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As costs drop, solar projects get attention

February 23, 2017

KEARNEY — The Chicago-based firm that’s building a 58-megawatt solar energy array in Kearney, SoCore Energy, operates solar projects in 17 states, including Kansas, and is developing other projects in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and South Dakota.

The Kearney project, at $11 million and 5.8 megawatts, will be the largest solar array in Nebraska when its solar panels spanning 53 acres go online in the fall. The Kearney project is among community solar projects that are flying off the drawing board as creative partnerships, technological advancements and other factors have turned solar into a cost-effective, long-term alternative among renewable energy sources.

Solar energy generated by the Kearney array will be available to local consumers, including residential, commercial and institutional, and according to Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse, the cost will be only a few dollars more for an average house.

Clouse said his all-electric home uses about 1,000-1,200 kilowatt hours per month. Consumers could buy up to 80 percent of their electricity from the solar array at 150 kilowatt hours per share at 86 cents per share per month.

Affordability, reliability and environmental concerns are among the top driving forces prompting utilities, industries and communities to evaluate solar installations.

For Clouse, buying 900 kilowatt hours of solar energy per month will add about $5.15 to his monthly bill, which is $157.

About 84,000 shares of capacity will be available from the SoCore project. Clouse said consumers would pay an upfront enrollment fee of $50, and each share would cost 86 cents per month. Because the solar rate isn’t much more than NPPD’s standard rate, he anticipates a lot of interest, so much so, he said, that the challenge could be deciding how to reserve some solar capacity for businesses that want to be in Tech oNE Crossing.

Affordability, reliability and environmental concerns are among the top driving forces prompting utilities, industries and communities to evaluate solar installations, but in Nebraska, individual investors also are getting into the act.

In some cases, the individual investors are able to leverage their own money with grants to reduce initial costs and make projects viable. Several Hub Territory projects got grants from USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, which gave $962,000 to 40 Nebraska projects.

Among grant recipients were farming operations planning to put solar energy to work to dry grain, pump water for stock wells and power ag buildings.

 

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