Norfolk celebrates completion of Nebraska’s largest solar power farm 

By: - June 23, 2022 4:00 am

Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning speaks during the ribbon cutting for the largest solar power production facility in Nebraska. (City of Norfolk/submitted photo)

People behind the state’s largest solar farm and one of its largest battery installations celebrated a finished project Wednesday in Norfolk, Nebraska.

Norfolk’s new community solar power farm can produce 8.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,250 homes, city officials explained in a press release. 

A new Nebraska Public Power District battery system will store up to 2 megawatt-hours of power, enough to help local NPPD customers during peak-usage times, including hot days.

The City of Norfolk worked with NPPD and developers at N Solar — including Sol Systems, GenPro Energy Solutions and Mesner Development — on the solar project. 

The average residential customer who signed up for the city’s community solar program will save about $15 to $20 a month by participating, city officials said.

Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning said he was pleased to see local interest in community solar survive the five-year wait for the project to be completed.

“Having local electricity generation helps balance our system,” Moenning said. “We’re using our own natural resources, in which the fuel is free.”

NPPD President Tom Kent said the contract helps NPPD bolster its solar portfolio to 20 megawatts. The utility also runs hydroelectric and nuclear power plants.

“We are very committed to a low-carbon resource mix … as we move into the future,” Kent said. 

Sol Systems and its partners will operate the farm as part of a 30-year agreement with NPPD to purchase power the farm produces, according to a press release from the company.

Bridget Callahan of Sol Systems touted the work the private developers are doing with Northeast Community College students on scholarships, internships and more.

She said customers who signed up for the program, which is already full, started seeing solar credits on their electric bills this month. 

Each residential customer pays $50 to get into the community solar program. After three years, they get their money back if they stay signed up. Each share, up to a maximum of five per customer, costs $6.15 a month but returns roughly $8.70 a month per share to the customer. Participants also save on state and local taxes. The combined savings per share is about $3.28.

During the ribbon-cutting, Callahan stressed that the project included planting grasses and plants aimed at helping pollinators — bees and butterflies.

The solar project in Norfolk got its solar panels ordered and delivered before supply chain disruptions that have plagued solar farms and power generation elsewhere, NPPD spokesman Grant Otten said.

The Omaha Public Power District, for example, has had difficulties obtaining new solar panels.

OPPD also appears poised to use the remaining coal-fired units in its North Omaha power plant until 2026. It had been set to stop using coal at the plant by 2023. National shortages have made it harder to get needed components for new natural gas production.

But the key driver of the coal recommendation is a backlog of new projects regionally that need Southwest Power Pool studies done to safely connect onto the grid.

 

 

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also spent several years as an assignment editor and worked two stints as an editorial writer. From 2005 to 2007, he served as communications director for then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. Aaron most recently was the lead investigative reporter for KMTV 3 in Omaha, focusing on holding public officials accountable. His work has received awards from the Associated Press, Great Plains Journalism and more.

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