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OPPD looking for up to 400 MW of renewables

Nebraskautility the Omaha Public PowerDistrict is looking for bidders to provide the utility between 1 MWand 400 MW of renewable power capacity, according to a request for proposalsreleased by OPPD July 18.

TheRFP would lead to a doubling of the utility's level of renewable power. As ofthe end of 2015, OPPD had 416.5 MW of wind and landfill gas capacity, accordingto a company fact sheet. Much of that wind power comes from participationagreements OPPD has with independently owned wind farms such as 's facility inNebraska. OPPD is also expecting to buy 400 MW from 's windfacility, which is under construction in Nebraska. The utility directly ownsjust 7.1 MW of renewable capacity, mostly biomass, according to S&P GlobalMarket Intelligence data.

The RFP calls for power from a renewable energy project thatcan begin commercial operations between June 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2020.OPPD is seeking wind projects from 40 MW to 400 MW and solar projects from 1 MWto 100 MW. Notices of intent to bid are due July 22 and proposalsare due Aug. 5. Respondents will be selected by Oct. 28.

OPPDis interested in signing a contract with a 10-year term length, according to adata form released along with the RFP.

Theutility has had recent motivation to find new sources of power due to its boardof directors' June vote to retire the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant because the reactorwas operating at a loss. Fort Calhoun provides about 26% of OPPD's energy,compared to 27% from wind and 44% from coal, according to figures presented atthe meeting in which the board decided to close Fort Calhoun.

Butthe goal of the RFP is not "solely" toreplace Fort Calhoun, according to OPPD spokesman Mike Jones. The purpose isalso to "gauge" the market for renewables due to the fact that thefederal production tax credit for wind and the investment tax credit for solarare phasing out in several years.

"The extension of safe harboring of projects hascreated market opportunities," Jones said. The U.S.Internal Revenue Service recently clarified that wind projects trying toqualify for the production tax credit will be subject to a four-year safeharbor, meaning they will have four years to complete construction to qualifyfor the level of the credit that was in place in the year they beganconstruction. Although the credit starts phasing down in value after 2016 andexpires entirely in 2020, observers have pointed out that the length of this safe harbor willallow many projects that begin construction in 2016 to receivethe full value of the credit.