Lincoln neighborhood solar farm turns entrepreneurs into pioneers

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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) -- Capitol Beach Lake neighborhood in Lincoln is living off solar energy. The co-founders of Beach Solar LLC began the community effort in 2015.

Two entrepreneurs began the solar project from the ground up, but the community effort is what's seeing it through.

"This is something that is better for our future and for our kids' kids. Let's do it," said Jeff Burhman, co-founder of Beach Solar.

Burhman and his business partner, Terry Wittler, stopped at UNO along their solar power tour, Wednesday night. The discussion is their 12th seminar, but they never set out for this.

Nebraskans for Solar say the community project is the first of its kind in the state of Nebraska.

Burhman, an eight-year resident of Capitol Beach — a neighborhood just northeast of downtown Lincoln, near the airport — said there was no provision in Lincoln city code for residential solar panels before this project.

"They're like, 'Oh, well when you do that let me know. I'd be interested in doing the same,' " Burhman said. "And then another neighbor said that, and then after a while, we're like, 'Why don't we just create a community one?”

When he got the idea to turn his house solar, the idea caught fire.

"It was just something that everyone took ownership, and it just kind of picked up momentum as time went on,” said Burhman.

Drivers can see the solar farm as they head east out of Lincoln on Interstate 80; 176 panels are used to power a good part of the neighborhood.

"The neighborhood as a whole came together and said, 'Yes, we want to do this. This is a great thing,’” Burhman said.

The rows of solar panels produce 50 kilowatts for eleven houses around Capitol Beach, sustaining nearly five hours of power for the homes each day.

"It's definitely more sustainable than trying to recreate energy everywhere else — a way to invest long term in our community," Burhman said.