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Central City Solar Garden Earns Project of the Year Award

Story/photo: Kevin Wickham, NMPP Energy

NMPP Energy awarded the City of Central City, Neb., with a Project of the Year Award for its Community Solar Garden at its 41st Annual Meeting and Conference in Grand Island, Neb., March 30.

The award is presented annually to honor a project or program in an NMPP Energy member community that creates a more cohesive community, whether it is a project created for the entire community or one that makes it easier for city staff and employees to serve their customers.

Central City is a member of two of NMPP Energy's organizations: the Nebraska Municipal Power Pool (utility-related services) and the National Public Gas Agency (wholesale natural gas supply).

The City began working cooperatively with a local businessman in 2014 to develop the solar garden, which currently has a total electric generating capacity of 200 kilowatts and is the state's first community solar project.

Plans are for an additional 500 kilowatts to be installed this summer with the goal of reaching a total electric generating capacity of two megawatts during 2017. The City adopted virtual net metering to allow individuals and businesses to own solar panels at the facility, rather than installing panels on individual rooftops or property. Currently, the City owns panels along with seven other businesses. The partnership provides benefits to the City and the panel owners.

"The project has served as a model for numerous other projects being planned," said Central City City Administrator Chris Anderson. "Many communities and utilities have toured the facilities to learn how we implemented the project. We believe the Central City Community Solar Garden will be only the first of many renewable energy projects in Nebraska and has helped to usher in a new solar movement in the state."

Along with recognition at NMPP Energy's Annual Meeting and Conference, the City received $200, which will be donated to The Merrick Foundation to be used toward a new movie theatre project.

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