The Sarpy County Board is opposing a plan by the Omaha Public Power District to build a solar energy farm and natural gas plants along a key corridor and asking the utility to consider another site. The Board is also requesting that OPPD – a public agency – start engaging with stakeholders and the public on its project.
OPPD is looking to build a solar energy farm and natural gas plants on roughly 1,200 acres of land along Platteview Road in western Sarpy County – effectively taking this portion of the corridor off the table for future commercial or residential development.
This location is particularly problematic because it is within the jurisdiction of the Sarpy County and Cities Wastewater Agency. Development that occurs within these boundaries will help fund a southern Sarpy sanitary sewer system, a project that will encourage orderly growth in the state’s fastest-growing county and benefit the entire region by expanding the tax base.
OPPD is a public agency and does not pay property taxes, and its project would require few, if any, connection fees. Such fees are a critical in order for the sewer system to be built. Without that revenue source, the cost of the sewer expansion would fall to Sarpy County taxpayers.
“Sarpy County stands ready and willing to assist OPPD with locating solar farms in Sarpy County and help reduce our carbon footprint,” Sarpy County Board Chairman Don Kelly said. “However, OPPD’s selected location would devastate our longstanding plans to extend sewers to the southern half of the county.”
“OPPD is blowing a hole in the middle of prime real estate,” said Sarpy County Board Member Jim Warren, whose district includes OPPD’s site. “There are great places to build a solar farm, including in our county, but not along a major corridor that’s best suited for businesses and homes.”
“To make matters worse,” Chairman Kelly added, “our residents expect and deserve OPPD to act in good faith. Unfortunately, that has not happened. Instead, OPPD has moved ahead with full knowledge that their plan will harm Sarpy County residents and the years-long, transparent plan to build sewer infrastructure.”
Sarpy County first became aware of OPPD’s desire to build a solar farm in September 2019. At the suggestion of OPPD CEO Tim Burke, Sarpy County agreed to assist in studying whether the Sarpy County landfill site near Springfield would be a good location.
A month later, in October 2019, OPPD announced its intent to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a utility-scale solar project expected to generate roughly 600 megawatts of electricity. Accompanying natural gas plants would generate the same amount of power and serve as a backup for when the sun doesn’t shine.
Subsequently, OPPD refused to share with Sarpy County officials any specificity about the project’s potential location. OPPD gave limited information to Sarpy officials, repeatedly requested that Sarpy keep that information confidential, and ignored Sarpy’s well-known concern about building within the Wastewater Agency’s jurisdiction.
On Friday, March 27, Sarpy County officials learned that a subsidiary corporation of OPPD’s law firm, Fraser Stryker PC LLO, had closed on a 116-acre parcel along Platteview Road. Sarpy County has obtained additional information about potential parcels under consideration. The site runs from 156th Street to a ½ mile west of 192nd Street.
The Wastewater Agency stands to lose up to $150 million if OPPD proceeds with this location inside the Agency’s boundaries. A financial analysis into additional projected lost tax revenue is underway.
While OPPD received more than 70 responses to its RFP, OPPD has still not informed Sarpy County or the public of the potential locations for its project.
“Sarpy County and the public have had no meaningful input on this project,” Chairman Kelly said. “It is mind-boggling that OPPD is moving forward with removing over 1,200 acres from potential development in the state’s fastest-growing county. We strongly encourage them to press pause and come to the table with Sarpy County.”