First of its Kind Solar Installation in the Midwest

Omaha, Nebraska – June 18, 2024

An innovative collaboration between Sandhills Energy and Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) creates additional energy independence in 16 communities at 15 sites across the Midwest.

Colorado: Delta, Fort Morgan, Wray, and Yuma
Iowa: Denver, Indianola, Sergeant Bluff, and Waverly
Nebraska: Alliance, Ansley, Crete, Gering, Imperial, Pender, Sidney, and Stuart

Sandhills Energy was awarded an RFP by MEAN in 2021 as the preferred solar energy provider for member utilities. This installation is the first of its kind in the region and will account for up to 5% of energy usage by 16 municipalities. Completing multiple developments in tandem allows Sandhills Energy to bring its utility-scale renewable expertise and economies of scale to locally sited projects.

“As a member-driven organization, MEAN is pleased to be able to facilitate these community solar projects for our interested wholesale power participant communities,” said Bob Poehling, Executive Director of the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. “These projects align with MEAN’s carbon neutral 2050 vision, which was earlier approved and being guided by the MEAN Board of Directors.”

Sandhills Energy is proud to partner with MEAN and its member communities in such a meaningful effort to introduce low-cost solar throughout the Midwest. “The 15 different project sites in this portfolio span three states and have persevered through many obstacles and setbacks over the four years since the inception of these projects,” says Eric Johnson, President of Sandhills Energy. “We are grateful to the host communities and MEAN for the creativity in tackling novel problems and commitment to bringing renewable energy in a meaningful way to the Midwest.”

In addition to representatives from Sandhills Energy and MEAN, in attendance at the first of these 15 installations in Alliance, Nebraska, were Alliance Mayor John McGhehey, Vice Mayor Tearza Mashburn, City Manager Seth Sorenson, John Lavelle of Yaskawa Solectria Solar, and Drew Coffey from ISI Solar, among many others.

While the road to get here has been a long one, the wait was worthwhile as Sandhills Energy has been able to hold the cost of energy originally agreed upon with MEAN and the city of Alliance in 2021. Energy and equipment prices have increased significantly since 2021, but due to strategic equipment acquisition and inclusion into the USDA PACE program, Sandhills Energy maintained the original project pricing. Compared to current solar power market rates, the savings for the city of Alliance are around $3.2M and $6.4M for MEAN over the life of the power purchase agreement.

City Manager Seth Sorenson emphasized, “This is a big thing for Alliance, to be considered, and for this to be part of our system and our future, as we are trying to move forward with being more sustainable.”

Community Benefit
This project will bring more than 30 construction jobs to the city of Alliance during the peak installation period. Additionally, the MEAN portfolio expects to employ four to five full-time operations and maintenance technicians based in Sidney, Nebraska, which the Sandhills team is beginning to assemble. Finally, as a part of its commitment to growing renewables within the state of Nebraska, Sandhills Energy will host training from the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) in Alliance.

The course will provide access to skills training in solar energy for local residents of all Nebraska MEAN communities, including education in solar generation, system design, and installation. Upon completion, training participants will be eligible to sit for the North American Body of Certified Energy Professionals (NABCEP) PV Associate exam.

Mayor John McGhehey added, “In the event of a natural disaster or supply disruption, a locally produced and distributed energy source can ensure a more stable and reliable power supply for critical services and infrastructure.” He also noted, “Sandhills’ investment here will help stimulate local economic growth and job creation in the region.”

These projects utilize state-of-the-art solar equipment from industry-leading manufacturers. The Series 6 Plus solar modules from First Solar are the leading thin-film modules made in the USA. The racking is from Array Technologies (ATI) through their distributor RPCS – one of the leading racking manufacturers globally. The advanced racking capabilities, including automatic backtracking and hail, flood, and high-wind stowing, are well-suited for this region.

Jake Pole, Executive VP at Sandhills Energy, emphasized, “The inverter technology we are utilizing is from Yaskawa Solectria Solar, who has worked extensively with our team to pioneer an innovative 480-volt solution incorporated into their premier XGI series product that we are proud to say is manufactured in the USA. The 480-volt design better aligns with the infrastructure requirements for cities like Alliance, and we are grateful to the Yaskawa Solectria Solar team for their creative work in bringing this solution to market.

By leveraging utility-scale renewable expertise and economies of scale, Sandhills Energy can offer reduced power purchase prices traditionally available only to regional utilities. This means member utilities can enjoy cost-effective electricity with stable rates secured for decades to come.

#About Sandhills Energy
Sandhills Energy is a renewable energy development company based in Nebraska and Iowa. Focused on commercial and utility generation, Sandhills Energy has extensive experience in project development, from identification to engineering, construction, and operations. Sandhills Energy provides renewable energy development at any scale. Sandhills is well-positioned to work closely with utilities, municipalities, and landowners to accelerate the growth of renewable energy adoption by utilities and farming communities.

#About MEAN
The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska is based in Lincoln, Nebraska, and provides wholesale power supply and energy-related services to more than 60 participating communities in Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

Contact/Media Inquiries :
(402) 389-1668 or
1403 Harney Street, Suite 200
Omaha, NE 68102

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