If the average Norfolkan had been asked to offer an opinion several years ago about solar power, here’s what he or she might have said:

— “Has the technology advanced enough to make solar power effective?”

— “Will installing solar panels on my house cause damage to my roof?”

— And, “Those panels are really kind of ugly. What will my neighbors think?”

Those sentiments are what makes the new agreement between the City of Norfolk and the Nebraska Public Power District a much better idea overall.

Members of the city council recently gave approval to what could turn into the state’s the state’s largest community solar project with NPPD. Three such projects already exist elsewhere in Nebraska.  The project also will be tied to a battery energy storage system demonstration project expected to be in operation by mid-2020.

“As technologies have advanced and costs have decreased, rural Nebraska is now in position to produce energy as efficiently as it does food,” said Mayor Josh Moenning. “We are excited to initiate Nebraska’s largest solar project, tied to the state’s first battery energy storage system, while helping lower energy bills and provide renewable options to interested citizens and businesses.”

Here’s what is especially intriguing about this project: The solar panels won’t be installed and distributed throughout the city. Instead, the project will be built on land owned by Norfolk at the city’s well fields.

But that doesn’t mean Norfolkans who have an interest in supporting and using solar power can’t do so. By participating in NPPD’s Sunwise Community Solar Program, Norfolkans will be able to, in effect, have a solar panel of their own by buying power from the community solar farm and not having to deal with installation of panels at their home or business.

“We look forward to working with Norfolk customers who want to participate in a renewable energy project as we move forward with the construction process,” said Tim Arlt, NPPD’s retail manager.

For Norfolk, the icing on the cake is the battery energy project that would be charged through generation provided by the solar unit and discharged daily. The equipment would store approximately the amount of electricity that a small home would use over the course of two months.

Along with the possible development of wind farms in Madison County, Norfolk’s solar project could make this city have a much greater focus on renewable energy — something that should be welcomed.

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