Nebraska utility inks agreement with developer for solar farm in Saunders County; it would be Nebraska’s largest

Source: By Nancy Gaarder, Omaha World Herald • Posted: Monday, April 12, 2021

The Biden administration has an ambitious agenda for expanding renewable energy, but challenges stand in the way including rebuilding jobs and navigating the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite some local opposition, Nebraska’s first utility-scale solar farm is a step closer to being built south of Yutan.

The Omaha Public Power District announced last week that it has signed a contract with Community Energy Inc. for an 81-megawatt solar farm to be built on 500 acres in Saunders County.

Construction would begin in 2022.

The project would be the largest solar farm in Nebraska and is the first step toward OPPD’s hoped-for 600 megawatts of solar power.

The farm would have the capacity to generate enough electricity to power 14,000 homes, according to OPPD. But like other sources of electricity — coal, natural gas, nuclear or wind — its actual output would fluctuate.

The facility’s name: Platteview Solar.

Some residents in the Yutan area have opposed the solar project for several reasons, including fears that it could become a dilapidated eyesore when it ceases operation, that it’s located next to a cemetery and that it would affect property values.

Community Energy, the project developer, has said it would screen the solar panels from the cemetery, most likely with trees, and would provide a larger buffer than required between the solar panels and adjacent properties.

While the project has an anticipated lifespan of 30 years, the contract between OPPD and Community Energy is for 20 years, according to a statement from the utility. When the contract expires, it could be renewed with OPPD or another entity. Once the facility is no longer generating electricity, it is to be dismantled, and the land will be returned to farmland.

OPPD board member Eric Williams said this type of clean energy project is a “huge economic opportunity” for Nebraska.

“We have abundant clean energy resources, and when we invest in energy generated here in Nebraska, we are investing in our own communities,” he said.

OPPD said the farm is expected to pay $284,958 in property taxes annually and could generate other tax revenue, too.

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