Category Archives: Community Partners

OPPD-funded intern has a sunny future in energy

By Jason Kuiper, OPPD NewsBlog, The Wire

Erin Cheese, a former OPPD intern, is currently a Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative

Cheese said expanding solar access, particularly to low-income households and regardless of roof space accessibility, is what she is dedicated to. In Washington, the 24-year-old is working to do just that. Nebraska and the Midwest have great potential for solar,” she said. “I want to see the partnership between those who want solar and the utilities to grow.” Cheese was in Omaha this fall talking about the National Community Solar Partnership at a conference at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Now she hopes her hometown will take part in a new SunShot Initiative program called the “Solar in Your Community Challenge.” The early application deadline was Jan. 6 and the next deadline is March 17. Read more.

As Jason Kuiper states in his article, Erin was also a former Nebraskans for Solar board member, serving for two years. Her many achievements during that time included co-founding the Creighton Energy Club with other student leaders. Nebraskans for Solar workshop attendees will recall that Erin, along with Cliff Mesner, owner of Mesner Solar Development, were co-presenters of the conference at UNO’s Community Engagement Center last October.

Solar In Your Community Challenge

Alumna Energized by SunShot Experience, by Kristine Rohwer, Creighton University Magazine

Old landfill eyed as solar farm

Creighton University students, from left, Jon Lundin, Anton Yanchilin, Parker Revier and Sam Rosol are conducting energy audits, including running tests for solar panels, at local schools as part of their capstone project. Photo: Sarah Hoffman / The World-Herald

Creighton University students, from left, Jon Lundin, Anton Yanchilin, Parker Revier and Sam Rosol are conducting energy audits, including running tests for solar panels, at local schools as part of their capstone project. Photo: Sarah Hoffman / The World-Herald

By Eugene Curtin, Associate Editor, Bellevue Leader / Posted on Omaha.Com

Creighton University wants to assess the possibility of building a solar energy farm on the old Sarpy County Landfill along Cedar Island Road . . . Larry Hopp, director of Creighton’s Energy Technology Program, and Andrew Baruth, Creighton professor of physics, won the Sarpy County Board’s support Dec. 15 for an effort to study the costs and obstacles associated with building a solar farm on the site. The study would be performed by students enrolled in Creighton’s Energy Technology Program and would represent the culminating task of their course of study.

Read more here

For capstone class, Creighton students analyze energy efficiency of Omaha Archdiocese schools, by Alia Conley, World-Herald staff writer

Powerful Outreach: Creighton’s energy technology students get real-world experience while helping nonprofits with alternative energy solutions, by Eugene Curtin, Creighton Magazine

Siena-Francis Solar Photovoltaic Installation: A Collaboration of the Omaha Public Power District, Nebraskans for Solar and Creighton University’s Energy Technology Program, by Anton G. Yanchilin / Edited by Dr. Andrew G. Baruth

Thank you notes from Nebraskans for Solar

First of all thank you to John Atkeison, Energy Policy JohnAtkeison
Director for the Nebraska Wildlife Federation and Co-Director of Clean Energy Nebraska, for his well-presented and well-received public forum on May 14th at the Community Engagement Center on the topic of “Renewable Energy Development in Nebraska.” His discussion generated numerous questions from the audience. We appreciate your leadership and your outstanding work, John, in renewable energy advocacy and education.

Thank you and congratulations to Creighton University Erin Cheesegraduate Erin Cheese, who served on Nebraskans for Solar’s Board of Directors for one-and-a-half years. At Creighton she was a double major in Energy Science and Applied Physical Analysis, working on material science research in the physics department. Collaborating with other Creighton students, she co-founded the Creighton Energy Science Club, with the objective of developing campus and community outreach projects with Nebraskans for Solar and other organizations. Erin was recently accepted as a Junior Fellow with the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Fellowship Program in Washington, D.C. We will miss her, and we wish her all the best.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to Nebraskans for Solar OG Logo
during Omaha Gives! Your donations will have a “double impact,” as an anonymous donor has matched each gift. Nebraskans for Solar is a completely volunteer organization, so 100% of all gifts will be put to work on our community outreach projects.

Thank you to Fuse Coworking and Lincoln Artist Jamie Burmeister
for hosting today’s panel presentation in Lincoln from 4 to 6 p.m. @ Fuse Coworking, 800 P Street. The panelists are:

  • Robby Bearman, Senior Operations Manager for Uber, the ride-sharing service that has been gaining traction over the past few years.
  • Scott Benson: Manager, Resource & Transmission Planning, Lincoln Electric System.
  • Jon Dixon is a mentor of UNL Engineers Without Borders: World Energy Project, and he is a board member of Nebraskans for Solar.
  • Jamie Burmeister is the artist behind that LUV U LUV: Message Matters exhibition where he signaled a message in morse code with lights over the Haymarket. His small, life-like figures are currently in every nook and cranny at FUSE.

As always, there will be plenty of networking, cold beer, and fancy wine! See you there!

FUSE Coworking is located at 800 P Street in Lincoln, on the 3rd Floor above the Dock – the loading area on the West side of The Mill Coffee Shop.

For additional details, please visit: 

Thank you to Ken Johnson, who is Vice President of Communications at the Solar Energy Industries Association and who is on NFS’ ListServe, for his information about SEIA’s new video, “Solar Energy in the United States: A Decade of Record Growth.” It’s just 4 minutes long & fun to watch:

Finally, thank you everyone for all you are doing to advance solar energy in our state!

Nebraskans for Solar

Powerful Outreach: Creighton’s energy technology students get real-world experience while helping nonprofits with alternative energy solutions

By Eugene Curtin, Creighton Magazine

Room 119 in Creighton’s Eugene C. Eppley Building is an unassuming space, its bare walls and utilitarian furniture bearing little testimony to the challenges faced by students enrolled in Creighton’s Energy Technology Program.

A hospital in Nigeria and the Siena/Francis homeless shelter in Omaha currently form the focus of their attempts to harness the power of the sun in the form of solar cell technology. In this room, and upon the efforts of these students, rests the humanitarian dream of a Nigerian priest, and the hope of a young, up-and-coming physics professor to prove the efficacy of solar power.

Click here to continue reading.  

To learn more about Creighton’s Sustainable Energy Science Program, visit:

See also:
Siena-Francis Solar Photovoltaic Installation: A Collaboration of the Omaha Public Power District, Nebraskans for Solar and Creighton University’s Energy Technology Program, By Anton G. Yanchillin; edited by Dr. Andrew C. Baruth

Wind, solar power could supply 75 percent of Nebraska’s needs, advocates say, by Russell Hubbard, World-Herald staff writer

Siena-Francis Solar Photovoltaic Installation

A Collaboration of the Omaha Public Power District, Nebraskans for Solar and Creighton University’s Energy Technology Program

By Anton G. Yanchilin / Edited by Dr. Andrew G. Baruth

The Siena Francis Homeless Shelter, founded in 1975, is an organization that strives to further the lives of the less fortunate men, women and children in the greater Omaha area through various means. Among these means are rehabilitation advisory groups, employment preparation, medical services, and the provision of food and shelter. Their campus includes two primary shelters, the Baright shelter for men and the Siena house for women and children. The Baright shelter houses a minimum of 222 each night, but typically houses an additional 100 men depending on the weather. The Siena house provides 40 beds per night.

Electricity costs are one factor that this organization faces while both accommodating a high volume of people and providing various services. To help mitigate this, students from the Creighton University Energy Technology Program, in collaboration with the Omaha Public Power District and Nebraskans for Solar, are designing a photovoltaic system this fall 2014. This specific group of students has extensive experience in renewable energy projects. The Baright shelter is the larger of the two primary buildings, has less shading obstructions, larger roof area, and a higher altitude. Therefore, it is the best option to house such a photovoltaic system.

The course “Introduction to Solar Energy,” created by Professor Andrew Baruth, Ph.D., has 11 students divided into three groups, each tackling the optimization for an installation design. The students, all upperclassmen, have submitted bi-weekly, structured reports detailing the requisite aspects of a typical feasibility study. With a competitive mentality, the three groups will pitch their best design ideas at the conclusion of the course to “win the bid” for the project.

The Energy Technology Program at Creighton University is designed for students interested in renewable energy from a liberal arts perspective, consistent with the Catholic Jesuit tradition. It guides incoming freshmen to be adept in the broad aspects essential to understanding renewable energy strategies and their role in society, including environmental ethics, energy policies, installation and design, as well as material science. Introduction to Solar Energy focuses on the details of designing a feasible photovoltaic installation as well as the science behind photovoltaics. This necessarily includes the creation of models to track the sun’s position from anywhere on Earth, understanding the role of solar radiation, basic semiconductor physics, as applied to solar cells, and observing good practices in system design. In the end, the students are exposed to everything they need to know to produce a complete design option. As the class has progressed, the students update their feasibility reports with the most recently learned content. As these pieces of the report come together, the students are able to see their hard work create a real-life product.

Communicating with Stormy Dean, Chief Administrative Officer for Siena Francis, the Energy Technology students have been able to visit the site to acquire accurate building dimensions, data on obstructions (shading), and a better understanding of the roof’s structural integrity. As time has progressed since the initiation of the project, the students began to incorporate other details into their assessments including, but not limited to, meteorological analyses, shading analyses, and preliminary suggestions of installation ideas to work off of for their final recommendation.

The three student groups from the class have created unique designs that will be bid upon at a forum on December 11th, 2014. Representatives from the Omaha Public Power District and Nebraskans for Solar will be present to move forward with a plan to actualize one of the designs.

Anton Yanchilin is a junior at Creighton University pursuing a double major of Energy Technology and Applied Physical Analysis. His career interests revolve around renewable energy applications, climate change mitigation policy, and the computer sciences.

Solar Powering Habitat for Humanity Houses

By Blake Johnsonpic1

About the photograph: Nebraskans for Solar & Habitat for Humanity of Omaha installed this solar hot water system (equivalent to a 3-kW photovoltaic system or 12 solar panels) on a South Omaha Habitat for Humanity home in August 2014, one of four demonstration houses in our Solar for Low-Income Families Program. We developed our Solar Trainee & Mentorship Program from it. 

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha and Nebraskans for Solar partnered in an effort to bring the first solar installations to low income housing in the area. The two organizations realized a potential to join forces and advocate for cleaner energy systems in residential housing and ultimately save Habitat homeowners money.

Habitat for Humanity Omaha offers no interest mortgage loans to qualifying families looking to purchase their fully renovated or new homes.

The families selected for the program then partner with Habitat Omaha, agreeing to complete up to 350 hours of “Sweat Equity,” working side by side with Habitat Omaha staff and volunteers to help build their own as well as their neighbors’ homes. The homes are then purchased for full market assessed value and the neighborhood is transformed.

The homes themselves are held to a high standard of quality construction and building materials. They are built to very stringent Energy Star 3.0 standards, using only high efficiency appliances, windows and premium insulation practices so that the homes operate as economically as possible. It made sense to go even further and consider solar a viable option to improve the efficiency of the homes.

Solar hot water systems were installed on the first two homes selected, based on solar exposure of the lots and the timing in Habitat Omaha’s construction schedule. The neighboring homes are located in one of the organization’s target neighborhoods of north Omaha, and now sit completed amongst an ever-improving area of the city.

The system is composed of south-facing solar collectors on the roof and an eighty gallon insulated storage tank plumbed ahead of the homes traditional electric water heater. The system will supply the families with 70% of their needed hot water supply and save them an estimated $500 annually. The money saved can be used to buy food, clothing, and educational opportunities for their children, items that sometimes are a secondary thought in extremely tight budgets.

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha and Nebraskans for Solar are currently working on two additional solar hot water systems, one recently completed in south Omaha, and one in the Benson neighborhood, set for installation in late fall. The partnership so far has proven a successful one and has brought to light the possibilities of solar power in low-income neighborhoods.

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. He serves on the Board of Directors of Nebraskans for Solar.

The Prospect Village Initiative – Nebraskans for Solar Joins Over Thirty Other Local Organizations

Nebraskans for Solar’s Board of Directors are pleased to announce that our nonprofit was recently invited to be a part of the Prospect Village Initiative, joining approximately thirty other currently participating organizations.

David Thomas, Assistant Director of the City of Omaha’s Planning Department, Housing and Community Development Division, has provided the following overview:

The City of Omaha Planning Department is now involved with the most comprehensive neighborhood revitalization initiative it has launched to date. The focus of this initiative is Prospect Village (30th to 36th, Hamilton to Lake) and the intent of the initiative is to be as holistic as possible. In brief, the Prospect Village Initiative involves the following:

Housing: demolition of unsafe/unfit structures; the construction of new housing, rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing, rehabilitation of renter housing; lead-hazard control in owner and renter housing; energy conservation improvements in existing housing; health, safety and energy improvements in existing housing; “healthy homes” assessments and consultation on healthy homes improvements.

Gardening & Vacant Lot Maintenance: on lots owned by the City, a gardening and lot maintenance program.

Services: Financial management education; energy conservation and level payment plan workshops; programs, presentations and workshops addressing childhood obesity, youth employment, safety and security in the neighborhood, parenting and other life skills; etc.

Economic Development: And finally, while the initiative itself does not create jobs, there is another way in which neighborhood economic development is addressed, i.e., through the savings that results in utility and house maintenance bills. Fifty to seventy homes saving, let’s say, $40/month on utility bills is not insignificant. The result is more disposable income for the household. This plus the benefits available through financial management education (and peer support/coaching) can sum to a meaningful difference for low-income families.

Currently, there are approximately thirty organizations participating in the Prospect Village Initiative with approximately eighty specific programs available through these organizations. Part and parcel of this initiative is the need to develop a strong neighborhood association (well underway) as well as the need to develop feedback and evaluation processes that allow the neighborhood and the various programs involved to know what has been accomplished and to change course, if need be.

The overall intent of the initiative is to develop a holistic model for neighborhood revitalization, a model that can be moved from neighborhood to neighborhood to the advantage of each neighborhood it touches and therefore, of advantage to the health and vitality of the city overall.

The organizations currently a part of this initiative are:

Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance
Habitat for Humanity
Rebuilding Together
Family Housing Advisory Services
No More Empty Pots
City Sprouts
Big Garden
King of Kings
Nebraskans for Solar
Holy Name Housing Corporation
Omaha 100
Financial Hope Collaborative
Live Well Omaha Kids
Alegent Creighton Health
Center for Holistic Development
Boys Town
Nebraska Families Collaborative
The Empowerment Network
Abide Network
Compass Ministries
Compassion in Action
Restoration Exchange Omaha
Prospect Village Neighborhood Association
North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance
75 North Development
Prospect Hill Cemetery
City of Omaha Planning Department
City of Omaha Police Department
City of Omaha Fire Department
City of Omaha Parks Department
UNO Service Learning