Monthly Archives: December 2017

Are US automakers falling behind vehicle technology trends?

Ask a Scientist – December 2017, Union of Concerned Scientists 

This month we asked Dave Cooke, a UCS senior vehicles analyst, to set the record straight on the status of US automakers. Cooke, who has a PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of the new report, “In Need of a U-Turn: Automakers’ History of Intransigence and Opportunity for Change.”

Read more here.

Dave Cooke is a senior vehicles analyst in the Clean Vehicles Program, specializing in both light- and heavy-duty fuel economy.  He conducts research on fuel efficiency technologies and the implications for oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions across the transportation sector. Dr. Cooke received his Ph.D. in condensed matter physics in 2010 from the University of California, Berkeley.  Prior to this, he received his BS in physics from Harvey Mudd College in 2002 and his MS in physics from the University of California, San Diego in 2004.


Updated Energy Saver Guide Covers New Technologies

Now updated in 2017, the Department of Energy’s Energy Saver Guide offers tips for saving money and energy at home and on the road.

You can obtain the Energy Saver Guide in English and Spanish in the following ways:

Final Version of Tax Bill Keeps ITC Intact, Allowing for Strong Solar Growth to Continue

Solar Energy Industries Association Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – [Friday], following aggressive advocacy efforts by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) to ensure the continued growth of the U.S. solar industry, Congress reached an agreement on comprehensive tax reform legislation. Following is a statement from Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO:

“After weeks of negotiations, the final tax legislation released today maintains the solar Investment Tax Credits (ITC) for both commercial developers and for homeowners in its current form. This is a great victory for the solar industry and its 260,000 American workers and we commend our bipartisan solar champions in Congress for their diligent efforts to maintain solar’s critical role in America’s economy.

“As an industry, we are pleased that the final version of tax reform legislation protects the Investment Tax Credit, and we look forward to continuing to deliver on our promise of affordable, reliable American energy.”

Press Release.

U.S. renewable energy industry relieved as Republicans keep tax credits, Reuters
The final tax bill retains the production and investment tax credits for wind and solar energy that have spurred investment in the fast-growth industries. It also eliminates the alternative minimum tax, which would have reduced the value of those credits.

OPPD’s future relies heavily on renewables

By Cole Epley, Omaha World-Herald

More renewable energy is on the way for the Omaha Public Power District, including a potential community solar project that would let ratepayers have an active part in the district’s clean energy portfolio. Plans for the community solar project are in very early stages. The utility said it would share more details in the first quarter of 2018. Continue reading.

OPPD’s Community Solar Update, by Jeff Karloff, Division Manager, Production Engineering, Fuels and Renewables. December 14, 2017 Board of Directors Meeting.

Proposal Details

  • Locations considered
    I-80 rest area near Gretna
    City of Fort Calhoun
    Bellevue landfill
  • Ten developers over 100 proposals
  • Electrical interconnection costs will be added to RFP prices

Presentation Slides

Thank you to everyone who attended last night’s public forum on Community Solar!

Nebraskans for Solar wishes to thank each one of the Solar Champions, named below, who travelled to Omaha from several communities all across the state and who provided an outstanding panel presentation and discussion last evening at UNO’s Community Engagement Center on Community Solar. The Q&A that followed generated many insightful questions from audience members.

Kudos are also extended to Leo Arens for his work organizing the forum and to Leo and Michael Shonka for moderating it.

Thank you, also, to Green Bellevue and Omaha Sierra Club for co-sponsoring the event.

Our speakers were:

  • Cliff Mesner, Mesner Development, Central City
  • Brian Newton, Utility General Manager, Fremont
  • Jeff Buhrman, Capitol Beach Neighborhood Solar LLC, Lincoln
  • Jeff Berggren, GenPro Energy Solutions, Lexington
  • Michael Shonka, Solar Heat & Electric, Omaha
  • David Rich, Nebraska Public Power District, Columbus. (SunWise Projects: Kearney, Venango, and Scotsbluff).

Links to news stories about just some of the projects discussed by last night’s speakers and audience members, plus additional related articles.

At least fourteen Nebraska towns and cities have built community solar or utility-scale solar projects or are discussing building one.

Lincoln Environmental Action Plan Headed to Council

Mayor Chris Beutler has released the final Lincoln Environmental Action Plan (LEAP) to guide City action in the areas of energy, land use, transportation, waste and water. The LEAP was introduced at the City Council meeting Monday, December 11 and includes changes suggested by the community since the draft plan was released in July.

The Council will have a public hearing and vote on the LEAP Monday, December 18. The final plan is available here.

Suggested changes in the final plan include:

  • a new strategy to streamline the permitting and review for solar energy facilities;
  • a more comprehensive strategy that includes areas surrounding the urban core, such as Wilderness Park, saline wetlands and prairie corridors;
  • increased metrics to demonstrate improvements associated with the Green Light Lincoln project;
  • Increased support for electric vehicles, transit and biking; and
  • More aggressive goals to reduce solid waste going into the City landfill.

Mayor Beutler said the LEAP also guides several other initiatives moving forward in the next few weeks and months. Those include the following:

  • The implementation of energy savings performance contracts, a tool to improve the energy efficiency of City streets lights and public buildings and save taxpayer dollars.
  • The development of a prairie corridor to preserve our landmark landscapes and promote eco-tourism.
  • The testing of new autonomous vehicle technology to improve travel times, increase safety and reduce fuel costs.

“Investing in a Cleaner, Greener Lincoln creates what industry and economists call a ‘Triple Bottom Line’ – it returns economic, social and environmental value,” Beutler said. “This innovative thinking, planning and building are big reasons Lincoln continues to shine on the national stage.”


Ways you may support the Lincoln Environmental Action Plan (LEAP)

  • If you are a resident of Lincoln, contact your City Council member before December 18th here.
  • Attend the City Council meeting, where you will have the opportunity to testify in support of the plan, on Monday, December 18th at 5:30 pm at the County-City Building, 555 S. 10th Street, Room 113

70 U.S. mayors: We support and will enact long-term solar programs

By Frank Andorka, PV Magazine

The divide between the federal government’s ambivalence toward solar power and states’ desire to push forward with its deployment came into stark relief yesterday as 70 U.S. mayors, representing 26 states, declared that they would “resolve to make solar energy a key element of our communities’ energy plans.”

Notably absent from the list of signatories were any Hawaiian mayors despite the island chains clear commitment to solar energy. If anything, Hawaiian mayors are pushing even further ahead, and yesterday announced plans to switch to renewables in transportation as well as electricity. Click here to read the entire article.

Image: Adam Piontek

Solar Power Is Blooming in Minnesota

 By Madeline Ostrander, Sierra Club

In the past few years, several other states—including New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Illinois—have passed laws enabling solar garden programs. But Minnesota’s is currently the biggest and arguably most successful, in part because it places no upper limits on the amount of solar that can be developed in the state. “The success speaks for itself at this point,” says John Farrell, a Minneapolis-based energy expert for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “We’ve got more community solar than any other state. We’re going to continue to lead for quite a while.” Although Minnesota is hardly known for sunny weather, so far its residents seem to have an insatiable appetite for solar energy production. Read more here.

Photo by XXLPhoto/IStock 


Switch is on at Kearney’s solar farm: $11M facility is Nebraska’s largest

By Mike Konz, Kearney Hub Managing Editor

The 53-acre solar farm cost $11 million and, on a good day, will generate 5.8 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity. The project is a partnership between the city, Nebraska Public Power District and Chicago-based SoCore Energy, which has built hundreds of solar arrays, mostly on the roofs of large buildings. [Russell] Young, SoCore’s vice president of operations, said Kearney’s project is his company’s largest, but as the cost of building solar farms declines, he is confident SoCore will be building more like the one at Kearney’s Tech oNE Crossing.
Read more here.

Top Photo: Officials snip a green ribbon to dedicate the $11 million, 53-acre solar array in northeast Kearney. Credit: Mike Konz, Kearney Hub

Photo: “Interconnection Systems of Central City built Kearney’s solar array on the Tech oNE Crossing tract near 56th Street and Antelope Avenue.”

NPPD’s SunWise Program

  • Kearney residents may sign up online to purchase solar shares in the project by clicking this link and selecting the Kearney project, or by calling NPPD toll-free at
  • Request Community Solar In Your Community: In addition to Kearney, participating communities in NPPD’s SunWise Program include Venango and Scottsbluff. If you are an NPPD customer who lives in another town or city and would like to request community solar in your community, click here to submit the SunWise Community Solar Interest Form.


SoCore and United Power, an 82,000 member Colorado co-op, are partnering on an innovative community-battery-storage pilot program.
Like community solar, members of the community will purchase a portion of the battery’s capacity to power their homes during peak hours. In exchange, the participants will lower the demand charges on their monthly electrical bills. Construction on the project will start in the first quarter of 2018.

Oranges on the high plains? North Platte planning to construct solar-powered, geothermal-heated greenhouse

By Steve Frederick, Scottsbluff Star Herald

The [North Platte Natural Resources District] is raising funds for a solar-powered, geothermal-heated greenhouse, sunk 4 feet into the ground over a network of ducts circulating 54-degree air warmed by the earth. The greenhouse would measure 126 by 17 feet and stand 14 feet high, said NRD Assistant Manager Barb Cross, who is overseeing the project. General Manager John Berge conceived the project, which will include an outdoor learning facility, to promote NRD’s research and education missions . . . Solar power will provide the $500 worth of electricity needed each year to run the fans. The greenhouse panels will be made of impact-resistant Lexan plastic, manufactured in Alliance . . . Practical experience will be provided by intern Jenifer Berge Sauter, who will operate the greenhouse, and by Russ Finch of Alliance, who has been growing a variety of plants, including citrus trees, in his own greenhouse for about 25 years. Click here to learn more.

Photo: Jenifer Berge Sauter, left, and Barb Cross visit the site of a future greenhouse where the North Platte Natural Resources District plans to grow fruits and vegetables for local food banks. The structure, part of a 1.6-acre educational facility, is set to be built next spring. Credit: Steve Frederick / Scottsbluff Star Herald


  • Geothermal Heat Could Warm Up Local Food Production In The Midwest, by Harvest Public Media Editor Grant Gerlock, KCUR
    Russ Finch of Alliance, Nebraska designed his first geothermal greenhouse two decades ago. Photo Credit: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media
  • YouTube Video, Harvest Public Media:  Can the Midwest Grow Citrus?
    Russ Finch lives in northwestern Nebraska in the town of Alliance. He designed and built ‘The Greenhouse in the Snow,’ a greenhouse that runs only on a small fan that circulates geothermal heat. Using energy costs of about one dollar a day, Russ produces hundreds of pounds of citrus fruit every year to sell at local farmer’s markets.