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Conservation Nebraska and Grand Island Utilities hosts solar power tour

Published: Aug. 22, 2020 at 5:09 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Conservation Nebraska works to educate communities on sustaining the environment, and on Saturday they hosted a tour with Grand Island Utilities to get an in-depth look into the city’s solar farm.

“It’s just to give the community the opportunity to see a renewable energy right in their back yards,” said Conservation Director Eric Garcia.

A group of people came out to 380 Museum Drive in Grand Island to learn about solar energy.

“This is really cool,” said Alex Kemnitz. “There is nothing more enthralling for me to see this in action into the community.”

They did the tour outside of the farm, because they didn’t want groups of people inside due to COVID-19.

“We’re just going to be doing a tour outside of the facility just to get a more closer look to see what the solar panels look like,” said Garcia.

A representative from GI Utilities, Interconnection Systems who operates and maintains the facility, and GenPro Energy Solutions, who installed the panels were there to share the backstory and answer questions. People listened closely to their words, and some even took notes. Alex Kemnitz is a teacher at Grand Island Senior High School, and he is looking forward to sharing this information with his students.

“We’re actively looking to get students engaged with the community and how solar power is used in Nebraska,” said Kemnitz. “This is only a natural shoe in for us, and I’m really excited to see all this stuff for them.”

Solar energy is known to be less harmful for the environment.

“It’s a pretty renewable, very clean energy,” said Garcia. “There’s a very limited amount of environmental impacts.”

The solar farm has been operating since 2018.

“It’s a pretty small portion of our overall load,” Assistant GI Utilities Director Travis Burdett said. “This is roughly one megawatt AC. During the summer our peak load is around 170, So it’s a very small percentage of our load.”

The power from the solar panels gets fed into the utilities department system and disperses to wherever it’s needed. Since the JBS Beef Plant is right next door, more than likely it goes there.

The utilities department is trying solar energy out to see if it’s worth the investment.

“It gives us some operational experience and also some economic experience, so we can determine if we want to expand it in the future or maybe put more in other areas of town,” said Burdett.

GI Utilities is undecided about whether or not to add more solar panels throughout the city.

“I would say that’s still up for discussion,” said Burdett. “We’re evaluating that, and I don’t know if we have any firm plans at this point, but certainly it will be an option down the road.”

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