Category Archives: Community-Scale Solar

New Research Shows a Solar Revolution in Rural America

News Release, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

ARLINGTON, Va. –The rapid acceleration of solar development by America’s electric cooperatives is transforming the energy landscape in rural America. According to a new report, electric co-ops today own or purchase more than nine times as much solar energy as they did in 2013.

In 2013, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) received a grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) to help electric cooperatives remove barriers to solar development. Through the ensuing Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) project, NRECA worked with 17 electric cooperatives to develop models and resources for co-ops interested in developing solar energy. Continue here.

Download Report: A Solar Revolution in Rural America
SUNDA Project

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

  • NRECA’s Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) Award
    In May, SEPA announced their 2018 Power Players Awards. The awards “honor utilities, their partners, and individual thought leaders providing the vision, models and momentum for the electric power industry’s smart transition to a clean, modern energy future.” The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) was one of three recipients of the Innovative Partner of the Year Award in recognition of the SUNDA Project. 
  • NRECA and Industry Groups: EVs Are Viable Tool to Meet Fuel Standards, by Cathy Cash
    At least 150 NRECA member co-ops provide off-peak charging rates for EV users. Dozens of electric co-ops across the country have programs that implement charging infrastructure in their service territory.

Thinkstock Photo

Nebraska-based GRNE Solar installs 3,510 solar panels at Delta County Airport in Michigan

By Jordan Beck, Escanaba Daily Press

ESCANABA — The installation of solar panels for a solar energy farm at the Delta County Airport was recently completed, officials involved with the project said. “All the racking and all the panels are installed,” City of Escanaba Electric Superintendent Mike Furmanski said. The facility includes a total of 3,510 solar panels . . . Furmanski said he appreciated the work GRNE Solar has done to make this project a reality. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Jordan Beck

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

In Michigan, unwanted properties could see new life with solar projects

FROM SOLAR EXAMPLES: RECENTLY-COMPLETED GRNE SOLAR PROJECT IN NEBRASKA

The Sun Haven: Solar-Powered Net-Zero Energy Home 

GRNE Solar teamed up with Wilderness Construction to build this net-zero energy home, with solar on the roof and outlets for electric vehicles in the garage. The home, called The Sun Haven, is located at 6077 Chartwell Lane in Lincoln. Through the use of solar power this home will produce as much energy as it consumes. GRNE Solar featured the home on the 2018 Home Builders Association of Lincoln’s Spring Parade of Homes.
YouTube Video: Drone View of The Sun Haven

Nebraska tribe becomes a solar power leader on the Plains

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska already boasts 400 kilowatts of installed solar panels, more than nearly any other Midwestern Indian tribe. It doesn’t plan to stop there. The American Indian tribe expects to learn later this summer whether it will receive a federal grant to pay half the cost of an additional 300 kilowatts. Tribal leaders in this community of about 850 people in northeastern Nebraska say the solar push, which started a decade ago, advances commitments to sustainability and self-sufficiency, and is cutting electric bills.

“We’ve had 100 tribes visit our community,” [Ann Marie Bledsoe-Downes, vice president for community impact and engagement of Ho-Chunk Inc] said. “We talk about many subjects with these leaders. We spend substantial time on our renewable-energy effort. Other tribes say, ‘Let’s do what Winnebago is doing.’ It resonates with people that we are taking control over our own resources.” Read the entire article here.

Photo by The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska showing solar systems on senior housing.

UPCOMING EVENT – SAVE THE DATE & JOIN US!

Tour The Winnebago Tribe’s Solar Farm And More Renewable Energy Sites

Sponsored by Nebraskans for Solar
Hosted by Robert Byrnes, Owner of Nebraska Renewable Energy Systems and  The Winnebago Community’s Sustainability Coordinator

When: August 11, 2018 from 11am to 3pm, or for as long as you want to stay.
Where: We’ll meet at the Winnebago Solar Farm at 11am for a tour, discussion,
Q&A and lunch–and then visit more sites. See our calendar for directions.

Nebraska Renewable Energy Systems, the Winnebago Community, and Ho-Chunk Inc, the tribe’s award-winning economic corporation, are developing one of the largest renewable energy infrastructures in the state. They’ve installed solar arrays at 14 sites.

Please bring your lunch and lawn chairs. Nebraskans for Solar will provide
a variety of cold drinks and desserts. Carpoolers may have an extra dessert.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
The Winnebago Community’s Renewable Energy Development A Part of Overall Mission,
by Sam Burrish, Communications Manager, Ho-Chunk, Inc.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING
A delegation of Winnebago tribal and business leaders, including Ho-Chunk Inc. CEO Lance Morgan, spoke at a luncheon on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, for state senators at the Nebraska State Capitol.

Nation’s Largest Solar Bee Farm in Ore. Creating Buzz

Public News Service

The Eagle Point solar farm outside Medford is the largest “solar apiary” in the country, incorporating designs that benefit pollinators. It’s home to 48 bee colonies interspersed among solar panels, which are generating enough energy to power more than 2,100 homes annually. Rob Davis, who directs the Center for Pollinators and Energy for the nonprofit Fresh Energy, connected North Carolina-based Pine Gate Renewables with a beekeeper in southern Oregon.
Read the entire news release here.

Photo by Pine Gate Renewables: A solar farm near Medford, Ore., also is home to 48 thriving bee colonies.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
USDA, NIFA Announce Investments in Pollinator Health Research, USDA Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 28, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 14 grants totaling approximately $10 million for research to help sustain healthy populations of pollinators, which are crucial to the nation’s food security and environmental health. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“One-third of all U.S. crop production requires pollination by animals – primarily honey bees, but also wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles and bats,” said Acting NIFA Director Tom Shanower. “Recent declines in both managed and wild pollinators are of paramount importance to our nation’s food security and the vitality of natural resources.”

6 simple facts about solar power

By Laura King-Holman, The Wire, OPPD Blog

Solar energy is a hot topic. It seems you can’t escape the topic in the news and on social media. OPPD is also taking steps to pursue a community solar project of its own. But what does “solar” mean? Here are some facts and history of solar energy from the U.S. Department of Energy. Continue here.

Photo Courtesy of Troy Schaben, Assistant Fremont City Administrator of Utilities:  Fremont’s First Community Solar Farm

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Solar on businesses, government buildings and schools, [or aggregated into a community-solar program] can save utilities and consumers money on other distribution infrastructure costs. For example, expensive utility transformers can get overloaded on hot summer days when people are using more energy to cool their homes. Solar can reduce strain on the system on these days, which extends the life of utility equipment and creates savings for everyone.

Additional widely-recognized benefits of solar: avoided fuel hedging costs created by volatile fossil fuels like natural gas, avoided electricity losses from power plants that are located far away from cities, and avoiding the need to build new expensive natural gas plants.

Fort Calhoun area will be home to OPPD’s first community solar array

By Aaron Sanderford, Omaha World-Herald

The Fort Calhoun area, home to a nuclear power plant that is being shuttered, is poised for another role producing power in eastern Nebraska. The Omaha Public Power District and its private partner, NextEra Energy Resources, chose a city-owned field just east of Fort Calhoun to host OPPD’s first community solar power array. NextEra is building the 35-acre,  5-megawatt solar array there and has contracted to sell OPPD the power it produces for at least 20 years.
Continue here to learn more.

Photo: Lincoln Electric System’s 5-megawatt community solar facility was Nebraska’s first utility-scale solar installation. The solar farm is located on a portion of a 46-acre site near Northwest 75th and Holdrege Streets.

The Smart Electric Power Alliance’s 2018 Power Players Awards

The awards focus on projects, initiatives and thought leadership that promote collaborative, innovative and replicable models for change by:

  • Expanding knowledge about and access to distributed energy resources
  • Transforming public perceptions and understanding of the electric industry
  • Advancing progress toward an integrated, clean energy future

Read about each of the awards here.

Photo by Grid Alternatives: Coyote Ridge Community Solar Project sited on a former landfill adjacent to transmission lines. The landfill was provided by Larimer County, Colorado for the community solar project.

RELATED READING

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Consumers Energy pledges 5 GW of solar by 2030

OPPD strikes deal to bring solar power facility to Fort Calhoun

By Casey L. Sill, Washington County Pilot-Tribune & Enterprise

Mary Fisher, vice president of Energy Production and Nuclear Decommissioning, said it’s something OPPD customers have been wanting for some time. “Our customers have really been asking for a solar option,” she said . . . Community solar facilities are built by a third-party operation and run by the utility company. NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, will build this facility. OPPD awarded a 20-year power purchase agreement to a Next Era subsidiary. Once the facility is underway, individual consumers can then buy shares or a “subscription” to the facility. Shareholders would bear the extra cost for the facility, but would also reap the benefits. Read more here.

Photo: Lincoln Electric System’s 5-kilowatt community solar farm,  located on a portion of a 46-acre site near Northwest 75th and Holdrege Streets. See Solar Examples.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Let’s Be Clear: Solar Energy Benefits Everyone, by Sean Gallagher, Solar Energy Industries Association Blog

Gallagher focuses on rooftop solar, but the same benefits apply to community and utility-scale solar, as well, several of which are excerpted, below, from the article:

  • Solar on businesses, government buildings and schools, [or aggregated into a community-solar program] can save utilities and consumers money on other distribution infrastructure costs. For example, expensive utility transformers can get overloaded on hot summer days when people are using more energy to cool their homes. Solar can reduce strain on the system on these days, which extends the life of utility equipment and creates savings for everyone.
  • Additional widely-recognized benefits of solar: avoided fuel hedging costs created by volatile fossil fuels like natural gas, avoided electricity losses from power plants that are located far away from cities, and avoiding the need to build new expensive natural gas plants.

OPPD Board Receives Community Solar Update

Omaha Public Power District News Release

Omaha Public Power District’s plans for community solar are moving forward. During their monthly meeting, today, the OPPD Board of Directors received an update on the project. The district awarded a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) to a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, to build a 5-megawatt solar facility near the City of Fort Calhoun. When the community solar program has been finalized, OPPD customers will have an opportunity to purchase shares of the solar energy produced. The utility will be developing the marketing of these solar shares in the next few months, and we will include stakeholder outreach as part of this process. Read the entire release here.

NextEra Wind Projects in Nebraska

More Nebraska Community Solar News
City gives public look at solar farm, power plant, Fremont Tribune

Solar energy farms gaining traction in Nebraska

By Grant Schulte and Tess Williams, Associated Press,
The News & Observer

LINCOLN, NEB. – Solar energy is gaining traction in Nebraska as a growing number of cities adopt the technology, and state officials are looking for ways to help the trend along. The
technology has become so popular that some cities have had to expand their recently built solar farms or build new ones to keep pace with customer demand. Continue reading here.

Photo: Cliff Mesner at Central City’s 500-kilowatt solar array, installed by Mesner Solar Development on an abandoned parking lot.