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By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher, Sun-Telegraph 

Solar Energy in Sidney?

City Researching Renewable Option

 

December 22, 2021 | View PDF



The Sidney City Council is considering entry into the solar energy market.

Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN, the wholesale electricity provider for the city) issued an RFP (Request For Proposal) about two years ago on behalf of six MEAN communities for solar photovoltaic (PV) field. Proposals were submitted but the project did not move forward. Prices were higher than what communities expected.

Since then, according to a memo from Electricity Superintendent Mike Palmer, solar prices have continued to decline.

“The prices were a lot higher five years ago, on the renewable side,” Palmer told the city council.

Palmer approached the council seeking consent to explore options available in the solar energy field. Sandhills Energy, LLC., has provided a 25-year Purchase Power Agreement that is competitive with Sidney current wholesale rates offered by MEAN, according to the memo. MEAN's current rate is .$.03825 per kWh and Sandhills is offering $.03990 per kWh with a .50 percent annual escalator. Additionally, if the field doesn't produce power, the city owes nothing.


“That would be the benefit to us. If it doesn't produce power, it doesn't cost us anything,” Palmer said.

City Manager David Scott said the project would have to be a partnership; purchasing a solar field alone is not feasible.

The council consented to Palmer continue researching solar options.

The city council also approved a franchise agreement with ALLO. ALLO's network will feature a 10 gigabite symmetric service. Services will include internet, data transport, video, voice, phone systems, and redundant connectivity to cloud providers. ALLO will be charged a 5 percent franchise fee once the company's infrastructure is completed.


The council also approved an extension request for the Elks Club CDBG grant. Last year, the City was awarded a $415,000 CDBG grant, in addition to in-kind work, from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. The grant would be to rehab the Elks Club building as a public venue that will increase tourism. Joseph R. Hewgley & Associates, Inc. were contracted as the project architect, receiving two bids for the project.

The first bid was held April 2021 with only one contractor providing a bid. A second, on Nov. 23, resulted in no bids. The City of Sidney will now serve as the construction manager with the extension granted, allowing greater flexibility for subcontractors.


In other business, the council approved economic development incentive requested by Paul Strommen to cover landfill costs. The memo from City Manager Scott regarding Strommen's request says he purchased the property at 15th and Toledo, the site of a former nursing home. The Strommens are in the process of demolishing the building and are interested in building a high-end retirement community. The request is for economic incentives to help cover the landfill costs in demolition of the building.

“We want to do something that benefits the community,” said Kendra Stromman.

Strommen said she could not commit what will be built on the site until the existing building is demolished.

The council also approved Kiersten Richards to the Economic Development Citizen Advisory board, and Hank Radtke as the city's street superintendent according to LB174 requirements, and approved purchase of a pickup truck for the water and sewer department. The purchase was budgeted in 2019 for $33,000, then moved to 2020. The purchase will be from Panhandle Automotive at a price of $37,254.


 

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