Category Archives: Solar Energy Education

Solar Power is Heating Up at Schools Nationwide

By Tish Tablan, National Organizer, Generation 180

More and more schools are taking advantage of their large roofs and open spaces to generate clean power and save money. Solar schools are creating a brighter future by spreading energy awareness to students, parents, and the community.

Generation 180 has recently launched some exciting initiatives to empower schools nationwide to take advantage of all the benefits of solar energy.

  • We’ve just launched our nationwide Solar Schools campaign, which aims to help schools go solar with greater confidence and success.
  • We’ve partnered with The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association  to produce the 2017 Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in US Schools.  This report provides the most comprehensive inventory of solar schools across America and shares the successful approaches of schools transitioning to solar power
  • In addition to the report, Generation 180 offers how-to resources to empower stakeholders to become solar champions who can effectively advocate for solar schools in their own communities.

You Can Help Schools Go Solar

You can help make a brighter future possible. Generation 180 is forming teams of volunteers throughout the country to rally local support from educators, district leaders and community members and providing resources to assist schools in going solar. Contact us to learn about starting a volunteer team in your community. Learn about volunteer teams.

  • Generation 180 is a non-profit committed to advancing the transition to clean energy and supporting a cultural shift in energy awareness through original, engaging content, digitally-enabled campaigns, and an empowered volunteer network.
  • Questions? Contact National Organizer Tish Tabian:
  • U.S. Solar Schools Map
  • Nebraska Solar Schools, founded by Nebraskans for Solar and statewide partners, is a program  that provides K-12 educators with resources and tools for incorporating renewable energy education into their classrooms and schools. The resources support Nebraska and national science standards. The program is offered to public and non-public schools, as well as places like schools such as children’s museums, zoos, nature preserves and science and technology centers.

Thank you to everyone who attended last night’s event at UNO’s Community Engagement Center!

Many thanks to everyone who turned out for last evening’s event, Nebraskans for Solar’s Third Solar Group Buy Roundtable: to our co-sponsoring groups, Green Bellevue and Sierra Club; and to our presenters, discussion leaders, and audience participants who, together, created an excellent educational opportunity.

Wyndle Young, OPPD Projects Director, Customer Initiatives, discussed the following topics:

  1. Update of OPPD’s Distributed Generation Manual. Final revision to be announced.
  2. The ConnectDER: OPPD reviewed the innovative device, and on July 1, 2017, accepted it for use for certain Distributive Energy Resources including solar installations. See OPPD document link, below.
  3. Renovation of the Distributed Generation portion of OPPD’s website. Final revision to be announced.
  4. OPPD’S Community Solar Development. See information, below.

David Holtzclaw, owner of Transduction Technologies, summarized the step-by-step process for a business or homeowner to install a solar PV system. A Q&A followed during which he was joined by Jeff Bergrenn from GenPro Energy Solutions and Michael Shonka, owner of Solar Heat and Electric, as well as Solar Ambassadors, people who have installed a PV system and are willing to serve as resource persons to others in the group.

Attendees were provided a list of FAQ’s prepared by solar installers, which will be available at future events. Everyone was asked for their recommendations for future speakers and topics.


Solar, Energy Conservation & Incentives

Community Solar
“In response to customer interest in solar-powered generation, OPPD is evaluating the potential for a community solar energy project. OPPD will continue to assess solar programs, while balancing our mission to provide affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy services to our customers.” – OPPD’s Integrated Resource Plan
OPPD’s Community Solar Update, by Jeff Karloff, Division Manager, Production Engineering, Fuels and Renewables. December 14, 2017 Board of Directors Meeting.
Presentation Slides

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

Upcoming Webinar Addresses Financial Upsides To Using Solar Panels

By Rhonda Brooks, Editor, Farm Journal Magazine, Ag Web

If you’re looking at various energy options as an alternative to electricity, consider the time might be right to use solar panels to power your farm. A six-part webinar series later this month will help you evaluate Photovoltaic (PV) panels and whether they could be a good fit. The panels “convert sunlight into electricity and are installed on a roof or placed on the ground,” according to Extension educators. Learn more here.

Photo Credit: Sierra Club

Wachiska Audubon’s January Program: “Recent Developments in Solar Energy in Nebraska” with Ken Winston

Save the date! January 11, 2018 at 7 p.m.
Unitarian Church of Lincoln, 6300 A Street

Ken Winston is Director of Policy and Outreach, Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light.

Established in 1973, Wachiska Audubon Society’s vision: To share the experience and love of nature—that life may flourish in all its natural diversity. December Newsletter: The Babbling Brook

With a talent for building DIY powerwalls, Jehu Garcia has become the “reluctant battery king”

By Louise Matsakis, Motherboard

Jehu Garcia didn’t expect to be known for working with Lithium-ion batteries. The California-based YouTuber previously started a photography accessories company, and originally thought his life was more about cameras and making videos. “I didn’t want to be known as the battery guy,” Garcia told me on a recent phone call. But then, in 2015, Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Powerwall. The suitcase-sized battery lets homeowners store electricity, either from the grid or solar panels. The device represented an impressive step forward in alternative energy technology, but it started at $3,000 and could only store 10 KWh of electricity, or about a third the average American household consumes in a day. Inspired by Tesla, battery hobbyists started building their own DIY powerwalls using recycled laptop batteries and hooking them up to solar panels for a fraction of the cost. Read more here.


Common Ground Workshops: “Is Solar Right for You?”

 Presented by F. John Hay
Extension Educator – Renewable Energy

Solar is the fastest growing renewable energy source and it can be cost effective.  Learn the many benefits solar can provide as well as some of the limiting factors by attending one of the following workshops. The information covered will help you decide if solar is right for you.

The presenter is F. John Hay, Nebraska Extension renewable energy educator. Hay will show you the types of systems available and the best ways to make use of different systems. You will learn how to compute your potential energy savings and what the rate of return will be. Come in from the dark and check out the potential solar has for you at one of the following 2 ½ hour workshops.

There will be a $5 registration fee to cover the cost of a handout and light refreshments.

  • Monday, January 22 at 2:00 pm in Holdrege
    Phelps County Extension Office, 1308 Second Street, Holdrege
  • Monday, January 22 at 6:30 pm in Hastings
    Adams County Fairgrounds, 947 S Baltimore Avenue, Hastings
  • Tuesday, January 30 at 2:00 pm in Grand Island
    Home Federal Bank, 3311 W Stolley Park Road, Grand Island
    Please park in the south lot.
  • Tuesday, January  30 at 6:30 pm in Kearney
    Kearney Public Library, 2020 1st Avenue, Kearney

Each workshop is open to the public and sponsored by Common Ground, a Nebraska Conservation Education Fund AmeriCorps program.

For more information contact Diane Beachly or Zoe Vallas

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.

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.

Contest invites Michigan students to pursue solar energy at school

Lauren Slagter, Michigan Live

Michigan students in sixth through 12th grade are invited to find ways to use solar energy in their schools as part of a statewide contest. “My Solar School Contest” is a collaborative project of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor and the U.S. Green Building Council Detroit Region, in partnership with Generation 180, Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, EcoWorks and the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan Region. More than 5,500 schools across the country are investing in solar installations and educating students about clean energy.

Click here to continue reading. And here for more information on the My Solar School Contest.

Photo by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor: Students work on a solar energy project at Upland Hills School in Oxford.

Nebraska Communities Embrace Solar

By Ariana Brocious, NET News

In the last year, solar power has taken off across Nebraska. Communities around the state have invested in small projects to help diversify their electricity sources and offer renewable energy alternatives to residents.

On the east side of the city of Fremont, a 10-acre parcel has sprouted thousands of metal posts, which will soon hold solar panels. Once fully built, Fremont’s new community solar farm will offer a sharp contrast to the nearby coal plant, which provides enough power to supply the whole city, according to Fremont City Administrator Brian Newton. But the coal plant is aging. So when Newton came to Fremont a couple years ago, city officials started looking at ways to diversify the power supply. They bought 40 megawatts of power from a wind farm south of Hastings. Then Newton used a federal grant to explore building a community solar project. “What we found out was, as a municipality, we could finance and do it cheaper than what we could buy it from a power purchase agreement or any other arrangement,” Newton said. The next step was a community survey to gauge interest from customers. Click here to continue reading. 

Photo by Ariana Brocious, NET News: Fremont’s new community solar farm will be adjacent to its existing coal-fired power plant. The posts are in but the solar panels haven’t yet been installed.

Your Invitation to a Public Forum on Community Solar

To learn more about different types of community solar development in Nebraska and the benefits to our cities and towns, join Nebraskans for Solar and co-sponsoring organizations on Thursday, December 14 at 7 pm at UNO’s Community Engagement Center.

Nebraskans for Solar Board Member Leo Arens will moderate a presentation and discussion on “Community Solar” by a panel of local Solar Champions:

  • Clifford Mesner, Mesner Development, Central City
  • Brian Newton, Utility General Manager, Fremont
  • Jeff Buhrman and Terry Wittler, Capitol Beach Neighborhood Solar LLC,  Lincoln
  • Jeff Berggren, GenPro Energy Solutions, Lexington
  • Michael Shonka, Solar Heat & Electric, Omaha
  • Nebraska Public Power District Spokesperson, Columbus

Co-sponsored by Green Bellevue and Sierra Club. All our events are open to the public. Please join us and contribute to the discussion! Refreshments provided. Click here for parking information.

Photo by Rob Davis, Fresh Energy