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Westar Energy broke ground on a new solar project in southwest Baldwin City. The energy company has partnered with the city to bring a 1-megawatt solar energy plan to fruition. The project will also serve as a field study program for Baker University science and business students.

Since last November, when Baldwin City Mayor Casey Simoneau signed the agreement with Westar Energy, Baker students have had the opportunity to meet with those involved in the project and tour existing power plants. The insight they will gain from conception to operation provides a great learning opportunity for science and business students.

“The solar farm project is a great opportunity for students to gain some exposure to a very interesting project almost in their own backyard,” said Professor of Business and EconomicsKevin McCarthy. “They are learning about sustainability and renewable energy, of course. Students studying environmental science have additional opportunities for learning about the impact of such a facility on the site. Additionally, there are great real-world examples for understanding project management applications.”

Present at the ground-breaking ceremony were Kansas Senator Tom Holland, Kansas Rep. Eileen Horn, Westar Vice President of Generation John Bridson, Baldwin City Mayor Casey Simoneau, Baldwin City Council members, and Westar Energy Trading Analyst Silas Dulan, a Baker University alumnus.

“I am excited that we were able to form a partnership with Westar Energy to further enhance our portfolio of sustainable energy offered to our citizens,” said Mayor Simoneau. “While this increases our sustainable energy, it also helps control our expenses on our purchased energy for as long as this solar power is producing.”

With the goal of a more environmentally responsible Baldwin City, Westar’s plans include other renewable resources, such as wind and hydro, and the goal to generate a third of the city’s electricity. If all goes to plan, by this summer, a portion of the city’s electricity will be generated from local renewable sources.

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