Category Archives: Community-Scale / Utility-Scale Solar

OPPD announces sites for two backup natural gas plants

By Jessica Wade, Omaha World-Herald

The Omaha Public Power District on Thursday announced the locations of two natural gas peaking plants that will be built in the Omaha area. No location has been announced for a solar farm planned as part of the Power with Purpose project. OPPD will hold two online meetings for the public to learn more about the natural gas units: the Papillion facility will be discussed Sept. 29 at 6 p.m.; the Omaha unit will be discussed on Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. For information on the meetings, visiOPPDCommunityConnect.com. Read more here.

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The Climate Crisis Requires That We Move Away from Gas, by Sheryl Carter and Bobby McEnaney, Natural Resources Defense Council

We need to create a zero- or net-zero carbon future to deal with the worsening climate crisis—and that requires transitioning away from fossil gas. Getting there will require us to significantly reduce our reliance on gas and, for any gas we still use, address both the methane leaked throughout the supply chain and carbon emitted during combustion. Moving away from gas—in our buildings, in the power sector, and across our economy—could take a long time, and that is why we must start now. Here are some things we can do today to get there smartly and affordably:

WIND & SOLAR DECARBONIZING OUR ECONOMIES LOCALLY & NATIONALLY

Wind’s Environmental Record, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)
Wind power is a low-carbon energy source—when a wind turbine generates electricity it produces zero carbon emissions. The development of clean wind energy avoids significant carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution.

  • In 2019, the electricity generated from wind turbines avoided an estimated 42 million cars’ worth of CO2 emissions.
  • A typical wind project repays its carbon footprint in six months or less, providing decades of zero-emission energy.

Climate Change: A Solar Energy Industries Association Initiative

  • Both concentrating solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV) technologies produce clean, emissions-free electricity that can help reduce U.S. GHG emissions
  • Solar heating and cooling systems can provide about 80% of the energy used for space heating and water heating needs.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

EPA Infographic: Sources of GHG Emissions in the United States by Sector. While methane, the primary component of natural gas, makes up 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, it is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide during the first two decades of its release.

Carbon dioxide (CO2): Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees and other biological materials, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement). Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere (or “sequestered”) when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle.

Methane (CH4): Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.

Nitrous oxide (N2O): Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste, as well as during treatment of wastewater.

Fluorinated gases: Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes. Fluorinated gases are sometimes used as substitutes for stratospheric ozone-depleting substances (e.g., chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and halons). These gases are typically emitted in smaller quantities, but because they are potent greenhouse gases, they are sometimes referred to as High Global Warming Potential gases (“High GWP gases”).

5 Major US Utilities That Haven’t Promised to Fully Decarbonize: Some of the holdouts will surprise you.

By Julian Specter, Greentech Media

Electric utilities all over the place are promising to eliminate or net out their carbon emissions — here’s GTM’s look at the top five. Such promises were unthinkable for utilities just a few years ago. But the trend took off when Xcel Energy figured out it could retire coal plants, build clean power plants, and make more profits while keeping electricity costs down. The combination of positive public perception, a bigger rate-base and greater appeal to sustainability-minded investors turned the carbon-free commitments into the rule, not the exception, for the utility sector.

“They’re really trying to appease a nascent but quite powerful movement of [environmental, social and governance focused] shareholders and institutional investors,” said David Pomerantz, executive director of utility watchdog group Energy and Policy Institute, which tracks carbon targets. “Once it started taking off…it became awkward if a company didn’t have a goal.” A few exceptions do remain, though — holdouts that have not promised to eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading here.

Photo: NextEra Energy constructed Nebraska’s 35-acre, 5-megawatt solar array east of Fort Calhoun, which became operational in late December of 2019. NextEra contracted with OPPD to sell the power it produces to the utility for at least 20 years.

Previously Posted

  • NextEra is also pursuing a 423-megawatt solar project in Nebraska. It has acquired land rights and now is waiting to find a buyer and to hear what the Southwest Power Pool would charge for a connection to the grid. That figure is critical in developing renewable projects. [Phil Clement, who directs projects in Nebraska for NextEra] said that although it’s not now in the plan, storage could become a part of a Nebraska solar array as well. NextEra always builds solar projects “with storage in mind,” he said. Source: Solar-storage project would be ‘game-changer’ for Kansas City region, by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network
  • NextEra, Nebraska farmers aim to build largest solar farm in the Midwest, by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

NEBRASKA-BASED VALMONT INDUSTRIES IN THE NEWS

Convert launches new PV tracker control system, contributed by Convert, PV Magazine

Solar PV tracking manufacturer, Convert, is launching its TRJ-AI Tracker Control System. The company says its new TRJ-AI innovation provides the industry the opportunity to easily control, manage, and monitor tracking systems from digital devices reliably and remotely to optimize the energy production of solar plants.

“Technology is ever-evolving and our commitment is to guarantee a better solution and a higher performance than the current standards, every time. Today with the innovative TRJ-AI Tracker Control System, the customers are able to take control when and where they want,” says Yury Reznikov, vice president and general manager of global solar for Valmont Industries, Inc, the Nebraska-based company that acquired Convert in 2018. “This means having complete control of your solar photovoltaic plant while increasing yield, minimizing risks, and optimizing O&M costs at the same time.”

Valmont Industries Website
Valmont Careers

MORE ON NEW SOLAR SCHOOLS STUDY & SOLAR POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENTS

Virginia jumps to head of the class on school solar installations, report shows, by Elizabeth McGowan, Energy News Network

California is still the runaway valedictorian of solar-powered K-12 schools nationwide, but a recent renewable energy policy evolution in Virginia has propelled the state to head-of-the-class status. Since 2017, Virginia schools leapfrogged an impressive 12 spots — from 20th place to eighth place — in solar capacity installed, according to a report released Tuesday by a Charlottesville nonprofit.

Generation 180 collaborated with the Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association to compile Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools. The organization was founded in 2016 to equip individuals and communities across the country to play a role in the transition to 100% clean energy. Report co-author Tish Tablan is the program director for Solar for All Schools, a Generation 180 initiative.

 About Power Purchase Agreements

Solar Power Purchase Agreements, Solar Energy Industries Association 
A solar power purchase agreement (PPA) is a financial agreement where a developer arranges for the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar energy system on a customer’s property at little to no cost. Schools all across the country are using Solar Power Purchase Agreements to solar power their buildings for free or at minimal cost.

Solar-storage project would be ‘game-changer’ for Kansas City region

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

The world’s largest renewable energy developer is acquiring property in Kansas for a mega-project that would combine hundreds of megawatts of solar and storage capacity. A spokesperson for NextEra Energy confirmed the company is seeking land near Kansas City for a project that could include up to 500 MW each of solar and storage capacity, making it among the largest such projects in the country . . . NextEra is also pursuing a 423-megawatt solar project in Nebraska. It has acquired land rights and now is waiting to find a buyer and to hear what the Southwest Power Pool would charge for a connection to the grid. That figure is critical in developing renewable projects. Read more here.

Previously Posted  
NextEra, Nebraska farmers aim to build largest solar farm in the Midwest

Photo by Stuart Seeger / Flickr / Creative Commons

GAGE COUNTY WIND ENERGY RULE

County board approves wind turbine setback, by Monica Brich, Beatrice Daily Sun
The amendment increases setback requirements from nonparticipating residences from 3/8 to one mile. Nonparticipating residents are those who do not have contracts in place with a wind company. The Gage County Planning and Zoning committee previously approved the resolution in a 6-1 vote in August, after a six hour meeting.

U.S. RENEWABLE ENERGY MANUFACTURING

100 Gigawatts of Domestic Manufacturing Capacity by 2030, Solar Energy Industries Association
Today, SEIA is setting a target of 100 GW of domestic renewable energy manufacturing capacity by 2030, with a particular focus on solar, wind, and energy storage technologies. Right now, we are about a quarter of the way there. This goal is consistent with our aspirations of having solar energy account for 20% of all electricity generation by 2030. And it fits with a collective goal by the renewable energy industries—wind, solar and hydropower with storage, to hit 50% of all electricity by the end of the decade. The 100 GW target is designed to increase the United States’ ability to supply not only domestic renewable energy projects but also export markets. 

Download SEIA White Paper: The Solar+ Decade & American Renewable Energy Manufacturing

ENERGY EFFICIENCY 

Efficiency is smart for public power, American Public Power Association
To explore how central efficiency is for public power, we spoke with a few of the utilities that received the American Public Power Association’s Smart Energy Provider designation in 2019, the first year it was awarded, about what energy efficiency means to them. Utilities with this designation show a dedication to best practices and programs in energy efficiency, among other areas.

DECARBONIZING INDUSTRY

There Is No Business as Usual: Decarbonizing Industry Must Start Now, Rocky Mountain Institute
We know that a higher-than-1.5°C pathway will result in severe natural disasters, including flooding, rising sea levels, hurricanes, drought, and lethal temperature exposures. The increasing regularity of these extreme climate events will create drastic stresses on food and water supply, with ripple effects including hunger, market disruption, increased migration, and social unrest. In addition to threatening our environment and physical well-being, these events threaten our economy. In the United States alone the estimated total cost of weather and climate-based disasters between 1980 and 2019 is estimated at $1.75 trillion.

“Solar Land Lease Considerations for Landowners” Webinar: Presented by Nebraska & Ohio Extension Specialists

Nebraska Nanoscale Facility gets five-year renewal

By Dan Moser | Research and Economic Development
Nebraska Today, University of Nebraska Newsroom

The Nebraska Nanoscale Facility — housed mostly in the Voelte-Keegan Nanoscience Research Center — has received a $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to ensure its continuation through at least 2025. Nebraska’s facility is one of 16 centers created under the NSF’s National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure program, designed to advance the nation’s nanoscience research by expanding the equipment and service capabilities of universities and industries.

“We can proudly say here in Nebraska that this is quite an elite club we are in,” said Christian Binek, director of the nanoscale facility.  The national infrastructure aims to ensure “the entire country is equipped with the tools and expertise to perform nanoscience and nanotechnology.”

Read more here.

MORE NEBRASKA / MIDWEST NEWS STORIES

Alternative energy supporters vying for NPPD board

By Molly Hunter, The Columbus Telegram

Voters in Platte County will have a hand in influencing the state’s renewable energy future in November. The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) is the Loup Power District’s wholesale power supplier. Eleven seats on the NPPD Board of Directors are up for election this fall. Supporters of alternative energy sources are vying for at least four of those seats, including the one that covers Platte County. Continue reading here.

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MORE LOCAL NEWS

OPPD board Chairman Craig Moody announces bid for Omaha City Council, Omaha World-Herald
Craig Moody, chairman of the Omaha Public Power District board and co-owner of a small business focused on sustainability, has announced a campaign for District 3, which covers the city’s downtown and midtown areas. Council President Chris Jerram, who currently represents the district, has said he won’t seek reelection.

 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

CALIFORNIA 

US ENERGY STORAGE ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES NEW GOAL

100GW in 10 years: US Energy Storage Association issues ‘expanded vision’, Energy Storage News

The US national Energy Storage Association (ESA) has adopted a goal for the deployment of 100GW of new energy storage using a range of technologies by 2030, updating a previously set 35GW by 2025 target.
The trade group has nearly 200 industry stakeholder members.

EV CHARGING STATIONS WITH BATTERY STORAGE

Energy storage for EV charging can lower demand charges, Guidehouse reports, Utility Dive

EV charging stations with battery storage systems can make EV charging more cost effective by drawing energy from the grid during low-demand periods and releasing power to charge EVs during peak-demand periods, according to a Guidehouse Insights report. 

SOLAR-POWERED SCHOOLS & CHURCHES

Catholic Energies adding solar to Virginia schools and churches, Solar Power World
The combined projects will generate over 1.6 million kWh of clean electricity each year for decades and save the churches more than $2 million in energy operating costs during the term of their solar agreements.

Local View: Don’t hamper wind growth

By Gary Thompson, Lincoln Journal Star

Last month, the Gage County Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend to the County Board of Supervisors that amendments be made to existing regulations governing development of wind farms in the county.

Among these was the requirement that each turbine be set back at least one mile away from any non-participating residence. If approved, this would be one of the most restrictive regulations in the nation — and its practical effect would be to ban any further development of wind energy within the county borders. Continue reading here.

Gary Thompson has served as an NPPD Board of Directors member for 27 years. He lives in Clatonia.

Also In Nebraska

Solar Farm Field Days

By Rob Davis, Director of Fresh Energy’s Center for Pollinators in Energy

In early August, I spent three days from pre-dawn to near-dusk out in the field with colleagues and collaborators capturing the best of Minnesota’s pollinator-friendly solar arrays. The summer sun presents an amazing opportunity for photos and first-hand experiences that tell the story of how low-impact PV solar designs and management—including pollinator-friendly ground cover—are already implemented on projects ranging from utility-scale down to community-scale. Fresh Energy’s Center for Pollinators in Energy will be sharing more photos and even video from these field days in the weeks and months ahead, but here are some informal behind the scenes photographs that I couldn’t resist sharing. Read more here.

Nebraska solar farm highlights tension between cities, electricity wholesaler

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

The city of Norfolk, Nebraska, soon will celebrate its first solar farm — and the last one allowed under a contract with its electricity wholesaler. The 8.5-megawatt community solar project is being developed in partnership with the Nebraska Public Power District, which supplies power to most of the state outside of Omaha and Lincoln. The hitch for Norfolk is that the public utility’s contracts prevent municipal customers from generating more than 10% of their peak load from alternative sources, a threshold the city expects to reach with this project. Continue reading here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Norfolk solar facility, battery energy storage system ready to go, Norfolk Daily News
NPPD plans to enter into a 30-year agreement with N Solar for an 8.5 megawatt solar unit to be constructed on land at the city’s well field. The expectation is installation of the solar panels will begin in 2021 with operations beginning by the end of 2021.

ALSO WRITTEN BY KAREN UHLENHUTH

Photo by Tim Hynds / Sioux City Journal: South Sioux City’s Solar Park, a 2.3-megawatt array (1,200 panels) located on a 21-acre solar park south of the city, alongside C Avenue. The array generates enough energy to provide 5% of South Sioux City’s electrical needs. This is the first Nebraska project for California-based developer SolarCity, a Tesla subsidiary. Archived News Story: Solar is South Sioux City’s latest investment in renewables, Sioux City Journal

Grand Island deepens stake in alternative energy

Editorial, The Grand Island Independent 

As power generation facilities across the U.S. continue to invest in cleaner fuel sources, gas, solar, hydro, wind and nuclear energy alternatives are rapidly replacing coal as the staple. Grand Islanders have long benefited from comparatively low energy costs due in large part to forward-thinking improvements and continued investment in the city’s power generation facilities and alternative energy sources. Grand Island Utilities Department Director Tim Luchsinger spoke to the Grand Island Rotary Club last week about the city’s long-range plan to diversify its electric energy production. Read more here.

Photo Credit: GenPro Energy Solutions

Previously Posted: Pilot project tests potential of solar energy for Grand Island, Neb., American Public Power Association

Grand Island’s Renewable Energy

MORE LOCAL NEWS & OPINION

  • Interim report for the first half year 2020 – Strong first half, Ørsted News Release, Globe Newswire. We commissioned the 230MW onshore wind farm Plum Creek in Nebraska ahead of schedule and on budget, and we received tax equity funding from our partners.
  • About Plum Creek Wind: The 82–turbine Plum Creek Wind located in Wayne County began commercial operation in 2020. Maximum capacity is 230,000 kilowatts (or 230 megawatts). The facility could produce an amount of energy equivalent to the amount of electricity used by approximately 100,000 Nebraska residences in a year (average annual output). Source: Wind Energy Generation in Nebraska, Nebraska Department of Environment & Energy
  • Burt County officials learn about wind energy project as they consider area wind energy guidelines, KTIV
  • Commentary: New farm income — Martin Kleinschmit, owner of MarLin Wind & Solar LLC, Norfolk Daily News. HARTINGTON — Wind power has had a remarkably positive impact on the Nebraska economy. In addition to producing affordable and reliable clean power, wind energy is creating jobs in rural places and contributing significant new tax revenues to local governments and schools. Of all the positive attributes of wind energy, though, one of the most important and understated is the impact it has had on our state’s farmers.
  • First-hand experience to dispel wind energy myths, by Nebraska farmer/rancher Mike Zakrzewski of O’Neill, Nebraska, Blair Enterprise Publishing. For whatever it’s worth, I’m a third-generation farmer/rancher in Holt County, Nebraska. I own and operate the farm I grew up on northeast of O’Neill, in the middle of the Grande Prairie Wind Energy Project. Grande Prairie is a 400-megawatt, 200 turbine project, currently the largest in the state. There are fourteen turbines within one mile of my front door; some are on my land, many more are on my neighbors’ properties. This November will mark four years of operation for the project, so I may have some useful insight regarding living with wind turbines.

RESOURCES FOR NEW FARMERS & RANCHERS

Nebraska partners to provide energy answers for new farmers, ranchers, Hamburg Reporter. These videos are posted on the project team’s YouTube channel, Energy Answers for the Beginning Farmer & Rancher. Additional resources can be found online here. Contributing extension programs include Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin.

AMERICAN WIND WEEK – INTO THE WIND POSTS