LES offers ‘SunShares’ as way to buy into community solar energy project

July 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Lincoln Electric System customers who want to support renewable energy growth will have an opportunity to invest in a community-funded solar energy project.

The LES Administrative Board on Friday unveiled a new customer participation program that allows customers to buy so-called SunShares for $3 a month through their bills.

The city-owned utility plans to launch a marketing program soon to encourage customers to sign up for the voluntary program set to begin Aug. 2.

The size of the project that will use photovoltaic cells to generate electricity has not been determined, but LES is looking at up to 10 megawatts of capacity. One megawatt can power about 250 homes.

Last month, LES announced it had received 78 proposals from 14 developers who want to build solar projects of various sizes in and around Lincoln. Some of the developers are in Nebraska, but others included big players from out of state.

LES management evaluated the 14 developers and their respective proposals and came up with a short list of nine, whose projects were the most technically and economically viable.

Utility officials say the project could be one of the largest solar installations in the region.

LES plans to buy all of the power from the project under a 20-year contract, but the developer would own and operate the facility, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2015.

One of the goals is to give LES officials and the public a better understanding of solar-generated energy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there has been a 418 percent increase in U.S. solar-electric generating capacity in the past four years.

LES also views the solar energy project as a way to diversify its power generation portfolio, while decreasing reliance on fossil fuels. The utility already owns interests in several wind projects in Nebraska and Oklahoma and is using methane gas from a local landfill to generate electricity.

The community-funded solar project is the last of a three-part solar initiative road map rolled out in September. A renewable energy rate and incentive program were put into place June 1.

No site has been chosen, but LES is looking at its Terry Bundy Generating Station north of Lincoln as a possible location for the solar project.

For more information: www.les.com.

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