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OPPD, UNMC partner on state’s largest rooftop solar array

September 13, 2018 | Jodi Baker | commercial and industrial, customers, innovation, renewables
rooftop solar

University of Nebraska Medical Center is known for its innovative medical research. Now, in partnership with Omaha Public Power District, the med center is taking an innovative approach to energy, as well.

The UNMC campus will soon house 1,487 solar panels in a rooftop solar installation atop three campus buildings: the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education, Truhlsen Eye Institute, and the Harold M. and Beverly Maurer Center for Public Health.

The panels will generate up to 500 kilowatts of solar-powered electricity to help power UNMC, beginning in 2019.

rooftop solar
UNMC buildings will use the Solar Aerocompact solar array. Courtesy photo: Morrissey Engineering
power of partnerships

Ken Hansen, associate vice chancellor of facilities at UNMC and vice president of facilities at Nebraska Medicine, said the solar array project is another “great partnership” between UNMC and OPPD.

Recent projects and initiatives have reduced the campus’s energy load from 29 megawatts to 23 megawatts. This is in spite of an increase in the number of buildings, students and staff.

“We are excited to work with OPPD to install these solar panels and improve our energy efficiency while also reducing emissions.”

Darren Dageforde, executive director of utilities and energy utilization for UNMC, said the med center has already made great strides in reducing its energy use and increasing efficiency.

“Having a renewable energy source on campus demonstrates our commitment to being carbon neutral by 2030. And it parallels our mission to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities.”

renewables HISTORY

C&I_UNMC Solar_campus mapThis solar installation is expected to be the largest rooftop system in Nebraska, said Jared Friesen of Morrissey Engineering, which designed the project.

“Its energy production will equal the average annual electricity use of 60 homes in OPPD’s service territory.”

He said the rooftop arrays will first power the buildings that house them. Any remaining electricity generation will power other campus buildings.

Boyd Jones, the contractor selected during a recent public bidding process, will begin construction by late September, 2018. It will be energized by January 2019.

“We continually seek new ways to advance energy services and options to meet our customers’ needs,” said Wyndle Young, manager of Mid/Small Commercial and Industrial Sales & Services for OPPD. “This solar pilot at UNMC introduces a new business model for us to explore, Energy as a Service.”

The solar arrays will use a combination of east- and west-facing panels. This configurations maximizes the energy produced in each square foot of roof space. It also reduces shade between rows, and limits the overall weight added to the roof, Friesen said.

project familiarity

Morrissey Engineering also provided design services and project management for solar installations at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium’s Skyfari station at the Africa Grasslands exhibit, Lincoln Electric System’s Service Center, the Bellevue Public Safety building, and several Baxter auto dealerships in Lincoln and Omaha.

“We also serve approximately 25 percent of our own office’s energy needs with rooftop solar,” Friesen said.

The project is part of an interlocal agreement between the OPPD Board of Directors and the UNMC Board of Regents. It is the latest in a number of energy- efficiency efforts added to the campus since 2012.

Jim Krist, director of OPPD Customer Sales & Services, said partnerships like this are critical to the utility.

“It’s crucial that we build upon these partnerships, so we can understand our customers’ needs and continue to develop strategies that evolve with customer, technology, and market trends.”

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About Jodi Baker

Jodi Baker writes stories and shoots videos for The Wire. Jodi was a television news reporter before she came to work for OPPD as a media specialist in 2013. Jodi earned her degree in broadcasting from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She's worked for news stations from her hometown of Omaha to sunny San Diego. She’s married with two bright and energetic children (a boy and a girl) and an allergy-ridden little Cairn Terrier. She and her husband enjoy catching up on some grown-up DVR time once the kiddos are asleep.

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