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OPPD acquires rights to pursue potential solar project

August 8, 2023 | Grant Schulte | generation, renewables, solar

OPPD is potentially looking to add more affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive generation assets for a rapidly growing community with a proposed solar array in York County. 

The utility has acquired the rights to an existing solar project, K-Junction Solar, and will continue to pursue the possible development of a 310-megawatt (MW), roughly 3,000-acre solar project west of McCool Junction in York County. If developed, the project would provide enough power for 60,000 homes. 

“This is a significant opportunity that could advance our commitment to produce more energy to serve the growing demand,” said OPPD President & CEO Javier Fernandez. “We have a lot of work to do to put a complete plan in place for this project, but this certainly is an exciting step forward in our pursuit of more energy resources.” 

OPPD signed an agreement with the project’s now former owner, EDF Renewables, on July 18. The acquisition allows OPPD to continue and now lead the ongoing technical evaluation and other activities required for the project. If OPPD determines that the project meets its mission and needs, the utility would finalize steps to fully develop the project. 

Continuing discussions, studies

The utility plans to maintain an active presence in the York County area to continue discussing the project with residents and continue the ongoing technical studies to determine the best way to move the project forward. 

“Today brings us great excitement and gratitude for the work the teams have done to pursue an alternative solution,” said Brad Underwood, vice president of Systems Transformation. “Acquiring a generation project this early in its infancy is a first for OPPD and gives us new opportunities to both engage in the community as well as internal stakeholders from technical matters all the way up to ownership or non-ownership decisions. We are excited for the team’s cross-functional work to continue.” 

The acquisition includes what is known as a generation interconnection agreement (GIA) with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which is a major milestone that is required to connect any facility to the power grid. 

Meeting customer demand

Timeliness is a key concern given a backlog of generation projects nationwide that are awaiting approval to connect with the grid. Developing new generation often takes years, and OPPD is working proactively to meet an expected surge in customer demand for electricity. 

“We remain committed to serving the needs of our community, and we’re honored to always be looking for ways to make sure we’re providing the reliable, affordable electricity that our customers need,” Underwood said. 

OPPD’s interest in the project aligns with its efforts to generate more renewable electricity. But the utility is still working to answer feasibility questions about the project and researching whether K Junction will meet the utility’s long-term needs. This work will be done in coordination with local officials and other key stakeholders.  

Affordable, reliable and sustainable

The project, if developed, would increase OPPD’s total solar generation to 391 MW, when coupled with the 81-MW Platteview Solar project in Saunders County. 

Both solar projects are part of OPPD’s Power with Purpose initiative, which seeks up to 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar and 600 megawatts of balancing natural gas generation to help ensure grid reliability and resiliency. OPPD has set a goal to become a net-zero producer of carbon emissions by 2050. 

The K Junction project isn’t expected to affect customer rates.  

OPPD has long maintained generation assets outside of its retail service territory. In 2018, OPPD entered into a power purchase agreement for 160 MW of wind energy from the Sholes Wind Energy Center northwest of Wayne, Nebraska. The utility currently has more than 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy sources outside of its retail territory, acquired through power purchase agreements with more than a dozen wind farms throughout Nebraska. 

Potential economic boost

While it’s still early in the process, officials involved in the project anticipate that it will contribute to both the state and local economy. 

“We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the local community on this development and work with the York County leadership,” said Brook Aken, OPPD’s director of Economic Development & External Relations. “There are significant economic impact benefits this project can bring to the local community and state.” 

Lisa Hurley, executive director of York County Development Corporation, said the project stands to benefit the region and state greatly. 

“We are excited that OPPD purchased the rights to keep it as a potential energy project for our region,” she said. “This development holds a lot of promise for McCool Junction and the county in general, with a positive impact at all stages, from construction to operation. We look forward to learning more about how it will take shape over time.” 

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About Grant Schulte

Grant Schulte joined OPPD as a content generalist in 2022. He is a former reporter for The Associated Press, where he covered the Nebraska Legislature, state politics and other news for a global audience. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and a proud Hawkeye. In his free time he enjoys running, reading, spending time with his wife, and all things aviation.

View all posts by Grant Schulte >

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