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Community solar project

Rafeal Bermudes works on LES's community solar project at Northwest 75th and Holdrege streets on Tuesday.

Lincoln Electric System plans to dedicate the state’s first commercial solar energy park next month and commemorate the event with tours for SunShares supporters.

Construction on the nearly 5-megawatt facility began in March, and it went online in late June, producing enough electricity to power about 900 homes.

Flanked by farm fields, the park sits on part of a 46-acre lot along a gravel stretch of West Holdrege Street near Northwest 75th Street. The new community solar project is owned by Oakland, California-based developer Enerparc. LES has a 20-year contract to buy power from the company.

The $8.9 million solar park has 15,333 solar panels, 19 miles of direct current cabling, 3.5 miles of alternating current cabling and 60 inverters.

LES put out a request for a private company to build the solar park at the urging of its customers. LES gauged interest in the project through a program called SunShares, through which 1,200 LES customers voluntarily pay a little extra on their monthly bills to support solar efforts.

Customers of the city-owned utility are contributing more than $6,000 a month through the program, having pitched in a total of about $120,000. As of Aug. 1, about 1,250 people participated in the program. 

SunShares gives residents and businesses unable to put up their own solar panels a chance to invest in reducing Lincoln’s carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels, a major contributor to global warming.

LES officials have said it’s also a possible stepping stone to additional solar projects.

The utility has declined to say how much it will pay for the electricity or how the rate will compare to the cost of fossil fuel-produced electricity or other renewable sources like wind.

LES will host a dedication ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 16, which will be live broadcast on the Cube in the West Haymarket’s Railyard, then take people from the Railyard for two one-hour tours.

The first bus leaves the Railyard at 11 a.m. and the second at 12:30 p.m. Space is limited.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7304 or nbergin@journalstar.com.

 On Twitter @ljsbergin.

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