OPPD provides to York County Commissioners letter of intent to transfer K-Junction Solar to privately-owned developer

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YORK COUNTY – Questions have come up during the past few months — as the York County Commissioners have talked about solar project zoning regulations — regarding whether or not Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) will have a third-party developer of their proposed K Junction Solar project. The third-party developer aspect is important as this developer would pay the nameplate tax to the local school district and county. Without that third party, no nameplate tax would be paid.

Per the questions and concerns, OPPD has now provided the county with a letter of intent to transfer K-Junction Solar to a privately-owned developer.

Dustin Marvel, representing OPPD, presented the letter to the York County Commissioners during their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 2.

The letter reads as follows:

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Dear members of the York County Board of Commissioners:

We sincerely thank you for your collaborative approach and ongoing dialogue regarding plans for the K-Junction Solar project in York County. You have made yourselves available and hosted well-structured, open and respectful conversations for all concerned stakeholders. We appreciate your leadership in ensuring Nebraskans and Nebraska businesses are heard and understood.

We also appreciate the important role of your board and the role of other local bodies in projects like K-Junction, especially concerning zoning regulations and broader community impacts.

At the recent March 5 York County Board of Commissioners meeting, we heard concerns about OPPD’s option to develop the K-Junction Solar project independently rather than transfer the project to a private developer that would contribute to the community through statutory nameplate capacity tax dollars.

OPPD would like to take this opportunity to clarify our intentions for K-Junction Solar. Though OPPD currently holds the general interconnection and other legal rights for K-Junction and is deeply involved in the project’s planning stages, we expect our long-term plan will result in the transfer of the K-Junction project to a private developer. OPPD’s Board of Directors has placed vested authority in OPPD’s Chief Executive Officer to make this decision, per OPPD Board Resolution 6582 from the Aug. 17, 2023 OPPD Board of Directors meeting.

We believe a decision to transfer the project to a private developer would help OPPD achieve its strategic growth plans, effectively respond to the regulatory landscape and ensure K-Junction Solar benefits not only the Nebraskans within OPPD’s service territory but also Nebraskans within York County and surrounding communities. As a public power utility, we aim to help ensure communities thrive – no matter where they are located in our state.

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To be clear, a decision to transfer K-Junction to a private developer will be made after critical milestones have been achieved, including but not limited to, the finalization of solar zoning regulations in York County and enhancements to Nebraska’s electrical transmission infrastructure. Achieving these milestones is essential to ensure the viability and success of K-Junction Solar. Given the complexity involved, though we are hopeful to reach them sooner, it may be years before these milestones are met.

We remain committed to transparent communication and collaboration throughout this process, working closely with the York County Commissioners to navigate milestones and move toward what we hope will be a successful transition of the K-Junction Solar project to a developer that shares our values of community engagement and sustainability.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and your ongoing dedication to York County. We look forward to your guidance and feedback on zoning regulations and other considerations that will facilitate this project’s progress.

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The letter is signed by L. Javier Fernandez, OPPD CEO and president, as well as Eric H. Williams, chairman of the OPPD Board of Directors.

Marvel told the commissioners the nameplate tax payments “are real. For example, Wayne County is getting $1.6 million a year. And this revenue, at a time when the state legislature is considering cuts and caps, etc., this creates a reliable revenue stream” for taxing entities, such as school districts and counties.

He also noted how nameplate tax payments have been “eliminated” in some locations “where counties were resistant to change.”

Marvel further asked for “compromise” when it comes to the proposed solar project zoning regulations, particularly in the area of setbacks pertaining to large commercial solar projects, as OPPD has called the setbacks proposed in York County’s draft regulations “highly restrictive” and excessive.

“Please continue to collaborate and continue to work to find a fair compromise,” Marvel said further.

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