Vacant land at Kansas City International Airport has the capacity to support the largest municipal solar installation in the country and power 70,000 homes, according to a new feasibility study released June 21.

The report shows that 3,100 acres of vacant land at the new Kansas City International Airport could be developed for a solar farm that produces 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity. It would be built in phases beginning with 35 MW of solar panels on 36 acres that would initially power 4,500 homes.

“The vision for this massive renewable energy project is to significantly reduce carbon emissions, to reduce energy costs for our residents, and to protect Kansas City from energy grid issues and other outages outside of our city,” said Brian Platt., KCMO city manager “We must take bold, innovative and aggressive steps if we ever want to make progress in the fight against climate change and to improve the health of our environment and our residents. In 2020,70 percent of energy produced in Missouri came from coal-powered sources. Imagine the potential shift in air quality from a project like this.”

The feasibility study was conducted by the Kansas City Aviation Department and two engineering firms, Olsson and Landrum & Brown. It estimates an investment to the power grid of approximately $62 million could produce energy output of up to 285 MW and 462,546-megawatt hours (MWh) annually.

The report states that a phased approach would move the solar project forward quicker than building the project all at the same time. A potential Phase One development is proposed for the south-central portion of airport property and allows for upgrades to necessary infrastructure. The initial cost to the grid would be $9-million to $15-million for the development of 136 acres with a 35 MW solar array. It would include more than 96,000 fixed photovoltaic panels that could produce 57,553 MWh annually to potentially power up to 4,500 Kansas City households. There will be additional costs for development, construction and solar panel equipment.

Construction could begin within 12 to 18 months, according to the report. The first phase would provide more annual renewable energy output than at airports in Sacramento, CA (8 MW), Denver, CO (10 MW) or Indianapolis, IN (17.5 MW).

The city’s next steps include obtaining state and federal environmental reviews and permits and issuing a request for proposals (RFP) from a private partner that would build the array. The city would coordinate with local and regional utilities.

“Evergy is reviewing the feasibility study,” said Gina Penzig, Evergy external communications manager. “The study is encouraging, noting solid options to build meaningful solar at the airport. We remain interested in partnering with the city to build solar at KCI.”

The project has received the support of the mayor and several KCMO city council members.

“The City Council has set goal after goal for becoming a more resilient organization, and this is a great way to do that,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas. “We can lead this nation by showing how to use land that otherwise just sits there, and potentially help our residents who struggle with high energy bills. We believe we can make a good case to our federal officials that this project will produce results.”

The city is partnering with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is part of the federal Department of Energy, to develop and issue the RFP by late summer or early fall.

To download the complete feasibility study, go to Westside Airport Solar Siting and Feasibility Study.

Photo: Getty Images provided by City of Kansas City, MO