Omaha experiences an average of 214 sunny days per year – nine more than the national average, according to Sperling’s BestPlaces.com. And the Omaha Public Power District intends to take full advantage of all of them.
In spring 2019, construction began on the utility’s first community solar field. By early August, more than 17,500 panels were up on the 35-acre site near Fort Calhoun in Washington County. Once fully installed, the solar array will produce 5 megawatts of solar energy each year — enough to power, on average, 750 to 1,000 households.
Renewable green energy, with an emphasis on solar and wind, is a priority for OPPD. “We expect to be over 40% renewable by the end of 2019,” says OPPD product specialist Tricia McKnight. “Our goal is to get to 50%.”
The community solar project gives OPPD residential customers the opportunity to purchase shares of the solar energy produced. Each share represents 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity, and when the program was announced, the 8,000-plus shares available sold out quickly.
At last report, more than 70 customers were on a waitlist for solar shares, when they become available.
“This is our first project doing solar, so we’re excited about it, and we love that the community is excited about it as well,” McKnight says.
OPPD and NextEra Energy Resources have a 20-year power purchase agreement for the energy generated at the facility.
“I think we’re going to see a lot more solar and a lot more wind. That’s something that OPPD is focusing on,” McKnight says.