Category Archives: Community-Scale / Utility-Scale Solar

New Environment America Report – Blocking Rooftop Solar: The Companies, Lobbyists And Front Groups Undermining Local Clean Energy

Released by the Environment Florida Research & Policy Center

Recent corruption scandals in Ohio and Illinois, in which utilities and other special interests allegedly used their clout to twist public policy in their favor, highlight how far anti-solar efforts have gone. Policymakers must resist pressure from utilities and the fossil fuel industry and implement pro-solar policies that will continue America’s momentum toward clean energy

In 2021, a national network of utility interest groups and fossil fuel-linked think tanks continues to offer funding, advice and support to utilities across the country seeking to undermine rooftop solar power. These include . . .  Continue reading here.

Download Report (PDF)

Nebraska’s Overall Solar Development & Potential

Previously Posted Net Metering Legislative Bills

Net metering changes considered – Legislative Update, Senator John Cavanaugh
The Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Feb. 10, 2021 on two bills that would modify Nebraska’s net metering laws.

Additional Recommended Reading

Energy News Network Articles & Related Reading 

Nebraska utility could slash emissions at little or no added cost, studies show , Energy News Network, March 29, 2021. The Nebraska utility’s board of directors will use the reports to develop a sustainability goal, and then to devise an integrated resource plan starting later this year.

Nebraska does not have an up-to-date state energy plan or a state climate action plan:: State energy plans show how process can match final product in impact, Energy News Network, February 10, 2021

LB483 – Provide for a climate change study and action plan

Related Reading

    • Nebraska needs overall plan for energy policies, Lincoln Journal Star, November 4, 2015. Nebraska’s Energy Office director says the state needs a comprehensive approach to its energy policies as it faces what could be a “seismic” change in federal regulations governing emissions. David Bracht, Gov. Pete Ricketts’ chief adviser on energy issues, talked about state energy policies Wednesday at the eighth annual Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference in Omaha. . . . [The] Nebraska Legislature has instructed the state Energy Office to create a comprehensive energy plan and budgeted more than $630,000 to see it done.
    • LB469: Provide procedures and reporting requirements relating to a state plan on carbon dioxide emissions, require a strategic state energy plan, and provide requirements for meteorological evaluation towers.
    • 2011 Nebraska Energy Plan, National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO)

Nebraska solar farm highlights tension between cities, electricity wholesaler, Energy News Network, August 19, 2020

South Sioux City’s City Council decided four years ago not to renew its contract with NPPD. It has gradually reduced its purchases from the utility down to 10% of its load this year, and will stop buying power from the wholesaler altogether on Jan. 1, 2022. “We’ve been very happy with the decision the [city] council made to get more into renewables,” said Lance Hedquist, the city administrator of the community of about 13,000 also located in northeast Nebraska. The city has added solar and wind energy to its portfolio, and now obtains about half of its power from renewables, he said.

Related Reading

  • NPPD’s Wholesale Power Contracts
    Wholesale energy sales are made to 60 entities under wholesale power contracts that terminate on Jan. 1, 2036 and to 10 other entities with wholesale power contracts that terminate on Dec. 31, 2021. The 10 wholesale customers that did not sign the 2016 contract provided the notice required under their existing 2002 contracts, and began in 2017 to reduce their purchases to 0% over a five-year period.  Source: Fitch Rates Nebraska Public Power District’s General Revs ‘A+’; Outlook Stable

Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska News 

MEAN Issues RFP For Participant Community Solar PV Installation Project, July 15, 2021
The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) is issuing a Request for Proposals on behalf of 11 MEAN participant communities interested in obtaining energy from solar PV installations to be built in their respective communities. The project is an effort by MEAN to bring economically priced solar energy to interested MEAN participant communities. Participating communities hope to obtain lower solar costs through economies of scale through this joint effort. RFP proposals are due Aug. 31, 2021 with a bid award date set for Oct. 27, 2021.

Click here to download the RFP.
Additional MEAN News

Previously Posted

About MEAN
The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) is the not-for-profit wholesale electricity supply organization of NMPP Energy. Created in 1981, MEAN provides cost-based power supply, transmission and related services to 69 participating communities in four states: Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming. MEAN Members/Participants

About NMPP Energy
NMPP Energy is a member-driven coalition of four organizations based in Lincoln, Neb., serving nearly 200 member communities in six Midwest and Rocky Mountain states. NMPP Energy’s organizations fulfill separate needs to their respective member communities. Collectively, they subscribe to the core philosophies of local control and working together to provide reliable, cost-based energy and energy-related services. NMPP Energy Members 

Recommended Resources On Leasing Land For Solar 

Considerations for Leasing Land for Solar Development, by F. John Hay – Extension Educator for Bioenergy

Utility scale solar development is here — in the eight months since the solar leasing article was published in August 2020, Nebraskans have seen continued land lease activity, county zoning rule adoption, an extension of the federal tax credit, and projects approved by county commissioners/supervisors. Additionally, one project (Saunders County [OPPD electrical purchase]) has reached the important step of electricity sales, which is the most common tipping point between a proposed project and a project that will get built. Many smaller solar projects have been built in the years prior to 2021, with the largest at about 8 MW, or about 50 acres. The utility scale projects being proposed and approved are many times larger, with 500 or more acres.

Hot Solar Summer: Building Back Better with Clean Energy Infrastructure

Solar Energy Industries Association 

America is facing an unprecedented opportunity to enact bold federal policies to decarbonize our electric grid and generate hundreds of thousands of quality clean energy jobs. To achieve this, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is mobilizing a nationwide campaign urging leaders in Washington to act. Hot Solar Summer will help to keep pressure on lawmakers to meet this moment and accelerate an equitable transition to a clean energy economy. Read more here.

Join the Hot Solar Summer campaign and learn how your company or organizations can get involved at www.seia.org/AmericanJobs.

Previously Posted: 100+ Organizations Urge Congress to Act on a 10-year Investment Tax Credit (ITC) extension

SITING SOLAR ON CONTAMINATED LAND

How ‘unusable’ capped landfill can gain a second life as a solar farm,  by Michelle Lewis, Electrek

Putting solar farms on landfill is a great way to generate clean energy on what were previously considered unusable sites, but there are some special factors to consider. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) points out that “it is important to think about PV projects on landfills in terms of an integrated system, not as separate landfill and PV systems.”

When it comes to making solar work on landfill, Gretchen Dolson, renewable energy lead for HDR, an architectural, engineering and consulting firm based in Omaha, Nebraska [via Waste 360], says: Always begin with the end in mind and know it’s never too early to plan and think of alternate uses, regardless of the type of waste facility. Solar is often viable. But it depends on how the landfill was designed to function and how it was closed. (Pixabay Photo)

Links to Resources

  • RE-Powering America’s Land
    RE-Powering America’s Land is an EPA initiative that encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites when such development is aligned with the community’s vision for the site.
  • EPA’s Brownfields Program provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties. To learn about EPA’s broader efforts to put previously contaminated properties back into productive use, read about the Land Revitalization Program.
  • Brownfields and Land Revitalization in Region 7
    EPA Region 7 manages  Brownfields and Land Revitalization Programs in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. On this page you will find information specific to Region 7’s Brownfields and Land Revitalization activities. Visit the national Brownfields Program and Land Revitalization Program websites for more information about these programs’ competitive grants.
  • Brownfields: FAQs, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy 

OPPD Selects Wärtsilä To Provide Reciprocating Internal Combustion Technology For Standing Bear Lake Station

OPPD News Release

Omaha Public Power District has taken another important step in its Power with Purpose project to add 400 to 600 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale solar generation and up to 600 MW of backup, modern natural gas to the utility’s generation portfolio.

The utility has selected nine Wärtsilä 18V50DF internal combustion engines (RICE) to power OPPD’s new Standing Bear Lake Station in Douglas County, one of two gas plants that will serve as backup to the coming solar generation. Like OPPD’s Turtle Creek Station going up in Sarpy County, Standing Bear Lake Station will be used as a peaking station, which means that the plant will run only as needed, per market conditions (estimated at less than 15% of the time). Continue reading here.

Wärtsilä Corporation News Release: Wärtsilä to provide 156 MW of thermal balancing power for Omaha Public Power District, enabling fast increase in renewables in Nebraska
Wärtsilä engines can later be converted to carbon neutral fuels to further enhance decarbonization. Wärtsilä has researched hydrogen as a fuel for 20 years and can currently use 15%-25% hydrogen blended with natural gas. Going forward Wärtsilä is developing the combustion process in its gas engines to enable their use with up to 100% hydrogen.

Additional Wärtsilä Resources of Potential Interest

NON-WIRES SOLUTIONS

Growth spurs additions to OPPD’s system, by Jason Kuiper
While OPPD does bring on a few new circuits each year, OPPD planners are beginning to look at alternatives to adding new circuits. Non-traditional fixes such as batteries and solar power might be closer than people realize, [Mike Herzog, manager of Distribution Planning] said. “We are taking a closer look at what we call ‘non-wire’ solutions,” he said. “And those technologies could be fixes for adding more circuits. There are areas in our city that it would be very difficult and disruptive to put in a new circuit, like some of the main arteries in the city. So we are always looking ahead.”

Featured Resource: Non-Wires Alternatives: Case Studies From Leading U.S. Projects, Smart Electric Power Alliance

ALSO PUBLISHED BY THE WIRE

AMERICAN PUBLIC POWER ASSOCIATION SERIES

Celebrating public power in America series – Part 2: Celebrating the Modern Public Power Utility
The American Public Power Association is pleased to present the second in-depth, three-part Public Power Current newsletter series to celebrate public power’s past, present, and future. Yesterday we described how local leaders began what would become the nation’s oldest continuously operated public power utility, in Butler, Missouri. Today, the Butler Electric Department is a modern utility: it owns Missouri’s first utility-scale solar farm, has emergency-only generators, a fully remodeled and upgraded power plant, and is studying the addition of wind power to help meet the needs of a growing town. Today we share how three public power utilities have adapted to changing times and local needs.

Can Solar Farms Help Save Bees?

By Brianna Barbu, Discover Magazine

Minnesota was the first state to adopt voluntary pollinator-friendly solar farm standards in 2016, with a scorecard laying out benchmarks for biodiversity, native plants and blooming seasons. States across the country followed suit, from Vermont to South Carolina to California. The standards are typically aimed at solar projects that are larger than one acre and tied to the electrical grid. Projects that earn enough points on their state’s scorecard can market themselves as pollinator-friendly.

More and more cities, universities and even companies like Clif Bar and Bank of America want to buy their solar energy from verified pollinator-friendly sources, says Rob Davis, the Director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy, a Minnesota-based clean energy think tank. “it’s increasingly helpful for developers to be able to describe their projects as pollinator friendly, and then base those claims on standards.” Continue Reading Here.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

OPPD focused on reliability, affordability as utility plans for a changing climate

By David Earl, KETV

OMAHA, Neb. — Energy industry veteran Tim Burke knows the utility business is changing at light speed, and he knows it because he sees it in his grandkids. “They’re reading and learning about the environment differently than I learned about the environment,” Burke said. “And they’re our future customers. Clearly, customers are driving this change.” Burke is retiring July 1 from his job at the top of the Omaha Public Power District. He’s served 24 years at OPPD, the last six as chief executive. Continue reading or watch the video here.

OPPD Board Honors Burke’s 24 Years Of Service To Utility

OPPD News Release, June 17, 2021

After 24 years of service to Omaha Public Power District, Timothy J. Burke attended his last monthly board meeting as president and CEO today. The OPPD Board of Directors approved a resolution to honor his service to the utility, the last six years as its leader. Burke will officially step down July 1, with Vice President and CFO Javier Fernandez taking the reins. The board unanimously approved Fernandez for the position last month. He will be OPPD’s 13th CEO.

The board credited Burke with setting OPPD on the right course for the future through his strategic initiative and directive work. They noted that OPPD is financially sound, thanks to process improvement planning and generation work, and the system is resilient, as evidenced by how the utility has handled flooding, a derecho wind storm, the polar vortex and other weather threats. Under Burke’s leadership, the utility has been recognized nationally as one of the country’s top economic development utilities. His focus on the customer has helped existing customers grow and thrive, while also drawing new companies to the area.

Pathways to Decarbonization Energy Portfolio workshops

OPPD hosted a series of public virtual workshops in April and May, providing a deep dive into the Energy Portfolio lane of its Pathways to Decarbonization Study and giving the public insight into the district’s work to meet its goal of being a net-zero carbon utility by 2050, while maintaining affordable, reliable, environmentally sensitive energy services for customers. 

On June 18, OPPD will release a detailed set of assumptions. The information will be posted on OPPDCommunityConnect.com. Feedback from customers via the community engagement platform is welcome until June 26.

OPPD will host another virtual information session on Aug. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. In that session, utility experts will provide an interim modeling update. Customers may register for this session through OPPDCommunityConnect.com. Two additional workshops will be scheduled later this year to discuss the initial and then final results.

Read the entire news release here.

U.S. Solar Market Eclipses 100 Gigawatts

Solar Energy Industries Association News Release
June 15, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. and HOUSTON, TX — The U.S. solar market surpassed 100 gigawatts (GWdc) of installed electric generating capacity, doubling the size of the industry over the last 3.5 years, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight Q2 2021 report, released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie. Solar had a record-setting Q1 2021 and accounted for 58% of all new electric capacity additions in the United States. Renewable energy accounted for nearly 100% of all new electric capacity in Q1. Read more here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

OF POTENTIAL INTEREST TO RENEWABLE ENERGY INVESTORS & DEVELOPERS

Confidence Among Renewable Energy Investors at an All-Time High: Report, Environment+Energy Leader

A new analysis released recently by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) finds that confidence among both renewable energy investors and developers is at an all-time high. The report, “Expectations for Renewable Energy Finance in 2021-2024,” presents the results of a new survey of large financial institutions and renewable energy development companies on their confidence in the sector in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new report also tracks progress on the $1T 2030: American Renewable Investment Goal, an initiative ACORE launched in 2018 to help secure $1 trillion in private sector investment in renewable energy and enabling grid technologies by 2030.

Additional Recommended Reading
ACORE insight: The federal agenda for energy and climate, PV Magazine

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA NEWS

Successful bond sale yields $400 million for university building maintenance projects

The sale – the largest issuance of new bonds in NU history – was the first transaction after the passage of LB384, a plan championed by Sen. John Stinner of Gering to extend through 2062 a state-university partnership on deferred maintenance. The Legislature and Gov. Pete Ricketts’ approval of the bill this session allowed the university to capitalize on current historically low interest rates, resulting in a 2.99 percent rate for funds with an average lifespan of 35 years. Chancellors have developed initial lists of priority projects to be addressed with the new $400 million in bond proceeds. Notably, one-quarter of the proceeds – $100 million – will be used for energy efficiency or other “green” projects, reflecting a system-wide commitment to sustainability.

LB384: Provide for and change provisions related to transfers of funds and funding for university and state college facilities, create and change permitted uses of funds, and create a grant program. 

NEBRASKA ALSO IN THE NEWS HERE

Department of Natural Resources awarded grant for initiative to assess rare earth elements, critical minerals, The Missouri Times

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A partnership between the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the University of Kansas will receive $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to study the feasibility of recovering critical minerals from coal and associated strata in the Cherokee-Forest City Basin, which encompasses Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Osage Nation. The Department of Energy’s Carbon Ore, Rare Earth and Critical Minerals Initiative is a $19 million nationwide effort to assess rare earth elements and critical minerals in fossil fuel-producing areas.

Previously Posted: Statement About Coal & News Release On The Referenced DOE Grant

“Coal may contain as many as 76 of the 92 naturally occurring elements of the periodic table.”
SourceUnited States Geological Survey

DOE Awards $19 Million for Initiatives to Produce Rare Earth Elements and Critical MineralsDepartment of Energy News Release 

“The very same fossil fuel communities that have powered our nation for decades can be at the forefront of the clean energy economy by producing the critical minerals needed to build electric vehicles, wind turbines, and so much more,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm“By building clean energy products here at home, we’re securing the supply chain for the innovative solutions needed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – all while creating good-paying jobs in all parts of America.” 

Production of rare earth elements and critical minerals, which serve as key components to several clean energy applications such as magnets in wind turbines and batteries in electric and conventional vehicles, is a prime example of how DOE is supporting regional economic growth and job creation in regions traditionally home to the fossil fuel industry.

See Also: FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Outlines Key Resources to Invest in Coal and Power Plant Community Economic RevitalizationThe White House Briefing Room

First of its kind solar farm to save people money

By Amanda Poole, News Channel Nebraska

TEKAMA, Neb. – Farmers in northeast Nebraska are taking on a new crop: the sun. Burt county community members celebrated a new five acre solar farm with a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday morning.  “They should be proud that they were the first utility in the state to do this,” said Jon Crane, President and CEO of Bluestem Energy Solutions. Read more or watch the video here.

Previously Posted: Burt County Solar-Plus-Storage Project Fully Operational, Bluestem Energy Solutions News Release

Photo Credit: Bluestem Energy Solutions

Pollinator Conservation on Solar Farms: The Entomology Perspective

By Entomology Today

Amid the steady growth of solar energy production in the United States, pollinator conservation at solar installations has become an appealing secondary pursuit, but the long-term success of such efforts remains to be seen. Can the land within a solar farm be made a true resource for pollinating insects? Will solar developers see value in the extra investment to plant and maintain flowering vegetation?

A group of entomologists tackles these questions in a new article published today in the journal Environmental Entomology. They say pairing solar energy with pollinator habitat offers great promise, but scientific evaluation and meaningful standards will be key to making it a true win-win combination. Continue reading here.

Photo by Rob Davis/Fresh Energy

Construction underway at NPPD Ainsworth community solar site

Nebraska Public Power District News Release

Ainsworth, Neb. – If you live in and around Ainsworth, you might have noticed construction at the site of NPPD’s newest SunWise℠ community solar facility located just north of the Cowboy Trail at the south end of East City Park. Construction officially began the second week of May.

When complete, the 500-kilowatt (KW) Ainsworth facility will generate enough electricity to serve the equivalent of approximately 75-100 homes in the community when the sun is shining. The solar project will join current projects, including those already operational in Venango, Scottsbluff, Kearney, and future projects planned for Norfolk, York, and Ogallala. The project will be built and operated by GRNE Solar, a Lincoln, Neb., company.  Once completed, the facility will be known as Solar Bundle One, LLC. Read the entire news release here.

NPPD Sunwise Community Solar
GRNE Solar

Ainsworth Wind Energy Facility, NPPD