Scottsbluff, Neb. – It has been 20 months since the 128-kilowatt solar array, located at Nebraska Public Power District’s office in Scottsbluff, went into operation sending renewable energy created on to the electric grid.
“The Scottsbluff project, and NPPD’s other Sunwise Community Solar projects, are operating well and performing as expected. The Scottsbluff project was sold out within days of our launch of the project and the community has been extremely supportive,” explained NPPD Retail General Manager Tim Arlt. “In fact, Scottsbluff has embarked on a second community solar project with the developer, SolSystems, for a significantly larger 4.6-megawatt operation.”
NPPD customers in Scottsbluff took the opportunity to purchase shares of the solar unit in 2017, selling out all the potential shares. NPPD’s Sunwise Community Solar program currently includes two other units, a 98-kilowatt unit operating in Venango and a 5.7-megawatt facility in Kearney, which is currently the largest solar facility in Nebraska.
During its brief life of operation, the Scottsbluff facility has been able to generate over 350,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, including over 200,000 kWh in 2018. The highest producing months included June of 2017 when the unit generated 26,885-kWh, July of 2017 with 25,745-kWh, and 24,839 kWh in July of 2018. “We are seeing consistent generation although it is slightly behind what was initially forecasted,” Arlt added.
In the initial signup for the community solar program in Scottsbluff, customers who purchased shares (150 kilowatt hours per share) paid a higher premium. Arlt pointed out that with the second community solar project all subscribers will see a bill credit for the community solar shares. The solar share prices will be blended together resulting in a production cost savings to all solar program participants.
“The community solar projects are not subsidized in any form or fashion,” Arlt pointed out. “Communities that choose not to participate in a community solar project do not pay any costs associated with the facilities that do. In fact, NPPD working with its partner communities established clear guidelines that prohibited cost shifts or subsidies.” An end-use customer who decides not to participate in community solar their bill is not impacted at all.
“Our Community Solar program is specifically designed to not shift costs to others or to subsidize the program,” he stressed.
Arlt pointed out that NPPD is in various stages of progress for community solar projects in Norfolk, Chadron, O’Neill, Ainsworth Pawnee City, and Loup City.