The community of Lincoln, Nebraska held a ribbon cutting for the largest utility scale solar project in the state on September 17, 2016.
The project is known as a community solar project and offers the opportunity for residents to participate in developing solar energy if they are limited in installing rooftop solar on their homes. Rooftop solar is not an option for many residents of Lincoln for various reasons, such as residents not being homeowners, rooftop shading issues or general financial challenges.
In 2013, Lincoln Electric System (LES), Lincoln’s primary electric utility company, conducted a survey where nearly half of its 134,000 retail customers responded positively to participating in a community solar program known as SunShares. LES immediately began developing the SunShares program with enthusiasm.
LES accepted proposals from various solar installers to select a project developer. Coronal Development Services was the first chosen developer, which then transferred the 5-megawatt project to Enerparc Inc., based in Oakland, CA. LES provided Enerparc the option to develop on LES property or to choose its own building location. The company decided to go with selecting its own location of 46 acres leased by local farmers.
Enerparc managed nearly the entire permitting process while communicating with the city, county and other utilities. It will continue to repair and maintain the project while LES purchases the power, processes billing and communicates with customers.
Customers were first given the opportunity to participate in the SunShares program by paying a minimum of three dollars a month in addition to their monthly bill. More than 1,200 of LES’s customers registered for the program and generate approximately $6,000 a month. These funds go towards paying off a 20 year contract for the community solar project valued at $8.9 million.
LES has received interest from customers in its new virtual solar net metering program that is schedule to launch in late 2016. This program will allow customers to buy into the solar program as much as they desire and receive credit on their monthly electric bill, ultimately paying less for energy.
For more information about Lincoln Electric System visit their website here.
Tune into Lauren Ell’s interview with Scott Benson, Lincoln Electric System Manager, Resource and Transmission Planning. NOTE: First 30 seconds is poor audio.
Photo credit: Lincoln, Nebraska by @whatforestsees (Instagram)