Distributed Energy Resources

Norfolk, Neb., solar facility will include battery energy storage system

The city of Norfolk, Neb., has become the latest Nebraska municipality to become part of Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) SunWise Community Solar Program with a project that includes a battery energy storage system (BESS) that will be tied to a solar array as a demonstration project.

NPPD said in a news release that it plans to enter into a 30-year agreement with N Solar for an 8.5 MW solar unit to be constructed on land at the city’s well field.

N Solar is a three-company partnership that includes Messner Development, Gen Pro Energy Solutions and Sol Systems. N Solar will have a lease agreement with the City of Norfolk for the land where the solar panels will be installed.

The solar panel installation is expected to begin in 2021 and will be operational by the end of 2021. Norfolk is the fourth Nebraska community to be part of the program that currently includes Venango, Scottsbluff (two units) and Kearney. In partnership with the city, NPPD will host an open house for Norfolk customers to learn about the SunWise Community Solar program.

Eventually the well field site will have over 25,000 solar panels. Collectively, the three N Solar companies have been involved in a combined 20 solar projects across Nebraska, including three of the four NPPD SunWise Community Solar projects.

The BESS will be charged through generation provided by the solar unit. The BESS unit will store approximately the amount of electricity that a small home would use over the course of two months.

With support from the city of Norfolk, NPPD received a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) for $490,000 over two years for the BESS project. Norfolk committed to participate in the funding request as a grant partner and is providing the real estate for the project site, weekly inspections and guided public tours.

The demonstration project is the first of its kind in Nebraska, having one megawatt, two megawatt hour utility scale, proven technology, NPPD said. The BESS will be charged and discharged daily to accomplish several goals for NPPD such as demand management, frequency regulation, voltage support, and smoothing and shifting variable renewable energy generation.

This project was not cost-effective for NPPD to fund in total but with the Nebraska Environmental Trust grant sharing the battery costs it became possible. 

NPPD’s SunWise Community Solar Program has an existing facility in Kearney that has been in operation for nearly two years, generating 5.7 megawatts of energy through photovoltaic panels. In the past year a 4.375-MW unit was installed in Scottsbluff.  Smaller solar arrays in the program are located in Scottsbluff (128 kilowatts) and Venango (98 kilowatts).