Progress update on OPPD’s new solar and natural gas projects
- Sep 23, 2022 3:29 pm GMT
Despite industry challenges, Omaha Public Power District is making good progress on its Power with Purpose (PwP) [oppdcommunityconnect.com] initiative to add 600 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale solar and 600 MW of natural gas generation. The increased generation capacity will help maintain long-term reliability and resiliency of the utility’s electric system, while supporting OPPD’s work to become a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050. Utility leaders shared an update with the OPPD Board of Directors at committee meetings this week.
Work is well underway for OPPD’s first solar facility. Platteview Solar in Saunders County will supply 81 MW of generation capacity. The PwP team is working on procuring the major equipment needed for the project. Civil and electrical design work is about 30% complete. OPPD is also developing a plan for ground cover at the site, which includes a pollinator mix. This is in keeping with our Prairies in Progress [oppdthewire.com] project, which began in 2018 as a way to reduce landscape maintenance costs while providing habitat for butterflies and bees.
The solar industry continues to feel the effects of a U.S. Department of Commerce anti-circumvention investigation, which began in March. Federal authorities are trying to determine if some Southeast Asian solar manufacturers, which produce 80% of our nation’s imported solar panels, are or were using Chinese parts to produce solar panel components and circumvent tariffs. The deadline for a preliminary determination was pushed back from late August to November 28. A final determination is likely in the spring of 2023. OPPD continues to closely follow developments to determine potential impacts and the best path forward as we bring on additional PwP solar projects. In addition, we continue to partner with local community leaders and other stakeholders to raise awareness and improve understanding of the development process for solar facilities.
Natural gas generation plants
The project has completed the process of delivering nine Wärtsilä reciprocating internal combustion engines to Standing Bear Lake Station, a natural gas generation balancing plant under construction near 114th Street and Military Road. The utility worked with Wärtsilä, large equipment movers, government officials and law enforcement to complete the work safely and efficiently. Activity took place in the late evening and early morning hours to minimize traffic interruption. The final engine was moved Sept. 19. For a closer look at this big undertaking, visit OPPDTheWire.com [oppdthewire.com].
In late fall, two Siemens simple-cycle combustion turbines and generators will be moved to the other new natural gas generation balancing station location in Sarpy County. Turtle Creek Station is south of 168th Street and Fairview Road. Meantime, the construction team has been busy building the infrastructure to support the plant. Both plants will be completed by 2024.
Environmental Stewardship policy revision
The OPPD board approved a recommendation by utility management to revise Strategic Directive (SD) 7: Environmental Stewardship. The policy revision includes a target of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at the North Omaha Station (NOS) plant site by 3.5 million tons annually, when compared with 2013 emission levels, by 2027.
Strategic Directives are designed to be a tool by which the district's elected board of directors can review performance and hold OPPD accountable on behalf of its customer owners.
This revision coincides with the 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. During their August meeting, the board approved a recommendation to temporarily postpone this transition until the utility’s new natural gas generation balancing plants are fully studied and approved for grid interconnection service in accordance with federal law issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and administered by the Southwest Power Pool.
This site CO2 target includes those emission reductions already realized through the conversion of Units 1-3 to natural gas in 2016, and will be fully realized upon the cessation of all coal combustion at the facility. In addition to CO2, reductions in other emissions at the site are expected through the transition, including SO2 (approximately 5,600 tons per year), NOx (approximately 2,800 tons per year), and PM2.5 (approximately 140 tons per year).
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