A second solar project will drive down costs in Scottsbluff

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SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. - (KNEP) - A second solar project just needs one final vote to move forward but plans are in place.

City Manager Nathan Johnson states the city council will vote on one final agreement with the Nebraska Public Power District that will guarantee the shares are picked up.

This is similar to the agreement the city made with NPPD for the first solar project which is located on South Beltline Highway. Johnson added, the first project was originally supposed to be for residents only but commercial businesses took notice and wanted to get into the mix.

That first one was a 127 kilowatt project and is costing its users about $70 per megawatt hour. The new 4.6 megawatt solar array is set to go up by the Landers Soccer Complex and will drive the cost down to about $51.90 per megawatt hour.

The two projects will be mixed so customers will see a cost of about $52.39 per megawatt hour. This cost will be good for the next 25 years per the power purchase agreement. Johnson added this is the lowest cost in the entire state and in the top five in the country. Traditional electricity is costing about $58 right now in the area.

As spots filled up on the first project, Johnson mentioned the city saw 15-20 on a waiting list and will be included on the second project. Johnson foresees more taking part in this project but states the vote next Tuesday would include the city taking over any shares that are not used. With that said, the city would also be willing to give up shares if it meant a business was coming into the area and wanted to take them on.

The city heard from 12 different bids but eventually settled onto a bid from Sol Systems and Mesner Development Corporation along with NPPD. The entire project bill will be taken care of by the companies with Scottsbluff reaping the benefits.

Over the long term the city hopes it will stabilize and overall lower its cost and maintain efficiencies. Johnson added the city sees this as another avenue to lure businesses in a non-traditional way.

Johnson is looking at a late spring early summer construction date and the potential to include more projects like this in the future.