The City of Norfolk and Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) are celebrating the end of the construction phase for the largest solar farm in the state, which is paired with the NPPD’s first large-scale battery storage system. Sol Systems, a solar energy developer, and GenPro Energy Solutions, a real estate development company Mesner Development, designed and operate the 8.5 MW+ battery storage system.
The array is part of NPPD’s community solar program, SunWise, allowing local Norfolk residents to purchase clean energy produced from the array at a fixed price to offset normal retail electricity. The energy from the array was purchased by Sol Systems and NPPD under a power purchase agreement (PPA), for a period of 30 years.
“The Norfolk community solar facility is going into operation, and it is great to officially celebrate the completion of the state’s largest solar facility,” says Brittney Koenig, NPPD’s account manager. “Norfolk customers who have signed up for community solar shares began to see a credit on their bill starting in June.”
“We’re excited to officially launch this project,” comments City of Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning. “Participating community members will soon be able to utilize affordable, locally generated clean energy for the first time in this form and fashion. We’re proud to have worked collaboratively with NPPD and the private sector to provide the opportunity. It adds to our quality of life.”
The large-scale storage system can store 2 MWh of solar farm electricity. This will allow NPPD flexibility in discharge times, such as summer evenings and winter mornings during peak grid times.
The construction site was planted with pollinator habitats in order to support local bee/butterfly populations. Prairie grasses and prairie flowers will help to create a healthy, native habitat. This will stabilize and support soil health, and provide habitat for endangered species.
“Sol Systems is proud to be a part of this solar + storage project with NPPD and the City of Norfolk because it fully captures what is at the core of Sol’s mission,” states Anna Toenjes, senior director of business development at Sol Systems. “The project will service this community with clean, renewable energy for decades while creating strong community impact through our scholarship work with NECC. In addition, I am personally proud to have been a part of an all-female team at Sol that led the contract negotiations, development and financing of this solar + storage project.”
In addition to the energy and educational benefits of the array, Sol Systems partnered with Northeast Community College (NECC) to establish three scholarships for students interested in the school’s Electrical Construction and Control Program. The scholarships, which provide tuition support for two years, were awarded this spring. In partnership with NECC, GenPro also offered internships to students enrolled in the Electrical Construction and Control Program. These internships allowed them to get hands-on experience with the construction of the array.
“As the EPC that has constructed the most municipal solar arrays in the State of Nebraska, it is really important that we can give back to the communities we serve,” mentions Molly Brown, EVP of corporate strategy at GenPro. “Education is at the core of who we are, and the partnership with NECC allowed us to train the next generation of solar electricians. We need more skilled labor as this industry continues to grow.”
“We are proud to be part of the ongoing effort to develop clean energy in Nebraska,” says Cliff Mesner, owner of Mesner Development. “Our mission is to provide every Nebraska community with the opportunity for high quality, affordable clean energy integrated with local public power districts and municipal utilities. We believe in public power and we are inspired by the leadership in Norfolk, Neb.”