Solar energy is gaining traction in Nebraska as a growing number of cities adopt the technology, and state officials are looking for ways to help the trend along.
The technology has become so popular that some cities have had to expand their recently built solar farms or build new ones to keep pace with customer demand.
Many of the cities are taking advantage of the Nebraska Public Power District’s SunWise Community Solar Program, approved in 2016 to help cities and villages adopt solar power in a central location for residents to use.
The program has helped launch new solar farms in Scottsbluff, Venango and Kearney since 2017, and more than half a dozen other cities have expressed interest, said NPPD General Retail Manager Tim Arlt.
Separately, Fremont is moving forward with a second solar farm due to high demand on the first array that went live earlier this year.
Fremont City Administrator Brian Newton said the farm allows customers to buy their own solar panel or pay a one-time fee to use power generated in the farm. He said the first farm sold out to 217 residents within seven weeks.
Arlt said the challenges include finding available land that’s close enough to feed into NPPD’s grid and making sure the local grid can handle the additional power.
“We want to say yes if a community wants it,” he said.
Nebraska lawmakers may review some of the challenges as well.
Sen. Rick Kolowski, of Omaha, has introduced a legislative study to explore ways to promote solar energy, noting its environmental benefits. Kolowski said he wants to see the state use renewable resources more effectively, and he hopes the study could lead to legislation that would provide incentives or tax breaks to encourage more solar energy.