The city of Norfolk is fixing to one-up Kearney on the solar energy front, and we wish Norfolkans the best of luck. Earlier this week, the northeast Nebraska city entered an agreement with Nebraska Public Power District on a venture to build a sizable solar array and link it to an energy storage system.
It doesn’t appear as if Norfolk’s array will rival Kearney’s in size, but the size of the system isn’t nearly as important as its ability to successfully plow new ground in the development of green energy.
So far, Kearney’s $11 million solar array is the largest in the state. At 53 acres and 22,464 panels, Kearney’s system is rated at 5.7 megawatts — enough to power 900 homes or supply about 5 percent of the city’s electrical demand.
Norfolk’s agreement with NPPD is to partner on a grant application for $490,000 with the Nebraska Environmental Trust. If the grant is awarded, a solar array will be built and connected to what NPPD has labeled a BESS — battery energy storage system. Such systems are expensive, but the Norfolk experiment may demonstrate the potential of generating electricity with solar power and storing it until there’s demand to use it.
Nobody is more excited about the prospects than Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning.
“This first-of-its kind battery storage project positions Norfolk to lead the way in using the newest technologies to efficiently utilize renewable energy that’s created in our own backyard, keeps our electricity costs low and grows new jobs and strengthens our regional economy,” Moenning said.
Today, most solar and wind systems generate electricity when the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing. The power is great while it lasts, but people need electricity ’round the clock to power homes, factories and farms. The ability to store green energy until it’s needed would be a major breakthrough.
Imagine, for example, that it’s a dry, hot summer and irrigation farmers need electricity for pumps and homes and businesses need power for air conditioning and equipment. If the Norfolk experiment succeeds, it could help to reduce the need for traditional, reliable coal-fired generating plants in favor of wind and solar as primary sources of energy to generate electricity.
That idea may seem far-fetched, but it will be experiments such as the Norfolk/NPPD partnership and Kearney’s large solar array that plow new ground in the development of sustainable green energy.