Some rural electric co-ops in the state are exploring renewable energy, which could help them reduce costs in months when power demand peaks. Just 10% of power in Nebraska comes from renewable sources like wind and hydroelectricity.
Nebraska Energy Office Director David Bracht says a tiny part of that comes from solar, but declining costs are changing that.
Bracht says, “According to a Renewable Energy Industry study, there has been about an 80% cost decline in the last six years and as that solar cost has declined, now it’s much more competitive.”
Almost 90% of Nebraska’s electricity comes from coal and nuclear power. Bracht says solar and other renewables will struggle to replace them because they don’t provide constant electricity.
“The wind doesn’t always blow and even more obviously, the sun doesn’t always shine so, by definition, those sources can only provide power when the natural circumstances are available to allow them to.”
Kirsten Gottschalk, spokeswoman for Nebraska Rural Electric Association, says she agrees, but adds that some farmers are interested in solar to address power use peaks.
“It’s the middle of August, it’s a hundred degrees, people need to irrigate to keep the plants alive,” Gottschalk says. “Everybody is using their air conditioners at the same time so everything that has a high draw for electricity use may peak during that time.”
Power use peaks typically happen in late summer, which is also the sunniest time of year in Nebraska, making it ideal for solar. Gottschalk says solar can give the grid a needed local boost and it’s cheaper than buying expensive out-of-state-power.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton