Creighton University wants to assess the possibility of building a solar energy farm on the old Sarpy County Landfill along Cedar Island Road.

The landfill, which has been closed for decades, has been considered unusable except as a horse-riding and hiking trail.

But Larry Hopp, director of Creighton’s Energy Technology Program, and Andrew Baruth, Creighton professor of physics, won the Sarpy County Board’s support Dec. 15 for an effort to study the costs and obstacles associated with building a solar farm on the site.

The study would be performed by students enrolled in Creighton’s Energy Technology Program and would represent the culminating task of their course of study. It would investigate the site, identify topographical problems associated with installing a field of solar panels, assess costs, and identify a method of funneling any power generated into the OPPD power system.

The study would be completed at no charge to the county, or to the City of Bellevue in whose jurisdiction the landfill sits. When complete, the students will present their conclusions, leaving the county and the city to decide the next step, if any.

Baruth said the study will imagine a five megawatt facility, which is considered a utility-scale operation, and would occupy about 30 acres.

“We thought this would fit in well as an academic exercise to give you and the purchasing department a better picture of what this might look like,” Baruth said.

Sarpy County Administrator Mark Wayne said Hopp and Baruth approached county commissioners because the landfill is maintained by Sarpy County, though they will probably also have to secure permission from the City of Bellevue, which owns the land.

John Reisz, a senior attorney with the county, told the board the idea arose after he and the county’s purchasing agent, Beth Garber, met Hopp and Baruth at the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference held in Omaha Nov. 4-5.

Students enrolled with Creighton’s Energy Technology Program have a track record of conducting feasibility studies for solar projects, having recently completed two — one for a hospital in Nigeria and another for the Siena/Francis homeless shelter in Omaha.

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