Omaha Public Power District announces sites for two new gas generators

The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) has taken its next step in adding 600 megawatts (MW) of gas-fired generation in support of up to 600 MW of solar power that it plans to add to its fleet.

At the September meeting of its board of directors, the Nebraska public power utility announced the location of two sites for the gas-fired generators, one in Douglas County, the other in Sarpy County.

The gas generators will be used to back up between 400 MW and 600 MW of utility-scale solar generation and are part of OPPD’s Power with Purpose project. The utility’s board in November approved OPPD’s proposal to negotiate and enter into procurement contracts for the proposed gas plants.

OPPD also said the Power with Purpose project honors its commitment to keep rates steady for customers with no general rate increase for a fourth consecutive year.

Locations for the solar components of the Power with Purpose project have not yet been announced because sourcing for solar portions of the project are still under way.

The Power with Purpose project is part of OPPD’s broader aim of achieving net-zero carbon dioxide production by 2050. OPPD initiated a Pathways to Decarbonization study to identify and prioritize strategies to reach that goal.

OPPD also said its Power with Purpose project will allow it to retire coal-fired units at its North Omaha Station, which would enable an 80% to 90% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions at the plant.

“This is OPPD’s first step into our decarbonization efforts to be net zero carbon by 2050, and the organization is fully committed to the new future,” Tim Burke, the utility’s president and CEO, said in a statement. The new gas-fired plants will help OPPD make up for the retired coal units and maintain reliability on its system, he said.

“These natural gas facilities are needed as backup, in order to maintain a reliable and resilient system,” Mary Fisher, vice president of energy production and nuclear decommissioning, said at the board meeting. “The historic flooding we saw in March of last year demonstrates how important resilience is for the future.”

The new gas generators will be used to back up the solar component of the Power with Purpose project. OPPD estimates they would operate about 10% to 15% of the time. The utility also highlighted the benefits of modern gas turbine technology, namely, the ability to ramp up quickly to provide energy when needed and the ability to produce fewer harmful emissions than older gas turbines.