Category Archives: Community Solar

Solar that Benefits Birds & Pollinators – Workshop & Tour

By Rob Davis, Center for Pollinators in Energy

March 8, 2018
Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary
44450 Elm Island Road, Gibbon, Nebraska
Facebook Live Stream

In partnership with Kearney City officials, the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary, Nebraska Public Power District, and SoCore Energy, we invite you to learn more about Nebraska’s largest solar array and the benefits it provides to the community and environment.

This array is radically different from the solar photos you’ve seen from the Arizona desert. Bird- and pollinator-friendly flowers and grasses have been seeded under and around the solar panels. Planned specifically for a time when Kearney is a national destination for millions of Sandhill cranes, a panel of local and regional leaders will discuss economic development and care for nature and the land in the context of the growing trend of solar development by cooperatives around the country.

The conversation/workshop will be followed by a tour of the Kearney solar array, with a light lunch provided. The solar array tour will include opportunities for attendees to assemble boxes for native bees and broadcast a bird- and pollinator-friendly seed mix, with assistance from the Kearney Outdoor Learning Area (KOLA) high-school students.

Workshop/Conversation: 10:30 – 11:30 am
Mayor Stanley Clouse, City of Kearney
Bill Taddicken, Audubon Center
Jason Guernsey, Department of Economic Development, State of Nebraska
Jerry Vap, past Chairman of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, past president of the National Association of Conservation Districts
Moderator: Rob Davis, Fresh Energy
Light Lunch: 11:30 am – 12:10 pm
Solar Site Tour: 12:30 – 1:30 pm
SoCore Energy & NPPD
UNK’s Marc Albrecht
Pete Berthelson, native plant expert

Photos by Rob Davis (top) and G. Parker.

Introducing the Center for Pollinators in Energy, by Rob Davis, Fresh Energy

188-2: Minnesota Sets Standard for Land Use on Solar Sites

Rob Davis’ TedX Minneapolis Talk – Click image to start it.


More solar energy projects expected to come online this year

By Mike Loizzo, Nebraska Radio Network

The Nebraska Community Energy Alliance (NCEA) is planning to expand its solar power footprint. The cities of Superior and Fremont, and Allen Consolidated Schools, are the latest Alliance members seeking help paying for solar panels. The Nebraska Environmental Trust’s grant committee is recommending funding for those Nebraska Flyway Community Solar Projects. Learn more here.

Recent NCEA Reports

Nebraska’s Three Major Utilities’ Community Solar Programs

OPPD’s Proposed Community Solar

On February 13th OPPD posted an update on their website about the utility’s proposed community solar program, including background information, proposed program highlights, and information on how a participant’s monthly solar charge would be calculated.

NPPD’s SunWise Community Solar

SunWise is a community solar program available in participating Nebraska Public Power District retail communities. Eligible customers have the opportunity to use solar energy to partially power their homes and businesses without the need to invest in a rooftop or home-based system. 

  • Current Participating Communities
    Venango – fully subscribed
    Scottsbluff – Pilot project fully subscribed. NPPD and the City of Scottsbluff are now working on a 5-megawatt project. 
    Kearney – shares available
    Kearney Community Solar Q&A
  • Customers living in other communities served by NPPD may request community solar for their town or city by submitting the online form available at the link, below. NPPD serves 80 communities throughout Nebraska.
    Request community solar in your community.

LES SunShares

Generating 5 megawatts of solar energy, the LES community solar facility is the largest and first utility-scale solar installation in Nebraska, as well as one of the largest in the region.

The project was developed by Enerparc, and LES contracted for all energy produced by the facility. The installation, located at Northwest 75th and West Holdrege streets, uses 15,333 solar panels to produce enough energy to power 900 typical homes in Lincoln. Enerparc began construction in March 2016, and the solar facility went online in June 2016. At the time of its completion, over 1,200 residential and business customers voluntarily contributed funds through the LES SunShares program to help support a portion of the facility.
Businesses enrolled in LES SunShares
LES Community Solar Facility
LES Community Solar Brochure
Lincoln Electric System’s Sustainable Energy Program

Links to more Nebraska communities’ completed solar projects or plans, and general community solar information sources are available here:
Resources For Nebraska Communities Considering A Community Solar Project

Fremont moves forward on second solar farm due to high demand

By James Farrell, Fremont Tribune

Before Fremont’s first-ever community solar farm has produced a kilowatt of energy for its pioneering subscribers, the city has started seeking a contractor for a second farm. That’s because of the overflowing demand from residents who couldn’t get spots in the first farm, which is filled to capacity, according to Troy Schaben, assistant city administrator of utilities . . . The city put out a Request for Proposals for the new farm on Feb. 14 with a March 2 deadline for submissions. A contract should be doled out by the middle of March or beginning of April, Schaben said. The city hopes to have the second farm online by the beginning of October.
Learn more here.

Photos Courtesy of Troy Schaben, Assistant City Administrator, Fremont Department of Utilities: Fremont’s First Solar Farm and Inverter Station

When asked in an email if local schools may participate in Fremont’s Community Solar Program, Mr. Schaben replied, “While they did not participate in this phase of the solar farm, they were eligible to participate.”


Save the Date! Avoiding the Growing Pains of Community Solar – SEPA Webinar Includes Fremont’s Program: April 5, 2018 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm. Speakers will include Brian Newton, City of Fremont Administrator and Fremont Department of Utilities Manager. Click here for additional details.

OPPD community solar project could allow for 100 percent renewables, in theory

By Cole Epley, Omaha World-Herald

By the end of 2020, OPPD expects more than 50 percent of its retail electricity sales to come from renewable sources, most of that from wind turbines . . . The math is pretty simple. “When you pair the district’s supply-side suite of energy generators with someone who wants to go up to 50 percent participation in a community solar program, they would at that point achieve 100 percent renewable energy designation on an annual basis,” Brad Underwood, OPPD’s director of corporate planning and analysis, told the utility’s board of directors on Tuesday . . . Of course, the variability of wind- and solar-powered generators means that the 100 percent designation would be theoretical. Read the entire article here.

Photo: Kearney, Nebraska Community Solar
“OPPD management doesn’t expect to award a contract for actual construction of the district’s first community solar project until perhaps April or May.” – Cole Epley


In his article, Cole Epley references Fremont’s Community Solar. Last December the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) completed a case study: Inside the City of Fremont, Nebraska’s Community Solar Program, which can be downloaded here. 

Based on multiple interviews with citizens of Fremont, Nebraska, this case study describes how program design and a latent demand for solar power led to selling out the 1.5 MW solar farm in seven weeks. This case study also includes insight into the commercial and industrial demand in small town Nebraska.

Save the Date! On April 5, 2018 from 1 to 2 pm, SEPA will present a webinar called, “Avoiding the Growing Pains of Community Solar.” The speakers will include Brian Newton, City of Fremont Administrator and Fremont Department of Utilities Manager.

OPPD’s Proposed Community Solar Program

Today, OPPD posted an update on the utility’s proposed community solar program, including background information, proposed program highlights, and information on how a participant’s monthly solar charge would be calculated. Read the entire post here.

Additional Resources and FAQs
December 2017 Board Presentation
February 2018 Board Presentation

Provide your comments on the proposed community solar program at OPPD Listens.

Photo Credit: Sarah Hoffman / The World-Herald. Central City’s Community Solar

This initiative could counteract the impact of the U.S. solar tariffs

Written by Heather Clancy, GreenBiz

The initiative could have a particularly profound impact for on-site or smaller community-scale projects ranging from 1 megawatt to 10 MWs in size, according to the RMI team. “The corporate buyer will get a lower cost over time,” said Kiernan Coleman, senior associate at
RMI . . . RMI CEO Jules Kortenhorst likened the effort to the Department of Energy’s highly successful SunShot Initiative — formed back in 2011 with the aim of cutting the costs of solar energy by 75 percent. Read more here.

Photo: Kearney Community Solar

RMI Press Release Announcing The Initiative
2018 Solar Cost Reductions Will Offset Impact of New Tariffs on Panel Prices

Modular, pre-engineered and pre-assembled solar product to lower costs by additional $0.20/Wp in 2018, according to Rocky Mountain Institute and industry leaders.

Boulder, Colorado – Rocky Mountain Institute and 35 solar energy industry leaders committed to develop an ultra-low-cost solar product able to operate in a variety of environments at fully installed costs as low as $0.50/Wp. Participants at the Rocky Mountain Institute-hosted event, representing at least 15 gigawatts of solar capacity—equivalent to the capacity of 25 average-sized coal plants—identified an opportunity to reduce costs by $0.20/Wp in 2018 alone. Reducing costs at this scale would mitigate the effect of newly applied trade restrictions on solar components, keeping the solar energy industry on a maintained cost-reduction pathway. Continue reading here.

Wp (watt peak capacity) = a solar panel’s maximum power output under optimal conditions.  1,000 Wp = 1 kWp.

Nebraskans for Solar Board Endorses Husker Power Plan

On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, Clean Energy Nebraska announced the release of the Husker Power Plan, a state clean energy plan for Nebraska. “Former Nebraska Wildlife Federation Executive Director Duane Hovorka wrote the plan together with clean energy supporters, stakeholders, concerned citizens and advice from energy consultants.”

Last week Nebraskans for Solar’s Board of Directors voted to endorse the plan, joining other groups, which include: Nebraska Wildlife Federation, Nebraska Farmers Union, Nebraskans for Peace, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Nebraska 350.Org, League of Women Voters of Nebraska and Nebraska Sierra Club.

Among other clean energy initiatives, the Husker Power Plan calls for adding over the next 5 years: 1,500 to 1,850 megawatts of new wind energy to the 1,520 megawatts currently in place or under construction and 129 to 150 megawatts of utility-scale and community solar. The document’s concluding statement:

“As we have outlined in this Husker Power Plan, with the right mix of energy efficiency, peak demand management, wind, solar, energy storage and other clean energy options, Nebraska can transition away from dirty fossil fuels like coal, providing enormous health benefits to our residents. We can lock in a clean energy future with electricity that is affordable, prices that are predictable, and energy produced largely within our borders. We can save Nebraska businesses and residents hundreds of millions of dollars every year in energy costs, and the environmental and health benefits would be even larger than the economic benefits. With our Husker Power Plan, we can give ourselves a clean energy future, and leave our children and their children a more efficient and effective economy and a better world.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Husker Power Plan for Electric Utilities (PDF)
Consultants Report – The Husker Power Plan: A New Energy Plan for Nebraska (PDF)


Nebraska clean energy plan focuses on wind, solar, efficiency

By Don Walton, Lincoln Journal Star

A clean energy coalition urged Nebraska on Wednesday to focus more on development of wind and solar power sources along with energy efficiency to help build a more environmentally friendly and healthier future. The coalition’s Husker Power Plan would “ramp up Nebraska’s investment in energy-efficiency measures like weatherizing homes and businesses, replacing outdated lighting systems and motors and reducing wasteful use of energy,” said Duane Hovorka, former executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation. Continue reading here.

‘Husker Power Plan’ aims to cut greenhouse emissions while keeping electric costs low, creating jobs, by Paul Hammel, Omaha World-Herald
The Husker Power Plan calls for doubling the state’s use of wind power over the next five years and adding 129 megawatts of community solar energy projects. The plan, done by the consultant Sommer Energy, also recommends aggressive work to reduce electric consumption by 2 percent a year.

Husker Power Plan for Electric Utilities (PDF)
Consultants Report: – The Husker Power Plan: A New Energy Plan for Nebraska (PDF)

SEPA Case Study – Selling Out 1.55 MW of Community Solar in 7 Weeks: Inside the City of Fremont, Nebraska‘s Community Solar Program

Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA)

Few think of rural towns as the perfect case study for community solar, but they don’t know Fremont, Nebraska. The town has a long history of environmental stewardship and latent demand for renewable energy. When Brian Newton arrived in Fremont as the new Utility General Manager, he set about discussing the possibility of a community solar farm for his customers. Through a series of public meetings, Brian was able to launch, and twice expand, the community solar farm within seven weeks. This case study lays out the principles and tactics Newton undertook to ensure the 1.55 MW community solar farm was a success.

  • Click here to read more and to download the free research report.
  • Learn more about Fremont’s Community Solar Farm by watching this YouTube video.