Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electricity

Generating electricity from sunlight is a promising clean-energy technology. Nebraska’s utilities built and are testing several types of solar generation technologies to determine what works best in our climate and for our customers.

One NPA member, Omaha Public Power District, is installing and testing 100 kilowatts (kW) of solar power in three different settings on the campus of Creighton University in Omaha.

In one installation, photovoltaic (PV) panels were installed on covered parking structures. The second setting consists of thin-film PV panels directly attached to a rooftop using only adhesive materials—no metal frames or motors. The third installation is a traditional ground-mounted PV panel tracking system that follows the sun to maximize the amount of electricity produced.

The partnership with Creighton University will help OPPD assess the costs, benefits and potential uses of solar power.

OPPD also operates a 60-kW solar generator at its Omaha Service Center and a 5-kW solar system at its Elkhorn Service Center.

Another NPA member, Nebraska Public Power District, operates a 45-kW solar system at its Norfolk Operations Center.

The cost of solar power continues to decline, though it is still far more expensive than other ways to generate electricity. The high cost of solar power tends to limit its use to niche applications, such as rural settings or urban settings that have available rooftop space.

Solar power is more common in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada because those states have the best quality resource—hundreds of hot, sunny, cloudless days per year. Unfortunately, that is not the climate we have here in Nebraska, which limits our ability to use solar power.

Solar power is a dynamic and exciting way to generate electricity. NPA members are staying abreast of solar power developments through outreach to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), membership in the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and participation in various research and professional organizations.