation plant. Westar is also requesting cost recovery for expenditures at the Wolfcreek nuclear power plant as the plant life has been extended from 40 to 60 years. Westar is replacing its old residential meters with new digital meters.

Westar Public Hearings (more info)
July 21- 4:30 p.m. Open House and 6 p.m. Public Hearing
Topeka: Farley Elementary School, 6701 SW 33rd St., Topeka, KS 66614.
*Or open house and video conference hearing at these two sites:
Emporia: Flint Hills Technical College, Conference Rooms A, B & C, 3301 W. 18th St., Emporia, KS 66801-5957
Salina: Kansas State University, College Center, Conference Room #103, 2310 Centennial Road, Salina, KS 67401.
July 23 - 4:30 p.m. Open House and 6 p.m. Public Hearing
Wichita: Wichita State University, Lowe Auditorium, 5015 E. 29th St. N., Wichita, KS 67260
*Or open house and video conference hearing at these two sites:
Hutchinson: Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Banquet Room, 1100 N. Plum St., Hutchinson, KS 67501
Pittsburg: Pittsburg High School, Auditorium, 1978 E. 4th St., Pittsburg, KS 66762
August 11 - Public comments are due
October 28 - KCC decision on Westar Docket

Westar Public Comments
The Commission will accept written and oral comments from Westar Energy customers through Aug. 11, 2015. Public comments received during the public comment period will be entered into the record in the docket.
By email:
By phone: 1-800-662-0027 or (785) 271-3140.
By mail: Kansas Corporation Commission, Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, 1500 SW Arrowhead Rd., Topeka, KS 66604-4027.
Reference Docket No 15-WSEE-115-RTS

At long last, we are ready to compile our next bulk purchase through this coming week,
We will order next Friday, July 10, 2015.

Today we are compiling an order to be out the door PDQ. Please call as quickly as you can. All of our hardware is still available from our new supplier, so you will all be familiar with our methods of installing systems.

It is very difficult to find an insurance company who will insure against injury or property damage from non-professional volunteers working on a roof. So for liability reasons, the Flint Hills Renewable Energy & Efficiency Cooperative, Inc. needs to define its role in future Photovoltaic Systems as “supplier and consultant.” We will offer you our best prices, can guide you through your installations with members on site, and offer a list of people who’ve done this on their own homes and who you can invite to help in your installation. In a practical sense this shifts any liability risk to your homeowner’s insurance policy ... like inviting skilled friends or relatives to paint or drywall your home for pizza and pop. The process is surprisingly easy and will take about one day. If this doesn’t fit your needs, we will gladly suggest reputable solar contractors. Our goal is to help install as much renewable energy in the Flint Hills as quickly as possible.

To do this we will begin workshops in communities around our region, demonstrating how to
  1. Anchor the rails to your roof or ground rack
  2. Bolt the inverters to your solar panels
  3. Connect the inverter and module to the trunk cable and clamp the solar panel to the rail
  4. Instruct your licensed electrician which external disconnect various utilities require, recommend a lightening arrester and advise on carrying the power from your solar array back to your home’s breaker panel.

Call us to schedule a workshop in your community. A workshop can be held at your house, so it will both install a system and instruct your friends and neighbors on the steps to install their own systems. To schedule a workshop at your house you will need to
  1. Choose a location and design a solar array that fits your needs and fits your structure (see below)
  2. Apply for building and utility permits.
  3. With your order, we need half of your total cost of materials up front and the remaining half at delivery when you pick up your materials at the wholesaler.

These are some resources to help you plan your own solar array:

Each county in Kansas has a Geographical Information Site in which you can zoom in on an aerial photo of your home or barn. Turn on the Layer “Arial 2014”. Included will be a measuring tape which you can use to measure fairly close (+/- six inches) the horizontal distances from your roof edge to the opposite roof edge or to a valley. It can give you a fairly good idea of how many modules can fit on your roof. It is a little more difficult to measure how many rows will fit on that roof. To me a piece of graph paper does a good job.
Riley County:
Pottawatomie County:
Geary County:

PV Watts
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) offers a calculator from which you can find the amount of solar energy and its value for different roof angles, direction your array faces, and different number of solar panels. Calculate about 250 watts per panel. Westar at this moment charges 10.5 cents/kWh; Bluestem REC 14.5 cents/kWh. What you will notice is that as you change only the angle of slope for your array, there is very little difference made in the solar energy you capture.

Chart of Spans
The rails we buy are some of the strongest in the industry and will span 8 feet between supporting L-feet. This will hit on rafters in older homes which are often framed on 16 inch centers or on newer homes with rafters at 24 inches. This chart will show how long the rails need to be for any number of solar panels or how many modules will fit into a given length of roof. Be aware that many towns require a walking space (often 3 ft) between roof edges and the array. And it is a good idea to leave about 8 inches between rows to allow them to stay cool. Attached is a spread sheet showing distances, and full branch of 17 modules production estimate.

Price List
Also attached to the Rail Span Chart is our most recent price list. As we get our order compiled, we will go back to our wholesaler and confirm that is the best they can offer.
We’ll be happy to visit with anyone who has questions - contact us through this website.

Westar Rate Request

Today Westar customers operate under the principle of "penny saved is a penny earned". So any kWh you don't buy from Westar is 10.5 cents in our pocket. But under laws passed last July by the Kansas legislature, any extra we send back to Westar will only be compensated at their cost of fuel ... 3.4 cents/kWh. So there is no reason to install a system producing more electricity than your home can consume within a given month.

If the Kansas Corporation Commission approves Westar's rate request scheduled for hearing on July 21, solar customers will be given the choice of two rates. One will be a $50/month base fee and an energy fee. The other choice will be a $27/month base fee and a demand fee of $10/month/kW of summer capacity you require from Westar ($3/month/kW in winter) plus the energy fee. The demand fee is defined by your highest demand period of 15 minutes in any one billing cycle. In reality this 15 minutes will be on one of the critically hot days. In the average Westar house, this demand fee could as much as 3.5 kW or about $35 plus energy charges. If you want to be able to control this demand you will want to install one of the new smart batteries (or insulation or a reflective roof or other means to limit demand. I've allowed $1,500 worth of hardware to cope with demand in my estimates of the effect of this rate change. I suspect that the overall effect will be to reduce our 6.3% return by about half.

According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the average monthly customer service fees charged by other utilities nationwide averages between $5 and $10.

Westar customers who have their meter installed before Oct. 28 will be grandfathered under current Westar agreements.

Discuss this Rate Increase at the
Manhattan Utility Roundtables
on Thursday, July 16th
1:00 -3:00 PM at Riley County Senior Services Center
301 N. 4th St., Manhattan and
6:30 -8:30 PM at the Manhattan Public Library
629 Poyntz Ave, Manhattan

Solar energy is naturally democratic. Like rain it shines on your property just as it does mine. Unlike coal or natural gas, it is hard for any monopoly to corner the market. The only three possible groups (The Alliance for Solar Choice, The Climate & Energy Project and Cromwell Solar) who wanted to intervene against these rate hearings were disqualified by the Kansas Corporation Commission. Solar goes unrepresented unless we individually write letters to the KCC , and with letters to the editors, put pressure on Westar to settle for less. It is important to understand the process by which rates can change, and that today’s Kansas legislature (including Wamego Rep. Highland) has been hostile to solar energy.

Bluestem Rural Electric Cooperative has been easy to work with and for now, these rates will not (to our knowledge) pass on to their customers.