Author Archives: Helen Deffenbacher

USDA Rural Energy for America Program Grant Applications Now Open

USDA Assistant to the Secretary, Anne Hazlett, recently announced that the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is accepting grant applications for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement projects. The application deadline is April 30, 2018 for grants and loan/grant combinations. Small businesses in eligible rural areas and agricultural producers, both rural and non-rural, who have at least 50% of their gross income coming from agricultural operations, may apply. Check eligible business addresses.

REAP grants provide up to 25% of the total project costs, and a grant and loan combination up to 75%. Eligible projects include renewable energy systems and the purchase, installation and construction of energy efficiency improvements. See REAP Fact Sheet for a complete list of eligible projects.

The terms for renewable energy system grants are from $2,500 minimum to $500,000 maximum and for energy efficiency grants, from $1,500 minimum to $250,000 maximum.

Nebraska REAP Program

Jeff Carpenter
Nebraska Rural Development Energy Coordinator
Telephone: 402-437-5554 

Facebook’s Nebraska reach expands

By Jason Kuiper, The Wire, OPPD Blog

Facebook announced today their Nebraska data center will be three times the size of its original announcement. The Papillion data center will be six buildings instead of two with groundbreaking set to begin in May on the additional buildings. Facebook announced last April their plan to build its next data center here and credited the development of OPPD’s Rate 261M as one of the biggest draws. Read the entire blog post.

Facebook’s Press Release: Papillion Data Center Expanding to Six Buildings
Author: Jim Piazza, Director of Data Center Operations, East
Last year, we worked with Omaha Public Power District to create a new renewable energy tariff that ensures we can power our data center with clean and renewable energy. With the tariff in place, we could seek new, in-state wind projects, which we found in Enel Green Power‘s Rattlesnake Creek Wind Project. We will now increase our purchase from 200 MW to 320 MW to support our growth, and we are excited to share that we have partnered with Adobe to help them enter the U.S. renewable energy market with Enel; 10 MW of Rattlesnake Creek will be allocated to Adobe.

Enel sells energy from new US wind farm to Facebook and Adobe, Enel Press Release
The new deal between Enel and Facebook widens the scope of the bundled, long-term power purchase agreement for 200 MW signed in November 2017 to gradually include the plant’s overall output by 2029, following Facebook’s decision to significantly expand its data centre in Papillion, around 120 miles from Rattlesnake Creek. The energy produced by the entire wind farm will enable the expanded data centre to be 100% renewable-powered.

“Powering our data centers with 100% clean and renewable energy is not just a goal for Facebook, it is a requirement of our business,” said Bobby Hollis, Director of Global Energy at Facebook. “The Rattlesnake Creek wind farm will enable us to power our future Papillion Data Center, and fulfills our passion to expand the energy market for other corporate buyers, like Adobe.”

The expansion increases Facebook’s total investment in the Papillion Data Center to
$1 billion.

DIY PV Installation & Passive Solar Sunroom in Gering, Nebraska

By Colin Croft

Brief overview
This article includes a discussion of a DIY installation of a grid-tied 5.4-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system using Enphase microinverters, as well as the conversion of a two-level sunroom into a passive solar heating space using a thermostat-controlled fan/vent system. I also discuss my limited experimentation with micro wind turbines (not for the faint of heart!), and the hardware and software I’ve used to monitor my energy consumption and generation.

Download and save DIY PV Installation & Passive Solar Sunroom

About the Writer
Colin is a philosophy instructor at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, who enjoys hiking, backpacking, biking, birding and generally exploring the wild places of Western Nebraska and nearby western states.

Note to Other Do-it-Yourselfers

If you have completed a DIY solar project and would like to share it with other solar enthusiasts,
please email your information to Helen Deffenbacher at

Green Schools Virtual Roundtable: Benchmarking in Schools

March 21, 2018 – 4 to 6 pm
Click flyer for more information and to register.
Nebraska Energy Office News Release Announcing Benchmarking Initiative: State Government Buildings To Be Benchmarked by 2020

OPPD Community Solar Primary Focus of March Board of Directors Meeting

Click image to watch YouTube Video of the meeting.


After Back-to-Back Years of Double-Digit Growth, U.S. Solar Passes 50 GW Milestone

Solar Energy Industries Association Blog

At the end of 2015, there was just north of 25 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV installed in the United States. Now, after back-to-back years of double-digit gigawatt growth (15 GW in 2016 and 10.6 GW in 2017), the solar industry has more than doubled its total installed capacity to 53.3 GW through the end of 2017. The release of the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2017 Year in Review finds that the solar industry is doing pretty well, even after a year of obstacles, from the trade case to a number of state policy actions. Read more here.


NextEra builds largest solar+storage plant in USA


OPPD to convert streetlights to LED fixtures

By Laura King-Homan, The Wire, OPPD Blog

Streetlights across the OPPD service territory will get a facelift over the next five years. And their new look will mean brighter, longer-lasting fixtures, better efficiency, and monetary savings for the communities they serve . . . OPPD owns the majority of streetlights in its service territory. The utility has 298 streetlight customers ranging from small towns to the Nebraska Department of Transportation . . . A total of 98,744 streetlights cover the roads and highways of the service territory. By converting the streetlights to LED fixtures, the municipalities that contract with OPPD would see a 25-percent reduction in their overall streetlight costs. This is why:

Click link, below, to learn more.

The future of LED streetlights looks bright


Replacing all Lincoln street lights with LEDs could be first task if City Council OKs energy efficiency financing tool, Lincoln Journal Star

Wind energy close to powering up in Kimball

By Dakota Kuhns, Western Nebraska Observer

This week, the week of March 12, the wind farm substation will be energized, followed by the collector system (the wires that connect all the wind turbines to the substation.) During the week of March 19, [John Brown, Chief Development Officer of Kimball Wind Energy] plans to start commissioning the individual wind turbines so county residents may notice one unit running at a time . . . As of right now, Brown states that the project is still on tract to reach full commercial operation on June 30. Read more here.

Wind farm in Kimball, Nebraska, is being decommissioned, but a new one will rise on the same site in 2018, by Cole Epley, Omaha World-Herald

LINCOLN — For the first time in about seven years as a wind developer, Sandhills Energy President Eric Johnson finally has an answer to the question he most commonly gets asked: What happens to wind farms when they’ve reached the end of their useful lives?  At least in Kimball, Nebraska, where Johnson’s company is working with a Lincoln-based general contractor to decommission the state’s first utility-scale wind farm, the answer is to build a bigger, better wind energy project. Click here to continue reading.

Kimball Wind Farm, Nebraska’s first utility-scale wind farm, before it was decommissioned and new turbines installed. Image Credit: Nebraska Municipal Power Pool. Link to Dakota Kuhns’ article to see the new wind turbines.

Renewable Energy Has More Economic Benefits Than You Know

By Jake Richardson, Clean Technica

Renewable energy is already cheaper than other energy options in most of the world, but it comes with other economic and societal benefits as well. Because of the number of countries investing in renewable energy, the complexity of their national economies and their energy infrastructure details, it isn’t possible to cover everything in one online article. The subject would be better addressed in a book. So, this article is intended only to be a snapshot of some key high-level points. Click here to continue reading.

Photo: Telesis Inc’s solar array in Lincoln’s Haymarket



Washington, D.C., now has 651-kW community solar project through Solar for All program



Press Release: USDA Invests $276 Million in Rural Electric Infrastructure

USDA’s $276 million investment will build nearly 1,000 miles of line and improve 733 miles of line to meet current and future needs of rural businesses and residents. It will also support $65 million in smart grid technologies to help rural electric utilities reduce outages and integrate new systems.

Smart grid includes technological enhancements such as metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications and geospatial information systems.

Investments are being made in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia. The loan guarantees are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Electric Program, which is the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration. Read the entire release here.

 Electric Loans – USDA Rural Development (PDF)