OPPD Reports Progress In Adding Solar, Gas Generation Despite Challenges

October 18, 2022

by Peter Maloney
APPA News
October 18, 2022

Omaha Public Power District says that, despite challenges, it is making progress on plans to add 600 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale solar and 600 MW of natural gas generation to its portfolio.

The Nebraska public power utility said the new generating resources, which are being built under its Power with Purpose initiative, will help maintain the long-term reliability and resiliency of its electric system while supporting its goal of becoming a net-zero carbon dioxide emitter by 2050.

OPPD is working on procuring the major equipment needed for its 81-MW Platteview Solar project in Saunders County for which about 30 percent of the civil and electrical design work is already complete.

OPPD is also developing a plan for pollinator friendly ground cover at the solar site that conforms with its Prairies in Progress project that aims to reduce landscape maintenance costs while providing habitat for butterflies and bees.

Progress on the solar project comes despite the challenges posed by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s investigation into foreign solar panel imports. In March, Commerce began an investigation into whether certain photovoltaic solar cells and modules imported from Southeast Asia are circumventing U.S. tariffs.

The deadline for a preliminary determination was pushed back from late August to November 28. A final determination is now likely in the spring of 2023, OPPD said. The utility said it continues “to closely follow developments to determine potential impacts and the best path forward as we bring on additional” solar projects.

OPPD has also completed the process of delivering nine Wärtsilä reciprocating internal combustion engines to Standing Bear Lake Station, the natural gas-fired generation balancing project that the utility is building.

Later this fall, OPPD said two Siemens simple-cycle combustion turbines and generators will be moved to the Turtle Creek Station, the site of its other new natural gas-fired generation balancing station project. Meantime, the utility’s construction team is building the infrastructure to support the plant. Both plants are scheduled to be completed by 2024.

Standing Bear Lake station will be capable of generating 150 MW, and the Turtle Creek station will be able to generate 450 MW, OPPD spokeswoman Julie Wasson said.

Separately, OPPD’s board of directors approved a recommendation by utility management to revise a policy directive to include a target of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at its North Omaha Station (NOS) plant site by 3.5 million tons annually, compared with 2013 emission levels, by 2027.

The revision coincides with the utility’s anticipated timeline for the retirement of NOS Units 1-3, which were previously converted from low-sulfur coal to natural gas, and the conversion of Units 4 and 5 from low-sulfur coal to natural gas.

In August, the board approved a recommendation to temporarily postpone that transition until the utility’s new natural gas generation balancing plants are fully studied and approved for grid interconnection service in accordance with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rules.