Alex Wattenhofer is a student at UNO, majoring in environmental science with a focus on geography and landscape planning; He is also pursuing a minor in sustainability as well as in physics and math. He is a member of Sustain UNO, a student-led sustainability organization within the college. Alex plans on pursuing a career in landscape architecture, in hopes to better blend Nature and Society, and to create more sustainable communities.
David E. Corbin is an Emeritus Professor of health education and public health at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He is currently on the board of the Public Health Association of Nebraska where he is the Nebraska Affiliate representative to the Governing Council of the American Public Health Association. He is Chair of the Nebraska Sierra Club and is on the executive committee of the Missouri Valley Sierra Club and Live Well Omaha Kids. He has written many successful grants and has been the project director of several grants. Most recently he was involved with the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) with the Douglas County Health Department as the fiscal agent. He authored six chapters of a high school textbook entitled Health for Life, which was published in the spring of 2014 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. David maintains Nebraskans for Solar’s Facebook page.
Donnis Arens is a retired educator (dual degrees in Special Education and Elementary Education), having taught in the Millard Public Schools for 30+ years. Groups with which she has been involved as a consultant, board member, or volunteer include the Omaha Children’s Museum, Rose Children’s Theater, American Heart Association, Methodist Hospital, Board of the Intergeneration Orchestra, Nebraska StoryArts (current president), and Omaha Stroke Club (current president). Donnis serves as a volunteer for Earth Day and other Nebraskans for Solar events, as well as Nebraska Solar Schools events and projects..
Eric Williams graduated from Rice University with a degree in Civil Engineering. His career and community work are both focused on sustainability, energy efficiency, and clean energy. In 2008, he founded the Omaha Biofuels Cooperative, “to produce, use, and promote biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels.” He currently works as the Natural Resources Planner at the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District (NRD), and oversees bicycle and pedestrian trail development and urban watershed rehabilitation projects. In 2014, he installed a 3,000 W solar PV system on his own home in Dundee, as well as an off-grid 300 W system at the Dundee Community Garden. Eric was elected to OPPD’s Board of Directors in 2018.
Helen Deffenbacher maintains Nebraskans for Solar’s and Nebraska Solar Schools’ websites and puts together the organizations’ electronic newsletters. She and Michael Shonka co-founded and co-chaired Nebraskans for Solar in 2012, forming a twelve-member board of directors, which subsequently adopted the current governing structure of president, president-elect and past president into the nonprofit’s bylaws. Additional organizations she presently or previously has worked with include the Green Omaha Coalition, serving as Green Neighborhood Council co-chair, Green Bellevue, Clean Energy Omaha and Sierra Club’s Missouri Valley Group. She and her husband Ken Deffenbacher were co-founders and co-chairs of an Earth stewardship program at their church, which achieved national designation as a “Green Sanctuary.” About eight years ago they formed a Kiva micro-lending team, Green Partnerships, which currently has nearly 1,200 members worldwide. She graduated from UNO with a Masters degree in education.
Jared Friesen is a project manager at Morrissey Engineering Inc (MEI), who specializes in small commercial to utility-scale renewable energy projects. He provides consulting services in photovoltaic (PV) performance and economic analysis exercises, designs and specifies systems, and leads the construction of solar projects throughout the region and beyond. Additionally, he provides an American Institute of Architects (AIA) accredited presentation to the architectural community on how to best incorporate photovoltaic that appropriately optimizes power production, reliability, economics, and aesthetics. Jared is a licensed Professional Engineer with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL). He is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional and has received advanced training through Solar Energy International’s industry-recognized training program. In 2010 he was instrumental in bringing solar energy to Morrissey Engineering’s LEED Platinum certified office building at 4940 North 118th Street. A major expansion of that system was made in 2014, resulting in its current production of 20-25% of the building’s total energy needs.
Jeff Berggren has worked in the renewable energy field since 2008 when he founded Husker Wind Power. With his construction and agricultural background, Jeff has managed multi-million-dollar energy efficiency projects for counties, school districts, and municipalities across Nebraska while working as Project Manager for a large-scale Energy Service Organization. Jeff currently manages GenPro Energy Solutions projects in Nebraska from their office in Central City, Nebraska. He oversees the turnkey development of projects from design through construction and commissioning. Community projects to date include: Lexington, Gothenburg, Aurora, Central City, and Fremont. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Hastings College, and an MBA from Marylhurst University in Marylhurst, Oregon. His MBA included concentrations in Renewable Energy and Sustainability. Jeff is a Nebraska native and a lifelong Husker fan.
Kenneth Deffenbacher is a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he was Chair of the Department of Psychology for 29 years. He has been active in the leadership of environmental and social justice organizations in the Omaha area, Co-Chair of the Green Neighborhood Council, co-chair of a nationally accredited earth stewardship program at his church, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Missouri Valley Group of the Sierra Club. He and his wife Helen are legacy members of the Nature Conservancy, as well. They, along with Michael Shonka and David Corbin, were honored as Green Bellevue’s 2016 Environment Champions for being “role models and pioneers for renewable energy.” Ken currently serves as the organization’s Secretary/Treasurer and serves as President Elect for 2019. When he becomes President in 2020, another board member will serve as Secretary.
Leo Arens is a graduate of UNL, with an accounting major. He was an army officer in Vietnam during 1967-1968, followed by a career in business, which included working as a Certified Public Accountant for a Big Eight accounting firm, Comptroller for Pacesetter Building Systems, a solar dealer and installer from 1979-1992, and a production specialist for CSGS International. He semi-retired in 2009, becoming a member of Nebraskans for Solar in 2012. Leo is a Past President of Nebraskans for Solar. Currently he serves as an expert advisor and is involved in grant writing.
Michael Shonka, owner of Solar Heat and Electric in Omaha, has been working with solar and wind systems since1983, installing and servicing equipment and working for the adoption of public policy favorable to the development of renewable energy. He is currently Vice-President of the Nebraska Solar Energy Society. He is also involved with the teaching of solar, wind, sustainability and energy conservation classes statewide. He has been a leader in updating city code for development of wind and solar, helping to pass a state tax credit for renewable energy and implementing the net metering law, which is vital for improving Nebraska’s use of renewable energy. He has also been teaching classes in Solar Energy Systems at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, influencing young minds and sparking interest in the solar technology fields. In 2012 he and Helen Deffenbacher co-founded Nebraskans for Solar. Michael serves as Past President for 2019.
Syed Ali is President of the Foundation for Peace, Tolerance, and Non-Violence and creator of The Peace Story Project. He serves as Chief Statistician for Analytics Led Intelligence. Prior positions have included Senior Research Specialist for FMWR Command, IMCOM HQ, US Army from 2010-2011 and work at Gallup from 1995-2009 in various positions, including Senior Research Director and Senior Consultant. At Gallup he worked on Gallup World Poll projects, which required going to various Asian countries to set up the poll. He has conducted analysis, sampling and weighting for numerous countries around the world, from sub Saharan Africa to the Middle East, and East Asia. He has also worked on the Gallup landmark study of the Muslim world. A strong advocate for green technologies, he has contributed solar LED lanterns to rural residents in Asia and provides micro loans for solar projects on Kiva and SunFunder. Syed serves as Fundraising Chair of Nebraskans for Solar’s Scholarship Program, which provides tuition fees and required textbooks for solar education classes to qualified students. Syed Ali is Nebraskans for Solar’s President for 2019.
Teresa Kooima is in the Class of 2019 at Creighton University, pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in sustainable energy. She does research in the energy technology department on thin films. She is Vice President of Creighton’s Energy Science Club, a community of students who gather to talk about energy-related current events and careers in energy, and host events on campus. She volunteers with Girl Scouts of Nebraska and an after-school tutoring program. After college, Teresa hopes to pursue a career in materials research that works to make solar energy more efficient and affordable.
Blake Johnson is Construction Warranty Supervisor for Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, serving for four years with the nonprofit organization. He has over 10 years experience in home and landscape construction and construction management. His passions include working to build quality affordable housing to help end the cycle of poverty, and green, sustainable initiatives to protect our planet. Blake serves as an advisor to Nebraskans for Solar and liaison between the two partnering organizations. He and Michael Shonka installed the four solar hot water systems on Habitat for Humanity homes in Omaha.
Jon Dixon opened Dixon Power Systems in 1999, to satisfy a growing interest in alternative power. He designs, sells equipment, installs and maintains residential and small commercial solar and wind turbine systems. Jon has taught courses on renewable energy at Southeast Community College and Union College for the International Rescue & Relief Major. He is a professional mentor for UNL Engineers Without Borders and collaborated with them on their first project in Madagascar and The World Energy Project installed in Kenya. He has completed other projects for the USGS/North Dakota, UNL, Lincoln Electric Systems, St Louis Zoo and Prairie Hill Learning Center—Nebraska’s First Wind and Solar Powered School to name a few. In 2011 he was appointed to the City of Lincoln Code Study Committee and also worked several years with a group to get Nebraska’s first net metering law passed through the Legislature. Jon serves as an expert advisor to Nebraskans for Solar.