How do solar panels generate electricity?

    Each solar panel contains photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight into energy by producing direct current (DC) electricity. Energy generation from solar panels is affected by seasonal variance in daylight hours and weather, such as overcast or rainy days.  

    How will OPPD generate electricity at night or when the sun isn’t shining?

    Because solar panels require sunlight to generate electricity, OPPD relies on other generation resources, such as wind turbines, natural gas units, and coal to generate electricity at night or on cloudy days. OPPD manages a combination of power generation technologies to provide energy to our customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.   OPPD can also purchase electricity from other utilities in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) when market prices are low.  

    How could OPPD store energy at night or when the sun isn’t shining?

    OPPD continually evaluates the technical feasibility and cost-effectiveness of power technologies, including energy storage and batteries. Battery storage was included in the modeling process to identify technologies that optimize affordability, reliability/resiliency, and environmental sensitivity; however, battery storage was not recommended because it does not meet multi-day resiliency needs and is costly at this time. That said, OPPD received funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for a battery storage pilot project to gain operational experience with storage technologies.

    Will solar panels withstand Nebraska weather, such as thunderstorms with high winds and hail?

    OPPD is specifying minimum structural design standards for solar facilities to withstand high winds. Similarly, the solar industry has put significant research and development into designing solar panels and infrastructure that are not as susceptible to hail damage.  

    I heard solar energy is expensive. Has it become more affordable?

    OPPD continually evaluates the technical feasibility and cost-effectiveness of power technologies, including solar. The average cost per kilowatt of energy produced from solar panels has decreased significantly in the past few years. Utility-scale solar energy has recently become cost-competitive with traditional generation sources.

    Is Nebraska a good place to install solar panels, given our geographic location and weather?

    Though Nebraska may not have the intensity of sun compared to states in the southwestern United States, there is still plenty of solar power potential. Data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that Nebraska is ranked 13th in the nation for solar energy potential. Additionally, advancements in technologies allow solar design firms to better optimize the amount of sun that is actually captured.

    When will the new solar facilities be announced?

    In April 2021, OPPD announced the next step in our Power with Purpose initiative -a signed agreement for our first utility-scale solar array, called Platteview Solar. The 81 MW, 500-acre array will be located in Saunders county and marks the first step in our plans for 400-600MW of utility scale solar.

    In summer 2021, OPPD closed out the first phase of sourcing for utility-scale solar projects in order to better understand and mitigate risks associated with the generation interconnection and global supply chain issues. OPPD is actively engaged with regulatory bodies to understand the best mitigation strategies to interconnect generation and serve our customers. OPPD is in the process of determining the best sourcing strategy to acquire additional solar generation needed for Power with Purpose and additional solar sites will be announced as they are determined.

    Where might the solar facility(ies) be?

    In April 2021, OPPD announced the next step in our Power with Purpose work--a signed agreement for our first utility-scale solar array, called Platteview Solar. The 81 MW, 500-acre array will be located in Saunders county and marks the first step in our plans for 400-600MW of utility scale solar.

    The OPPD project team is analyzing potential solar sites across the service territory with important factors including: proximity to transmission, potential for support of future growth load, suitability for geographical and topographical criteria, and viability. In keeping with OPPD values to honor the communities we serve, community engagement and education continues to be an important consideration for siting projects.

    Solar panels take up a lot of space for the energy they generate. How much land will the solar facility require?

    Generally, five to seven acres of land are required to generate one megawatt of solar power. However, there is some variance, depending on location.

    Are solar facilities a concern for adjacent property owners?

    Solar facilities are seen but not heard, and require very little maintenance. While a solar facility will change the view of the landscape from certain vantage points, it will not increase noise or traffic for adjacent property owners.  Typical solar facilities are approximately 10 feet tall.

    What equipment will be needed to generate solar power, aside from the panels themselves?

    Solar facilities require very few components to generate electricity. Racking systems are installed to secure the solar panels to the ground and align the panels at the proper tilt to optimize exposure to the sun. Blocks or rows of panels are connected to inverters, which convert the direct current (DC) electricity output from the solar panels into alternating current (AC), which is usable by our customers. Lastly, onsite transformers deliver medium-voltage power to a nearby substation or other interconnection point to the power grid.

    What is the difference between OPPD’s Community Solar program and utility-scale solar?

    With OPPD Community Solar, you get affordable solar energy to offset your energy use with clean, renewable power without the expense of putting solar on your home. This program allows customers to offset usage with renewable energy beyond OPPD’s blended generation portfolio, that includes coal, natural gas, hydro and wind. For more information, visit the Community Solar Program website.

    Utility-scale solar meets a different need. OPPD needs new generation to meet service territory load growth. Many generation technologies were considered to provide accredited capacity while maintaining system reliability and resiliency. OPPD’s planned utility-scale solar will add generation facilities similar to the way that coal, natural gas, and wind generation resources support OPPD’s capacity, reliability, and resiliency needs today.

    Why didn’t OPPD wait to launch Community Solar if you knew a utility-scale solar farm was coming?

    The OPPD Community Solar program meets a different need than that of utility-scale solar facility. The community solar program was developed in response to OPPD customers’ desire to have a specific solar facility in which they could participate. Community Solar provides individual customers the ability to purchase incremental solar energy above OPPD’s current generation portfolio. Utility-scale solar supports OPPD’s changing generation portfolio based on our growing load and planned retirement of older fossil assets.

    I received a letter in the mail from a residential solar panel provider, who claims to be working with OPPD, offering me services. What is this about?

    That offer is not related to OPPD’s plans for utility-scale solar or community solar. OPPD is not "working with" any residential solar panel provider, although OPPD does have contact on a regular basis from some residential solar panel providers. We recommend that our customers proceed cautiously, as they would for any major purchase. OPPD is always available to answer questions on energy-related matters. The customer service number is (402) 536-4131 within the Omaha area or 1-877-536-4131, toll-free, outside of the Omaha area.

    Will the land used for the solar facilities be removed from the tax rolls?

    Solar can create more revenue than crop ground leases. For solar projects owned by a third party renewable developer on leased land, the project will pay property taxes. Landowners continue to pay property taxes for the land at its assessed rate. In addition, $3,518 per megawatt (MW), called the nameplate capacity tax, will be provided. This will result in an increase in county tax revenue. For example, a 100MW project will result in more than $350,000 in new tax revenue annually. This money goes directly to local county governments to help pay for schools, roads and other community improvements.

    If the solar facility is owned by OPPD, on OPPD-owned land, then the facility would not pay taxes. As a public power utility and political subdivision of the state, OPPD does not pay property taxes. This is the same for OPPD’s coal and natural gas facilities. However, OPPD does provide a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to counties equal to 5% of gross revenues, based on OPPD’s prior year sales of electricity in the area.

    What is OPPD’s role in the new utility-scale solar generation?

    Once OPPD identified the need for additional generation, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued. OPPD led a comprehensive sourcing process and reviewed possible sites to meet the utility’s unique Power with Purpose capacity accreditation, resiliency and reliability needs. Throughout siting processes, OPPD analyzes the proposals, narrows them down, and chooses one or multiple projects. Potential projects may be owned either by a developer or OPPD. 

    For projects owned by a developer, OPPD and the developer agree to terms and conditions of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The next phase includes local county approvals and construction of the solar facility(ies). Construction is completed by developer(s), not OPPD. However, OPPD will construct substations and transmission lines to connect the project to OPPD’s system. This process is similar to OPPD’s current community solar facility and wind PPA facilities.

    OPPD may choose PPA contracts with a developer for federal tax credits, or choose to own a solar project. If OPPD owns a solar project, then OPPD leads planning and construction. OPPD’s current focus remains on contracting with developers. 

    At this time, OPPD has contracted to deliver 81MW of the solar generation needed for Power with Purpose. As additional contracts are signed, OPPD and solar developers will continue to engage with local communities to share more insights on the development process. 

    OPPD is in the process of determining the best sourcing strategy to acquire additional solar generation needed for Power with Purpose.

    What is the solar developer’s responsibility with the utility-scale solar generation?

    Solar developers begin siting projects years before signing contracts with a utility or other large customer. Part of a developer’s job is to have sites ready for potential customers to use. 

    Once a utility has issued an RFP, solar developers respond with potential sites. Solar developers have site-ready attributes developed, and are responsible for: 

    • Generator Interconnection Agreements (GIA) through the Southwest Power Pool (SPP)
    • Land leases (typically, solar developers arrange land leases rather than owning the land)
    • Environmental studies 
    • Local governmental meetings and permits/zoning 
    • Taxes 
    • Site design and construction 
    • Project ownership 
    • Facility operations and maintenance (including ground cover) 
    • Decommissioning plans 

    What happens to the land after the solar panels are done being used?

    Whether the solar generation is owned by OPPD or a developer, the land is restored to its original state.

    Is solar cheaper than coal?

    Yes, new unsubsidized solar (without tax credits) is cheaper than new coal on a levelized cost basis. New solar is comparable to the ongoing costs of existing coal plants. The capital cost to construct a coal facility ($3,000–$6,250/kW) is three to five times more expensive than the capital cost of constructing a new solar facility ($1,200–1,400/kW), while also requiring ongoing fuel costs. These values are based on two industry recognized sources — Lazard Levelized Cost of Energy Study and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Annual Technology Baseline.

    What are the requirements to partner with OPPD?

    Generator Interconnection – Developers/suppliers must have an interconnection plan in place, including an interconnection study with SPP. 

    Permitting – The project must be in the process of obtaining all permits with the county and other authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) where the project is located, ensuring all appropriate extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJs) have been included. 

    Financial Value - The project must demonstrate the overall best value to meet OPPD’s system needs. 

    Environmental Impact – An environmental study must be completed for each site to identify wetlands, flood plains, cultural sites, and endangered species habitat of plants and animals. 

    Community Impact – Project development should consider tax implications, educational and employment opportunities, economic development, financial benefits of construction and long-term operations, and other community benefits. 

    Land Use – Developers must engage with landowners to determine potential parcels to support the project. Willing landowners will need to enter into voluntary long-term leases. The project site should be developed in a way that reduces impacts to farmland and considers benefits to the surrounding agricultural ecosystem. 

    Technical Compliance – Project meets requirements of OPPD’s request for energy, capacity, or other technical needs; and has considered design specifications for severe weather. 

    Location – The impact of generation to OPPD’s and others’ electrical systems is known and the project’s proximity to the transmission system is defined. 

    Supplier/Developer Experience – Developer is financially stable and has developed/built projects with equivalent specifications. 

    Decommissioning – In the agreement, it is clear the land will be restored to its original state when the project is over.

Natural Gas

    Where will the natural gas facilities be located?

    Please find locations and renderings for the natural gas facility at 120th & Military and at 168th & Fairview.

    Why was the location at South 168th Street and Fairview Road chosen for a natural gas peaking station?

    A variety of factors are considered when siting a facility, including physical, social, environmental and engineering. Critical factors include access and proximity to supporting infrastructure like transmission lines and natural gas pipelines. The use of existing nearby critical infrastructure helps keep costs low and minimizes additional impacts to surrounding areas. To maintain reliable and resilient service, it is also important for power generation to be near the Omaha metro and growing load requirements in the counties and communities we serve. 

    This location will support both recent and future growth in Sarpy County. The area around highways 50 and 370 near Springfield is seeing some of the most growth within all of OPPD’s system. Generation siting takes this into account and utilizes significant investments in our energy delivery system to support this potential. This location supports the necessary infrastructure for growth, just like roads, water and sewer.  

    The natural gas facility will be a peaking station, which means it only runs as needed to help provide a resilient and reliable electric system. We estimate the facility will run 5 to 15% of the time. It will meet all environmental permits. It meets our Power with Purpose objectives, including supporting the needs of our growing communities while maintaining reliability and resiliency within the changing generation landscape. 

    How will OPPD work with area leaders to ensure the facility aligns with future growth in the Sarpy County area?

    This location is within the zoning jurisdiction of the City of Papillion, and the City has worked collaboratively with OPPD. We will work with the city and nearby communities to mitigate concerns to the best of our ability. We are voluntarily participating in the City of Papillion’s development process to transparently demonstrate our commitment to coexist harmoniously and to accommodate future growth plans. This provides Papillion citizens and leaders with information about the project and the chance to ask questions. It also details how OPPD will support future land use plans, including plans for industrial use in the area along Highway 50.

    Following nationwide trends in generation facility siting, we are working with local developer Noddle Development to reimagine the site for future development that could increase valuations and, ultimately, revenue for the city.  

    Why was the location at North 120th and Military Road chosen for a natural gas peaking station?

    This site was chosen based on its close proximity to natural gas and transmission infrastructure and proximity to load. It is uniquely positioned between Omaha and Bennington, an area that has experienced expansive population growth and development.

    This site also allows OPPD to easily connect the facility to the rest of OPPD’s assets. Locating the facility near critical electric infrastructure, transmission lines on the south side of the Metropolitan Utilities District (M.U.D.) property and the west side of 120th Street, allows it to be cost effective and will help support system reliability.

    The actual facility will be situated closer to 114th Street and Military Road. This location was chosen to minimize impacts to nearby homes and to take advantage of the natural sloping of the terrain, which lends itself to natural sound abatement and provides a measure of visual screening. Some trees will need to be removed, though options to replant trees and vegetation following construction will be considered.

    Many sites were considered; both existing and new. OPPD understands the importance of being a good neighbor. We are committed to building and maintaining facilities without significant impacts to adjacent properties. OPPD is focused on minimizing the facility footprint to the extent practical, as well as safety, security, sound mitigation, and proper visual screening and aesthetics. During the design phase, we will also work to limit impacts of the facility related to sound, lighting and traffic.

    Ultimately, this site optimizes OPPD’s partnership with M.U.D. by co-locating on public property with a similar industrial use. This location provides natural gas pipeline capacity and liquid natural gas reserves should they be needed to support reliability and resiliency system-wide. Finally, by locating on land that is already publicly owned, OPPD will not negatively impact the community tax base.

    The natural gas facility near N. 120th Street and Military Road will be a peaking station, which means it will only run as needed to help provide a resilient and reliable electric system. We estimate this will run 5–15 % of the time and will meet all environmental permits. It meets our Power with Purpose objectives, including supporting the needs of our growing communities while maintaining reliability and resiliency within the changing generation landscape.   The units being considered at this location are similar to back-up generation units used by hospitals, data center, and financial institutions.

    Why is the Sarpy County site located away from residents, but the Douglas County site is located near neighborhoods?

    After thorough analysis, which included extensive modeling, the two locations in Douglas and Sarpy counties were identified as the most optimal sites.  

    Because these facilities are natural gas peaking stations (they are estimated to only run 5-15% of the time), it is imperative that we have access to pipelines and the infrastructure to support the generation and distribution of electricity.  

    At the 120th and Military St. site, the close proximity to existing natural gas infrastructure limits the need to disrupt off-site properties to install or expand natural gas connecting infrastructure. Site features such as terrain, vegetation, and physical size are also conducive to reducing visibility of the facilities and sound of the facility. This location also allows for limited expansion of electrical transmission lines to connect to the OPPD system. Similar technology is common in urban settings, such as those used by hospitals and data centers.  All of these factors help keep costs manageable as we produce electricity for our growing communities. 

    At the Sarpy County site, different generation technologies at that facility require a larger site. The Papillion location also supports load growth in the immediate area.

    How will construction and the eventual natural gas facility at North 120th Street & Military Road impact the wildlife and trees in the area?

    OPPD will keep its neighbors and stakeholders updated as more details become available, especially when it comes to construction.  OPPD will also work within all permits to ensure construction goes smoothly without significant impacts to the area.

    OPPD is accustomed to having wildlife in close proximity to power generation and transmission infrastructure. At a minimum, OPPD will restore any surrounding areas disturbed by site construction and actively seek opportunities to enhance and improve natural habitat and encourage pollinators. OPPD maintains an avian protection plan and program that includes third-party review. The avian protection plan mitigates detrimental effects on migratory birds, and maintains regulatory compliance, while providing customers reliable energy services. OPPD has a proven track record of supporting wildlife and natural habitat.  Wildlife will  have plenty of area to live safely near these new facilities. In our prior experience, even if wildlife does leave during construction, they tend to return.

    Many of the trees closest to our neighbors will not be touched, the natural sloping of the land and the mature trees near neighborhoods should not be impacted and will act as a natural barrier for our neighbors.   In general, the substation facility will be on the east side of the site and the generation facility, associated buildings, and supporting auxiliaries will be on the west side of the site. Based upon many factors still being incorporated into the design, the final location of each portion of the site may vary slightly from initial artist renderings. The recently selected Engineer, Procure, and Construct (EPC) vendor, Zachry Group, will have responsibility for the final site layout and design. OPPD will incorporate site landscaping and aesthetics as well as part of the final design.

    Landscaping will be part of the site plan and OPPD will work to make the site aesthetically pleasing. There are regulations related to trees in proximity to transmission lines, but there is opportunity for pollinator habitat. Similar efforts are currently on display at the OPPD Arboretum at 108th & Blondo streets. There are no plans to fence the entire footprint of the site, however, a fence will be provided around critical infrastructure like power generation and the substation to protect wildlife, equipment, and system reliability. 

    Are you going to tear down trees and negatively impact the wildlife in the area?

    OPPD’s mission is to provide affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy services to our customers, so the environmental impacts of our project is a priority. OPPD will comply with applicable laws and regulations for the construction and operation of these plants. The proposed natural gas facilities will be co-located with Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) and the Sarpy County landfill. During the site evaluation process, potential environmental concerns were reviewed through both desktop analysis and on-site surveys. From these environmental studies, OPPD has taken all appropriate measures to ensure we have limited to no adverse impacts to the wildlife in the project study area. As part of the preliminary grading work scope for the site, OPPD has removed a number of trees to facilitate future site design and construction, again complying with environmental regulatory requirements. When tree removal is necessary, OPPD will abide by its avian protection plan, and offset any trees removed with new trees and planting habitat in the final design.

    How does adding a new natural gas facility impact OPPD’s environmental sensitivity?

    The additional generation within the Power with Purpose plan is part of OPPD’s larger effort to be a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050. This effort is called Pathways to Decarbonization. Natural gas assets will play an important role as backup generation to renewables. The proposed assets will be peaking facilities, meaning OPPD will operate the facility as required to meet our load or as necessary to support the marketplace requirements. The flexibility it provides will enable OPPD to further integrate renewable energy into our portfolio, while maintaining reliability and resiliency.

    Who will own the natural gas facility?

    OPPD will own and operate the natural gas facility.

    Are natural gas facilities safe?

    Safety is a top priority in every aspect of OPPD’s operations. The utility has decades of experience operating both natural gas and other types of generation facilities in our communities, and this commitment to excellence in safety will continue when new facilities are added.

    I live nearby, are these facilities noisy and what do they look like?

    As we considered proposals for natural gas facilities, we considered the impact to the surrounding area. Any OPPD facility will adhere to noise ordinances for the area. In addition, landscaping can be utilized to minimize the sound and visual impact to those living and working nearby. For more about the facilities’ appearance, you can view renderings for the 120th & Military site and 168th & Fairview site.

    How often will the natural gas facility operate?

    Our units are dispatched by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) as the balancing authority based on regional and local needs on the grid. These units are necessary to satisfy OPPD’s accredited capacity obligations and can be called into the SPP market for both economic and reliability reasons. The facility is estimated to operate 5-15% of the time, and only as needed, to help provide a resilient and reliable electric system.

    How will the new natural gas assets be different from those already in OPPD’s fleet?

    The new natural gas facilities will ramp up to produce energy much faster than North Omaha Station Units 1-3, producing fewer emissions during startup. Since the newer units can increase power generation faster, they will be able to stabilize the transmission system more quickly in order to adjust for the variable output of wind, solar generation and other market conditions at any given time.

    Will the new natural gas facility also require a new pipeline?

    The availability of existing natural gas pipelines was one of many factors considered when evaluating potential locations. There will be some natural gas pipeline extensions required to supply fuel to the new sites, however, the extent of pipeline requirements will be fully determined as the detailed gas supply design is developed for the specific sites.

    The new generation assets at Standing Bear Lake and Turtle Creek Stations are expected to source natural gas originating from the Northern Natural Gas interstate pipeline system.  Additionally, Standing Bear Lake Station will be served through MUD’s gas distribution system.

    Are there any concerns from emissions at the natural gas facilities?

    The back-up natural gas facilities will only operate as a peaking facility when market and load demands warrant their operation. Advancements in equipment technology will support lower emissions. Emissions from the natural gas facilities will be strictly monitored and mitigated according to federal and industry guidelines. We follow guidance by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and State of Nebraska and work within all of their regulations. 

    While OPPD is often well below the threshold set by regulators to be protective of human health and the environment, OPPD currently meets or exceeds  all applicable emissions regulations, and strives for continuous improvement in the future.

    How loud will this be when it's running?

    OPPD has evaluated the expected sound level that will be generated by the new facilities. Studies showed that sound levels near surrounding properties would be less than 55 decibels (dBA) at the generation site boundaries. That sound level is similar to the noise a dishwasher might make. OPPD intends to comply with local ordinances related to sound output (i.e. decibels) allowed during certain times of the day.

    Click here to download graphics that show estimated sound levels at each facility.

    How will the natural gas sites affect my property value?

    Both OPPD facilities will be located on sites adjacent to infrastructure facilities with a similar use. Economic impact considerations were made during the siting process. Our evaluation concluded that it is unlikely that home valuations will diminish with new facilities at these sites. 

    OPPD will develop landscaping plans for both sites that will help provide a natural barrier from the facilities to the adjacent properties.

    Besides the natural gas facility itself, what other infrastructure is needed for the site?

    The facilities, when in service, will both require additional infrastructure to support generation efforts in the area. The electricity generated at each facility will contribute to OPPD’s generation capacity and will be delivered to customers across our service territory. To facilitate this delivery, infrastructure such as transmission lines and substations will be necessary. The main substation to support the generation facility will be co-located with the generation facility. 

    OPPD has routed the new transmission lines necessary to deliver the electricity generated by the natural gas facilities to the grid. Additional information about the Sarpy Southwest Transmission Project and the routes for three separate transmission lines in the area near Turtle Creek Station needed to maintain system resiliency and reliability, as well as support customer load growth and future power generation, can be found here:

    OPPD is committed to provide updates as we have more information on

    What can the public expect during construction?

    OPPD will work with contractors to mitigate common concerns like traffic, dust, wind-blown debris, drainage, delivery hours, and work hours. We began grading the site in 2021. Major construction activities began in late spring / early summer 2022 and will continue through 2023. As details become available, they will be shared with the public. All safety guidelines will be met during construction and throughout operations. OPPD coordinates with appropriate government officials and will work to minimize any traffic disruption.

    You can expect OPPD to be a good neighbor during and after construction. As updates are available, OPPD is committed to keeping the public and neighbors informed.

    How will construction on this site disrupt traffic around my neighborhood?

    OPPD expects minimal disruption to traffic flow near the site during construction or eventual operation of the facilities.  Delivery of major equipment to the site may cause slight traffic delays while moving toward or entering the site, but these will be of limited duration and frequency.

    OPPD is committed to provide updates as we get closer to construction and have more information.

    How do you plan to address potential volatility in natural gas prices?

    The utility has analyzed both current natural gas pricing and evaluated projections for the next 10 to 20 years. While some increases are expected, we are confident the overall cost will remain affordable.  OPPD utilizes fuel diversity system-wide, which helps mitigate this type of volatility. OPPD also utilizes hedging and other tools to provide price protection. Renewable fuels, such as solar, help flatten the peak needs of natural gas.

    The site is estimated to run a small percentage of time, between 5-15% based on market conditions. In addition to our analysis other factors come in to play. Power prices are often correlated with fuel prices, so a higher fuel price will yield a higher power price, this is part of the energy market we are in today. For reliability events that are called on by the market, OPPD will be compensated for our fuel consumed by the Southwest Power Pool.

    What is the expected environmental impact of this project from an emissions and groundwater perspective?

    Through early 2021, OPPD was in the sourcing process for the reciprocating internal combustion engines and simple-cycle combustion turbines for the Standing Bear Lake Station and the Turtle Creek Station, respectively. Following selection of this major equipment, OPPD prepared and submitted an air permit application for each site to the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) based on equipment emissions performance, modeling, and use of these generation sites as peaking facilities.  Operational runtime is based on electrical market demand and/or grid resiliency needs. The air permit applications included the estimated potential emissions for each site. State and Federal regulations are used to set the emissions standards for the selected equipment.  

    OPPD has conducted preliminary Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) for both the Standing Bear Lake Station and Turtle Creek Station sites. The purpose of these assessments was to determine the current environmental state of the sites and identify any potential areas of concern to ensure the most optimal site layout and location of infrastructure to minimize or avoid interaction with these potential areas of concern.

    When looking at potential discharges constituents for water discharges at each site, OPPD will work with the NDEE to set standards in accordance with Title 117, Nebraska Surface Water Quality Standards, and Title 118, Groundwater Quality Standards and Use Classification.  

    • OPPD is aware that any discharge shall not be toxic to aquatic life in surface waters of the State outside the mixing zones allowed with the applicable NDEE standard.  
    • OPPD shall not contain pollutants at concentrations or levels that produce objectionable films, colors, turbidity, deposits, or noxious odors in the receiving streams or water way.
    • OPPD shall not contain pollutants at concentrations or levels that cause occurrence of undesirable or nuisance aquatic life in the receiving stream.  
    • OPPD will design containments and use additional technology to ensure no ground water contamination will occur.      

Power With Purpose Decision-making Process

    Why must OPPD act now?

    OPPD’s procurement of new utility-scale solar and backup natural gas assets is to meet the projected near-term capacity and resiliency needs of the communities we serve.

    How will the addition of new utility-scale solar and natural gas facilities impact OPPD’s carbon emissions?

    This project enables OPPD to retire North Omaha Units 1 – 3 and refuel North Omaha Units 4 and 5 from coal to natural gas. By implementing these changes at North Omaha Station, along with adding utility-scale solar, natural gas backup and modernized natural gas technologies, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are expected to be reduced by 80-90 % over current North Omaha emissions. Over the course of our journey, we estimate a 30 % reduction in fleet CO2 emissions.

    Is this recommendation part of OPPD’s goal of having net-zero carbon?

    OPPD's Pathways to Decarbonization study has a goal of net-zero carbon by 2050. The Power with Purpose recommendation is not a direct outcome of the decarbonization study, but it is consistent with the study’s intent. Specifically, Power with Purpose includes building one of the largest renewable investments in the region. Although not renewable energy, adding backup natural gas assets will serve an important role by allowing OPPD to further integrate renewable energy, and achieve a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to 2010 levels.

    When OPPD moves forward with this recommendation, what percent of its generation will come from renewable resources?

    OPPD anticipates that building a utility-scale solar facility will increase the amount of renewable generation within OPPD’s portfolio, building upon the approximate 30.9% of retail sales that was achieved in 2019.  The impact on our total load served by renewables is dependent on the solar RFP outcome and future load growth.

    How did large projects like data centers impact OPPD’s recommendation?

    Load growth is just one of the factors behind OPPD’s recommendation to add accredited generation capacity. OPPD would still need to add accredited generation capacity even without the recent growth in our industrial class of customers to accomplish OPPD’s previously announced plans to retire North Omaha unit 1-3 and refuel North Omaha Units 4 and 5 to natural gas. Promoting economic development is a key part of OPPD’s mission, helping to strengthen communities in our service territory. Large, steady power loads such as those needed by data centers help use OPPD’s assets more efficiently to the benefit of all customers and act as a catalyst for evolving our generating portfolio.

    Why are the new solar and natural gas facilities considered a single project?

    OPPD needs to increase accredited capacity to meet legal and regulatory requirements. Not all installed solar capacity can be accredited due to seasonal and daily variation in power output. However, when coupled with natural gas generation, OPPD can meet the accredited capacity requirements while optimizing affordability, reliability/resiliency, and environmental sensitivity. The solution would not meet our capacity requirements if not implemented simultaneously.  

    What other power generation technologies were evaluated?

    OPPD’s modeling process was technology agnostic and included a variety of potential solutions including new generation, existing assets, new voltage support resources and new demand side resources.   Examples of these technologies included, but are not limited to, combustion turbines, reciprocating engines, photovoltaic solar, combined cycle, synchronous condensers, statcoms, transmission expansion, as well as over 4,000 other potential demand side management solutions.  OPPD leverages the best modeling software available in the market to assess the different options.  A more detailed review of this process is available in the October 2019 presentation to the Board of Directors.

    Why did OPPD decide to decommission Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station and North Omaha Station Units 1-3 when doing so requires additional power generation facilities to be constructed?

    The decision to decommission Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station was based on the high operating costs and commitment to keeping rates affordable. The decision to decommission North Omaha Station Units 1-3 was based largely on the goal to reduce OPPD’s emissions, as well as the age of those assets.

    Will the power generating facilities impact any of OPPD’s other existing power plants? Or allow OPPD to decommission all existing coal-fired power plants?

    OPPD needs to increase accredited capacity beyond our existing capacity to meet legal and regulatory requirements. Therefore, adding utility-scale solar and natural gas facilities is in addition to OPPD’s existing portfolio. OPPD will carry out the 2014 board decision to refuel North Omaha units 4 and 5 from coal to gas and to retire units 1-3. At this time, there are no additional plans to decommission other coal-fired power plants in OPPD’s portfolio. However, we intend to further evaluate the pathway and implications of the next steps to decarbonize our generation fleet as part of our decarbonization study.

    Why isn’t OPPD recommending additional wind energy as was done previously?

    OPPD’s modeling process evaluated additional wind capacity as an alternative. Off-system wind, meaning wind power located outside of OPPD’s service territory, was not recommended because additional wind power would not satisfy our accredited capacity needs coupled with the resiliency requirements.

    How is OPPD engaging stakeholders through this process?

    Sharing OPPD’s recommendation to add additional solar and natural gas generation is part of our ongoing stakeholder engagement process. Our journey began in 2019, when OPPD accepted public comment via to gauge customer understanding of what we’re trying to solve, the framework that shapes our decisions and the clarity of the analysis. We continue to engage with stakeholders and provide regular updates as the process moves forward.

    Will the power generating facilities require additional transmission lines?

    All new generating facilities require interconnection to the existing transmission grid. The proximity and available capacity of existing substations and transmission lines is one of many factors considered when evaluating potential locations for new generating facilities. New transmission lines will leverage a routing and public involvement process that incorporates the many social, environmental and engineering criteria that contribute to the most optimal route.

    Could energy storage/batteries be used with the solar facility instead of natural gas generation?

    OPPD continually evaluates the technical feasibility and cost-effectiveness of power technologies, including energy storage and batteries. Battery storage was included in the modeling process to identify technologies that optimize affordability, reliability/resiliency, and environmental sensitivity; however, battery storage was not recommended because it does not meet multi-day resiliency needs and is costly at this time. That said, OPPD received funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for a battery storage pilot project to gain operational experience with storage technologies.

    What is a voltage-support device? Why do you need it?

    Voltage refers to the pressure from a power source to deliver electricity. Using water as an analogy, think of voltage as the water pressure in pipes. Just like you expect consistent water pressure when you turn on a faucet, OPPD uses voltage-support devices to maintain a consistent quality of electricity for our customers.

    OPPD mentions both increasing demand and the need for additional capacity. What is the difference?

    Demand is the amount of electricity (or energy) that OPPD’s service area requires to meet customer needs. Generally speaking, peak demand, or the day OPPD’s service area requires the most electricity, occurs during the summer when the days are longer and hotter. 

    Capacity represents how much electricity OPPD can generate if all assets are running at the highest level of output. 

    OPPD is required, per the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), to maintain a generating capacity reserve margin of 12% above peak demand. This ensures a reliable supply of power in the region.  

    What positive impacts will these projects have in the community?

    Adding new utility-scale solar and natural gas power generation facilities will benefit all of OPPD’s service territory by contributing to the consistent level of resiliency in the system, while optimizing affordability, reliability and environmental sensitivity. In the short term, large capital projects such as these also provide economic benefits to regional businesses for design and construction-related services. Local hospitality and retail businesses also benefit from the construction activity in the area.

    How can I learn more and stay engaged?

    OPPD is committed to stakeholder outreach. Natural gas locations were announced in Sept. 2020, and we are listening to, informing and consulting with those residing near the project locations. Real-time project updates will be available on a regular basis.  

    The projects are continuing to move forward in the design phase, which includes the procurement of equipment and site layouts. Outreach will continue throughout this phase, with even more focus as construction begins. We will also provide continued updates as requested by various stakeholder groups.

    As solar facilities are finalized, OPPD and the developer will coordinate the announcement of the selected sites. When available, OPPDCommunityConnect will link to the developer’s project website for more information.

    OPPD will continue to take feedback and additional questions as the project moves forward through Those interested can also visit the site to learn more about the project and to access our extensive list of frequently asked questions.