Powering Strong Communities

OPPD signs PPA for output of 81-MW solar farm

The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) has signed a power purchase contract with Community Energy for an 81-megawatt (MW) solar farm.

Renewable energy sources are central to OPPD’s Power with Purpose project, which includes a commitment to its board of directors to add up to 600 MW of utility-scale solar to OPPD’s fleet, along with modernized natural gas backup generation at its Turtle Creek and Standing Bear Lake stations, according to The Wire, the utility’s online newsletter.

The planned Platteview Solar project will be one of several solar facilities supporting OPPD’s 13-county service territory, according to The Wire. OPPD also plans to grow its renewable energy portfolio, which includes wind, hydro, landfill gas, and a 5-MW community solar facility, from its current 38.4 percent of retail sales as of 2020.

OPPD is striving to be a net-zero carbon utility by 2050 under a strategic directive set up by its board of directors. Power with a Purpose came out of the board’s directive. OPPD has also begun a broader study, Pathways to Decarbonization, that is looking at the utility’s generation portfolio, internal operations, buildings, fleet and inventory, as well as community engagement regarding customer-owned generation, OPPD spokesman Cris Averett said. “We want to be part of that conversation,” he said.

The study is slated to continue for the rest of the year. OPPD would then report back to its board, which would then make recommendations to the utility.

The Platteview Solar project is sited on about 500 leased acres south of Yutan, Neb., in eastern Saunders County. It will be owned and operated by Radnor, Penna., based Community Energy, which was chosen for the project through a competitive bidding process.

Community Energy is in the process of securing a conditional use permit for the solar project. Pending approval, construction of the solar project would begin early in 2022 and take nine to 12 months to complete. “We are hoping for a green light by the summer,” Averett said.

In February, Saunders County passed a solar ordinance, stipulating required setbacks and a plan for funded site decommissioning at the end of the solar farm’s useful life, approximately 30 years.

The project will employ more than 150 people for up to a year. Longer term, up to three full-time employees would operate and maintain the site and Saunders County would receive around three decades of tax revenue with little to no effect on local services and infrastructure, according to The Wire. “It will be an economic boon for the county,” Averett said.