The future is bright, as Omaha Public Power District takes a big step in its Power with Purpose (PwP) project. PwP will add 400 to 600 megawatts (MW) of accredited utility-scale solar generation, as well as up to 600 MW of accredited modernized natural gas backup generation, to OPPD’s energy portfolio.
This project is one of the largest renewable energy investments of its kind in the Midwest. It will accommodate the needs of our growing communities, while maintaining the reliability and resiliency of the electric system. It is also an important step in OPPD’s decarbonization journey, moving the utility closer to its goal of net-zero carbon production by 2050.
At this week’s committee meetings for the OPPD Board of Directors, Mary Fisher, vice president of Energy Production & Nuclear Decommissioning, mapped out two locations identified for the new natural gas units. “These natural gas facilities are needed as backup, in order to maintain a reliable and resilient system,” she said. “The historic flooding we saw in March of last year demonstrates how important resilience is for the future.”
OPPD’s plans include a natural gas facility near the southeast corner of 168th Street and Fairview Road, west of the Sarpy County landfill in Papillion. Another natural gas facility will be built near the southeast corner of 120th Street and Military Road, adjacent to a Metropolitan Utilities District facility in Omaha. These peaking facilities will operate as needed per market conditions. The utility can utilize landscaping to minimize the sound and visual impact to those living and working nearby.
Fisher noted that teams from across the utility, as well as external partners, have devoted a multitude of hours of thoughtful work and consideration into this project.
“Those hours by the team demonstrate our continued commitment to our customer-owners,” Fisher said. “It’s a proud day for OPPD.”
No locations have been announced for the solar component of this project, as sourcing efforts are still underway.
The PwP proposal also includes updating some of OPPD’s existing assets to allow the refueling of coal generating units at North Omaha Station (NOS) with natural gas. The plan will allow OPPD to retire three of its oldest fossil-fueled generation units at NOS and reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 30% from 2010 levels by 2024.
“With all of these changes, we’ve held customer rates steady,” said OPPD President and CEO Tim Burke. “Power with Purpose enables us to continue to deliver upon our mission of providing affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy services to our 385,000 customer-owners. This is OPPD’s first step into our decarbonization efforts to be net zero carbon by 2050, and the organization is fully committed to the new future.”
Read more about the latest PwP developments on OPPD’s The Wire.
OPPD will be holding two site-specific online meetings about the proposed natural gas peaking facilities. Meetings will be held Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m. on the proposed project near 168th & Fairview Road in Papillion and on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 6 p.m. on the proposed project near 120th & Military Road in Omaha. Visit OPPDCommunityConnect for more information about how to log in to these meetings to learn more about plans, ask questions, provide feedback, and sign up for project updates.
Strategic Directive monitoring reports
Along with Power with Purpose, OPPD has taken and continues to take a number of environmental measures, while working toward a goal of net-zero carbon production by 2050. During this week’s board committee meetings, directors received an update on the utility’s efforts toward Strategic Directive-7: Environmental Stewardship. Among the efforts reported:
- The district has more than 200 vehicles that are all-electric, hybrid, or flex fuel, with plans to replace and purchase more electrified vehicles in 2020 and when opportunities arise in future years.
- OPPD offers rebates to its customers for the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs) and chargers. OPPD recently began offering a new fleet rebate, as well. Since the rebate program began in 2018, OPPD has helped customers save more than 455,625 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s equivalent to planting 11,871 trees and letting them grow for 10 years.
- OPPD also works to reduce carbon through its demand-side management portfolio. It offers several opt-in programs to reduce peak demand – Smart Thermostat, Cool Smart, and Business Interruptible. In addition, it offers energy efficiency incentives – HVAC Smart, Certified High Performance Homes, Smart Steps-Income Qualified Pilot, and rebates for businesses. Through these efforts, OPPD was able to shave 157.1 megawatts (MW) of electric demand from the grid in 2019 and will likely surpass a goal of 160.4 MW for 2020.
- The utility looks for opportunities to recycle wherever possible. Last year, OPPD recycled 9,098 pounds of batteries, 76,564 pounds of metal, 12,875 gallons of oil, 1,154 utility poles, and 2.56 million pounds of contents from the warehouse of Fort Calhoun Station, as it continues decommissioning work. In addition, OPPD recycled 50% of fly ash from its North Omaha Station and 60% of fly ash from its Nebraska City Station. Recycling these materials returned more than $2 million to the utility.
- OPPD has an Avian Protection Plan to protect and conserve bird populations by reducing risks from interactions with utility facilities and activities. The overall goal is to reduce avian mortality while maintaining reliable, cost efficient services.
- The utility is working to expand its Prairie in Progress project, a joint effort with the Save Our Monarchs Foundation. The project began in 2018, when OPPD started converting 325 acres of its property into butterfly habitat. This has reduced grounds maintenance costs by about $8,000 a year, while increasing biodiversity through planting native grasses and plants. The plantings have also helped control erosion.
Board members accepted the SD-7 monitoring report during today’s monthly meeting. They also accepted the monitoring report for SD-10: Ethics. Acceptance means the board finds the utility to be sufficiently in compliance with these policies.
In other action, directors:
- Approved the July 2020 Comprehensive Financial and Operating Report, August 2020 meeting minutes, and the Sept. 17, 2020 agenda.
- Awarded a contract in the amount of $1,834,910 to Amertech Tower Services to provide materials and labor to remove and install cooling tower fill and drift layers for the Nebraska City Station Unit 2 cooling tower.
- Approved minor revisions to Board Policies GP-4: Agenda Planning and BL-7: Delegation to the President and CEO.
- Received the president’s monthly utility report. You can view the full president’s report by visiting com/boardmeeting.
Next month’s public board committee meetings will be virtual, starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13. Visit OPPD.com/CommitteeAgenda to attend, starting at 9:45 a.m.
The next monthly board meeting will be Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 4 p.m. This is a day earlier than is typical due to venue availability. To accommodate physical distancing, the public board meeting will be held at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center Legislative Chamber, 2nd Floor. The meeting will also be held virtually at OPPD.com/BoardAgenda.