An Omaha public electric utility and its private partner are building a community solar power array in eastern Nebraska

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FORT CALHOUN, Neb. (AP) — An Omaha public electric utility and its private partner are building a community solar power array in eastern Nebraska.

The Omaha Public Power District and NextEra Energy Resources plan to construct the 35-acre, 5-megawatt solar array east of Fort Calhoun, the Omaha World-Herald reported. NextEra has contracted to sell the power it produces to the utility for at least 20 years.

The new array will start producing power by June 2019, adding significant solar energy to the utility’s grid for the first time.

Customers will be able to buy “shares” and participate in the new solar power plant project. Details are being settled but most participants will pay more upfront to purchase shares. The costs would fluctuate annually based on regional market prices for power and production expenses.

Each share offsets about 10 percent of the electricity used monthly by the utility’s average residential customer. Purchasing shares should reduce the need for fossil fuels to produce electricity locally, utility officials said.

The community solar program expects to see high demand after a recent survey found that two-thirds of utility customers would consider participating.

“Community solar allows interested customers to acquire solar energy at a low cost,” said Brad Underwood, the utility’s director of financial planning and analysis. “Customers told us they wanted it.”

Fort Calhoun Mayor Mitch Robinson said the city’s partnership with the utility and NextEra will “bring more green energy to the community and the surrounding area.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com