A field of solar panels installed above the old Sarpy County Landfill on Cedar Island Road could supply Offutt Air Force Base with most of the clean-energy electricity it needs to meet an executive order issued by President Barack Obama, city and county officials were told Thursday.
That prospect was held out by a group of 14 energy technology students at Creighton University as they delivered the conclusions of a six-month senior-year study in the Sarpy County Board’s meeting room in Papillion.
The study analyzed the feasibility of building a solar farm somewhere in Sarpy County.
The Cedar Island site in Bellevue emerged as the preferred location over the current Sarpy County Landfill on Fairview Road near Springfield, although the students also concluded that some advantages accrued to installing the solar farm on land directly south of the base.
Obama’s Executive Order 13693 mandates that federal agencies ensure 25 percent of their total electrical and thermal energy consumption flows from clean energy sources by 2025. That goal might be advanced by locating the solar farm adjacent to the base, the study found, thus providing a shorter transmission journey.
Overall, though, the many advantages the study attributed to the Cedar Island site made it the preferred location.
Among those is the 35 acres of flat, sunny land that is available, the fact that the landfill has been closed since 1990 and ground settling is complete, and the presence of an existing energy facility that would permit a convenient connection to the OPPD power supply.
“The Cedar Island location has an excellent potential to be the location for a traditional (solar) array system,” the study concluded.
There is precedent for installing solar farms on old landfills, the study showed. In fact, given the impossibility of erecting buildings on land that consists of trash a few feet below the surface, it is one of the few feasible uses.
A solar farm in Celina, Ohio, built on 30 acres, generates enough energy to power 500 homes for a year, the students reported, while a 10-acre farm in Atlanta generates enough energy to power 224 homes.
The cost of building a Cedar Island system that would generate 8.17 Gigawatt hours over 25 years was placed at $10.2 million.
If the project is built as a public-private partnership, the study found, then a 30 percent federal tax credit would apply, reducing the cost to $7.1 million. Factoring in the approximately $3 million in interest that would be paid on a 25-year loan, however, pushes the cost back up to $10.1 million.
Those numbers appeared more manageable when considering that the cost of generating 8.17 Gigawatt hours with traditional means is about $8.2 million, leaving the solar farm about $2 million short of breaking even.
Securing a low- or no-interest loan, seeking “green” grants, or selling green credits from the sale of solar power were suggested as ways to meet the shortfall.