ACCESS to Solar for All

Written by Brittnee McCabe, Intern

Today we speak with Nick Shoemaker as he tells us a little bit more about the ACCESS Program and its impact on Norman Public Schools. The last time Nick joined Autumn on our podcast, he discussed our partnership with Norman Public Schools and the solar farm that provides power to them. As solar energy continues to gain popularity across the nation, OEC is determined to find ways that our members can benefit.

Nick is OEC’s Manager of System Engineering. He serves as the head electrical engineer and oversees all of the grid design for OEC as well as overseeing all of the codes, both civil and electrical. 

On this episode, Nick dives in to share a little bit more about the ACCESS Program with us. 

“ACCESS stands for Achieving Cooperative Community Equitable Solar Sources. This is a project through our national organization, NRECA. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association oversees talking between all the cooperatives in us and currently, five other leader cooperatives are doing renewable energy resources projects, “Shoemaker states. “And we are collaborating with one another, with the NRECA, with a long list of technical partners, and then through a grant that we all received through the Department of Energy, doing research on how we can bring solar, solar development, and the benefits of solar too, to LMR, which is a government term that stands for low to moderate income consumers.”

Although solar can introduce a lot of risk, Nick believes that the ACCESS Program will help to find more creative ways for people to take on that risk as well as lower some of the barriers surrounding solar like cost.

“We’re trying to find innovative and cost-effective ways for people to be involved with solar and solar access. In short, you know, kind of reducing those barriers to entry. You could put solar on your house and that is definitely one way to get solar, but that’s a very large barrier to entry for most people. So, we are thinking of other ways that we can utilize solar resources and have people have different levels of access to it and receive the benefits of that without having to just upfront a bunch of money.”

Not only does this program help shed some light on the benefits of solar power, but it will provide students and community members a chance to see, hear and feel this creation of energy and is a phenomenal way to engage people, especially about STEM related topics. The ACCESS Program can show everyone that solar power is not just something in a book, but instead an amazing teaching opportunity as well as a fantastic way to provide power to the communities that surround us. 

To learn more, listen to the latest episode of The Current Buzz here: www.okcoop.org/the-current-buzz-podcast.

OEC Announces New Solar Partnership with Norman Public Schools

A new solar farm will feature a unique partnership between OEC and Norman Public Schools, which will reduce the school district’s energy costs and provide educational opportunities for students.

Construction on the solar farm will begin soon and conclude by the end of 2020. When complete, the 15-acre, 2 megawatt solar farm is expected to generate the equivalent of nearly 30 percent of the school district’s total energy usage.

The partnership also features a Renewable Science Education Center, where students can visit the solar farm and learn about electricity, energy and careers in related fields. The project also aligns with the City of Norman’s Ready for 100 initiative, which calls for the city to be fueled 100 percent by renewable energy by 2030.

The solar farm will be located at 60th and Robinson in Norman and will feature 7,208 panels. The property is owned by Norman Public Schools and OEC will lease a portion of the land to construct the solar farm and an associated road to the facility.

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