Community solar delivering benefits to Nebraskans

Environment

As inflation pinches pocketbooks across the state, Nebraskans are looking for ways to save money. 

Residents of several Nebraska communities, now including Norfolk, have the opportunity to save on their utility bills thanks to community solar developments built through Nebraska Public Power District’s SunWise Community Solar Program. 

Community solar is a way for residents to buy solar energy without needing to install panels on their home or business. Through the SunWise program, NPPD funds the construction and maintenance of the community solar field, and then residential and business customers can subscribe to shares. The cost savings equivalent to the amount of solar energy the customer is subscribed to is reflected on their monthly utility bill. It is estimated that the average residential user can save around $15-20 a month by participating in the program. 

The program also allows more members of the community to use solar energy by removing the large upfront costs of home installation and allowing non-homeowners, such as renters, to subscribe. Furthermore, there are no additional recurring costs such as taxes, insurance, or maintenance. 

Local electricity generation enhances a community’s reliability and creates price certainty over the several decades of the project. This reduces reliance on volatile global energy markets, creating security and reliability with our own natural resources. 

There are currently six SunWise community solar developments in Nebraska—Ainsworth, Kearney, Venango, two in Scottsbluff, and now Norfolk. Norfolk’s recently completed project is now the largest solar development in the state at 8.5 megawatts on 75 acres. The site also features a 1.5 MW energy storage battery that discharges power during peak energy demand and is planted with pollinator species, which require less maintenance and provide numerous environmental benefits. 

Overall, community solar is a win as it brings economic and environmental benefits to Nebraska’s communities.

Feature photo: A ribbon cutting was held on June 30 for Nebraska's largest community solar project in Norfolk.

Photo by Lindsay Mouw