KEARNEY — The largest solar farm in Nebraska has started operations.
The 53-acre solar farm in Kearney was dedicated Monday. The system's nearly 22,500 solar panels will generate 5.8 megawatts of renewable energy, which is about 5 percent of the city's electrical demand.
The $11 million project is a partnership between the city, Nebraska Public Power District and Chicago-based SoCore Energy.
SoCore will sell energy to the power district, which will then sell it to customers in the area. The University of Nebraska at Kearney has already contracted for half of the farm's solar power.
The Kearney project is SoCore Energy's largest so far, according to Russell Young, the company's vice president of operations. The company has built hundreds of solar arrays, typically on the roofs of large buildings. The solar panel array in Kearney is nearly a half-mile long and 600 feet wide.
The company will likely build more large solar farms as the cost of building the arrays declines, Young said.
Melissa Freelend, who is on the power district's board of directors, said she's proud of Kearney for pursing the solar project.
"I'm glad to see more growth in renewable energy," Freelend said. "As technology progresses, we want to make sure we have energy for a clean future."
Kearney municipal leaders started exploring solar energy a few years ago after losing a bid for a $1 billion Facebook data center. Facebook opted for an Iowa location because of that bid's wind energy options.
Other communities pursuing solar projects include Lincoln, Callaway, Gothenburg and South Sioux City. There's 25 megawatts of solar power capacity planned or in progress statewide, according to Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley.