Council approves Hastings solar project

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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Solar power is coming to Hastings.

The city council Monday night approved a $2.38 million dollar contract with Gen Pro Energy to build a solar farm west of the Hastings airport.

It will be a 1.5 megawatt solar field, and have about 6,000 panels according to Derek Zeisler, director of marketing and energy supply with Hastings Utilities.

Zeisler said customer options would be to buy a panel, buy shares or donate to the project as a whole. Whatever rate that's set would last for 25 years.

The city will discuss rates and options for customers. Johnson and Zeisler said they hope to have it built no later than September 2.

"We're looking into renewables now primarily because customers have approached us, and inquired about the availability of renewables," said Kevin Johnson, the Hastings Utilities manager. "We've been approached by customers in the residential sector, the commercial sector and even the educational sector."

Hastings isn't the first in the Tri-Cities to bring a solar farm to town.

Grand Island is operating a one mega-watt solar pilot project on the northeast side of the city.

Kearney currently has the largest solar farm in Nebraska. It's a 5 megawatt solar field that sits on a 53-acre plot.

The city of Kearney built their solar farm for the same reason Hastings is looking at building one: customer satisfaction.

"It meets our needs. It helps us with our economic development, and it provides an alternative fuel source of renewable energy for local consumers that are interested in having that type of arrangement," said Kearney mayor Stan Clouse. "We're very pleased with how it's been working."

Their solar farm powers about 5 percent of Kearney's electrical needs.

In Kearney and possibly with Hastings, the solar farms are meant to provide an alternative option to fossil fuels, not fully replace them.

The eco-friendly option was something people at UNK were interested in. The university bought 51 percent of the shares, which runs around 25 percent of their electrical needs.

"It's really important to our students, and again our faculty and staff," said Jon Watts, vice chancellor for business & finance at UNK. "They think it's the right direction. We have some aggressive goals. I think by mid 2020s we'd really like to make sure we're 45-50 percent renewable. So we're working toward there."

Read the original version of this article at www.ksnblocal4.com.