The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher, Sun-Telegraph 

City Pursues Solar Option


The Sidney City Council approved pursuing a contract to support solar energy generation in the community.

If a solar field is established, Sidney's electricity superintendent Mike Palmer said, it won't affect the cost to the city much. Solar production is only about 5 percent of the energy purchased by Sidney.

“No matter what we do, it's not going to be a big windfall,” he said.

The concept was first brought before the council Dec. 14, 2021. MEAN (Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska), the wholesale electricity provider for Sidney, approved a policy that allows communities to have renewable resources, according to Palmer's presentation to council. MEAN has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) on behalf of 10 communities with MEAN staff recommending Sandhills Energy, LLC be awarded the Purchase Power Agreement (PPA).

Part of the City's motivation is to offset potential cost increases. If the City proceeds with an agreement, the City would have to purchase the land for the 2,250 kW solar facility. The solar generating facility would be owned and operated by the contracted company. In addition to Sandhills, the City also has a proposal from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC. The PPA is for 25 years with Sandhills at .03990/kWh and .04699/kWh with NextEra Energy for 35 years. The City would be required to purchase electricity generated by the solar facility, and NextEra would offer the city the option of purchasing the facility after the Investment Tax Credit is recaptured (after year six of the PPA).

Palmer's presentation says MEAN has increased rates by 6 percent from .03825/kWh to .04070 effective April 1. Cost to the City to commit with Sandhills is estimated at $80,000 for the land. The Proposed site is on Elm Street generally between the proposed new Table of Grace location and Boot Hill Cemetery.

“This is nothing staff feels we have to do,” Palmer said. “This is only 5 percent of our energy. We're just trying to get an understanding of which way you (the council) want to go.”

The council also accepted a $14,815 donation, Sidney's share of the ACE distribution for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. At the January meeting of the Public Alliance for Community Energy (ACE), the board of directors voted to distribute $200,000 to its members. Sidney's share of the $200,000 comes to $14,815.


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