The City of Norfolk, Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), and members of the community are celebrating the completion of construction of what is currently the largest solar farm in the state. The 8.5 MW solar installation is paired with NPPD’s first large-scale battery storage system, capable of storing up to 2 MWh. It’s also a pollinator habitat, and it was led by an all-woman development team.
In a state that in 2021 ranked 47th in the country for installed solar and was deriving only .22% of its electricity from solar (according to the Solar Energy Industries Association), this system gives the state a serious boost.
The system is developed and operated by Sol Systems in partnership with EPC firm GenPro Energy Solutions and real estate development firm Mesner Development. With woman comprising only 30% of the solar workforce, having an all-woman development team sets this project apart. Anna Noucas, director of origination, led the competitive RFP process submission and contract negotiations after the project was awarded. Anna’s initial Norfolk team consisted of Jill Rathke, business development associate; Lauren Aycock, project engineer; and Erin Hickok, senior investment analyst. In the development phase, Bridget Callahan, project development manager, led the coordination of site studies and the project’s interconnection process with NPPD. Meg Pieper, pre-construction manager, helped set construction timelines and worked to ensure project goals and needs were communicated .
The project is part of NPPD’s SunWise program, a community solar initiative where customers who sign up to obtain a share will receive an electricity bill credit.
In addition, the site was planted with plants that will enhance pollinator populations. The inclusion and design of the pollinator habitat was completed by performance engineer Juliana Isaac.
Part of NPPD’s community solar program, SunWise, the solar installation will enable Norfolk residents to purchase the energy produced at a fixed price to offset normal retail electricity. Sol Systems and NPPD entered a 30-year power purchase agreement, providing a fixed cost of energy for NPPD and Norfolk residents for decades.
“The Norfolk community solar facility is going into operation, and it is great to officially celebrate the completion of the state’s largest solar facility,” says Brittney Koenig, account manager at NPPD. “Norfolk customers who have signed up for community solar shares began to see a credit on their bill starting in June.”
Sol Systems partnered with Northeast Community College (NECC) and awarded three scholarships to students interested in the school’s Electrical Construction and Control Program. In further partnership with NECC, GenPro established internships for students enrolled in the Electrical Construction and Control Program, providing them with hands-on experience helping to construct the array.
“Sol Systems is proud to be a part of this solar + storage project with NPPD and the City of Norfolk because it fully captures what is at the core of Sol’s mission,” said Anna Toenjes, senior director of business development at Sol Systems. “The project will service this community with clean, renewable energy for decades while creating strong community impact through our scholarship work with NECC. In addition, I am personally proud to have been a part of an all-female team at Sol that led the contract negotiations, development and financing of this solar + storage project.”
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