New solar farm at Greenbush to offer educational opportunities

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun
Bill Murphy, deputy secretary for the Kansas Department of Commerce, speaks in front of a new solar array at the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center at Greenbush at an event Tuesday, May 11, to "flip the switch" on the solar farm.

CRAWFORD COUNTY, Kan. — Stakeholders gathered Tuesday afternoon to “flip the switch” on a new solar panel farm at the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center at Greenbush. 

The new Greenbush solar array is one of two new projects representing a partnership between Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative and solar technology provider Today's Power, Inc. The other new 1-megawatt solar project is in Neosho County. 

“These solar farms will provide a source of local, sustainable energy for many years to come and will help keep rates more stable for all of Heartland’s consumer members,” said Ernest Troth, president of Heartland’s board of directors. “But we’re also celebrating the first completed pieces of a statewide project involving 11 other electric cooperatives that will power more than 80,000 homes.” 

Other speakers at Tuesday’s event included Bill Murphy, deputy secretary for the Kansas Department of Commerce, who said he wanted to thank Heartland “for their leadership in collaboration with other rural electric cooperatives to invest in what will be a massive, transformational 20 megawatts of solar within the next couple of years.”  

In addition to providing electricity, the Greenbush solar farm will be incorporated into educational programs at Greenbush. 

“Along with important technological innovations involved in this project, we’re thrilled also that the William L. Abernathy Science Education Center here at Greenbush will provide students with hands-on learning opportunities to better understand solar energy and energy distribution,” Murphy said. 

Stacie Clarkson, associate executive director of Greenbush, also discussed the educational opportunities provided by the new solar farm. 

“On our campus we have many opportunities, but we are very excited to bring this new, innovative technology to the science center so that our students will be able to learn about something new and sustaining in terms of energy education,” Clarkson said. 

Michael McCambridge, director of student enrichment at Greenbush, said that the solar farm will be incorporated into alternative energy labs that Greenbush had previously been offering. There is already also a small windmill near the solar farm. 

“All of our focus back here is sustainability,” McCambridge said. “We have a hydroponic greenhouse where our students grow lettuce hydroponically. We have a new addition that’s going to be an indoor simulated rainforest where we will be growing fruit, so everything on this side of our campus is focused on that, so it fits in the theme very well.”  

Mike Bodensteiner, former executive director of Greenbush and a board member of the affiliated Learning Tree Institute, similarly said that there are a wide range of educational programs that can incorporate the new solar farm. 

“There’s just all kinds of learning opportunities that can take place,” Bodensteiner said, “both in terms of technology, how power is used, how it’s stored, and ultimately how it gets to consumers.”