Solar Project to Fund Future for Farmer's Daughter

Hastings Tribune

Will Vraspir & Laura Beahm

Aug 24, 2021

SARONVILLE — What started as a search for a plan to allow local farmer Tom Alberts to provide for his daughter has turned into a project that will benefit the entire community.

Looking into an opportunity to provide future financial care for his special-needs daughter, Alika, Alberts contacted Interconnection Systems Inc. in Central City. They are an engineering, procurement and construction company for renewable solar energy and battery energy storage systems.

The final agreement created a 1-megawatt solar project on nine acres of Alberts’ land near the corner of U.S. Highway 6 and Spur 18-G.

“This project probably wouldn’t exist if God hadn’t put Alika here,” Clint Bokelman, chief operations officer of ISI, said Monday. “He was thinking about how can he provide for Alika after he’s gone.”

Named the Alika Alberts Solar Field, the site features 3,300 solar panels on fixed-axis racks that connect to the existing South Central Public Power District grid at the Saronville substation.

Matt Williams, vice president for engineering, estimating and procurement for ISI, said the project is the first to be owned by ISI. The solar energy collected by the panels is stored in batteries and then transferred to eight inverters connected to the South Central grid.

“It will produce enough to power about 70 homes at a time,” he said.

The project’s contract with South Central spans an initial 15-year term with a projected operational life of 40 years. The project provides Alberts’ daughter with a long-range plan for financial stability to take care of her special needs in the years to come.

The solar field also benefits South Central, which is purchasing all the power being produced at the solar field, by providing about 1-2% of its renewable energy generation at a lower cost.

Craig Cox, general manager at South Central Public Power District, said the energy generated will be used locally in Saronville. If there is a surplus, it will be used to power homes in nearby communities serviced by South Central.

Cox said ISI wasn’t the first solar company to approach SCPPD, but it was the first to offer a way to keep the energy generated at the local level.

“It will keep the money local and the power in Nebraska,” he said. “We hope to do more with you (ISI) in the future.”

Wayne Williams, CEO of Interconnection Systems, Inc., said distributive solar allows the energy to feed local users and keeps the profits at a local level. Generally, he said, taxes on large-scale generation are paid in the locality in which the company is headquartered.

He said the extra electricity likely is to be needed in the not-too-distant future as electric vehicles become more prominent. Regulatory pressures are pushing vehicle manufacturers to convert to electric motors. By 2030, he said, some automakers will end production of internal combustion engines altogether.

By keeping the energy local, Williams said, the tax benefits also will stay local. Clay County is expected to receive about $3,500 per year in a nameplate tax.

“This does benefit us in Nebraska,” he said. “This is a way to get local money to stay local.

Laura Beahm/Tribune

Craig Cox, general manager at South Central Public Power District, speaks Monday at the new solar field in Saronville.

Laura Beahm/Tribune

The Alika Alberts Solar field, installed by Interconnection Systems Inc., is photographed in Saronville Monday following a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Laura Beahm/Tribune

Wayne Williams, CEO of Interconnection Systems Inc., speaks Monday at the ribbon cutting for the Alika Alberts Solar Field in Saronville.

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