OPPD Board Approves Recommendation To Delay Retirement, Conversion Of Plant Units

At their monthly meeting on Aug. 18, the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) Board of Directors approved a recommendation by utility management to temporarily postpone a planned transition of North Omaha Station (NOS).

The vote postpones the retirement of NOS units 1-3, currently available to run on natural gas during times of high demand, as well as the conversion of units 4 and 5 from low-sulfur coal to natural gas, the Nebraska public power utility said.

The temporary postponement is only until the utility’s new natural gas generation balancing plants -- Standing Bear Lake Station (SBLS) and Turtle Creek Station (TCS) -- are fully studied and approved for grid interconnection service in accordance with federal law issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and administered by the Southwest Power Pool, OPPD said.

OPPD had planned to have these plants up and running by the end of 2023. However, the utility is experiencing unexpected delays in this process due to a backlog facing its regional transmission organization, Southwest Power Pool, with the large number of new projects requesting to come online within its footprint.

“The board's vote ensures OPPD’s customers throughout 13 counties will continue to have reliable, resilient power, as we await final approval for grid interconnection of our new natural gas generation balancing stations,” it said.

OPPD anticipates all milestones associated with the regional grid interconnection approval process to be completed by 2026.

These new plants, currently under construction, are part of OPPD’s Power with Purpose (PwP) initiative to bring additional generation totaling approximately 1,200 megawatts (MW) of natural gas and solar capability online.

Both OPPD’s new natural gas generation plants and solar generation projects have experienced challenges, including generation interconnection and supply chain issues, OPPD said.

Part of the disruption to the solar supply chain stems from a federal investigation of solar panel exports from Southeast Asia. “These are issues facing not only our utility, but utilities across the country. OPPD’s leadership team continues to work diligently on finding solutions,” the utility said.

Meanwhile, Courtney Kennedy, manager of OPPD’s Alternative Energy Program, provided an update on the utility’s solar generation additions.

Platteview Solar, an 81-megawatt (MW) solar generation facility, and the first solar contract announced as part of Power with Purpose, now has an updated commercial operation date of May 2024. The previous completion date was adjusted because of national supply chain issues – including equipment lead times. Those living around the Saunders County facility can expect to see activity onsite in early 2023.

As part of the update, Kennedy also explained that OPPD is now working with The AES Corporation (AES) for this project, following AES’ acquisition of Community Energy Solar LLC in December 2021. AES is now the long-term owner and operator of Platteview Solar.

Current delays will not impact OPPD’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon by 2050, said Javier Fernandez, OPPD President and CEO.