Category Archives: Solar Energy Education

The Sun Haven: Solar-Powered Net-Zero Energy House Featured in Lincoln’s Spring Parade of Homes

This year Lincoln-based GRNE Solar teamed up with Wilderness Construction to build a beautiful net-zero energy home with solar on the roof and outlets for electric vehicles in the garage. The home, called the Sun Haven, is located at 6077 Chartwell Lane in Lincoln. Through the use of solar power this home will produce as much energy as it consumes.

GRNE Solar is featuring The Sun Haven on the Home Builders Association of Lincoln’s Spring Parade of Homes through this Sunday, May 20th. The company will host educational sessions on solar energy, as well as free “Solar Potential” studies for home buyers..

Admission is FREE to view the homes in the Parade.

For more information, visit the Event Website.

Thank you to all who attended yesterday’s tour of Karen & Darren Dageforde’s Net-Positive Energy Home!

First of all, thank you to our hosts, Karen and Darren Dageforde and their son, Pierce: Karen for providing an excellent presentation on their all-electric home’s many green building and clean energy features, and to all three of them for providing individual discussions and tours afterwards. Karen also talked about their family’s commitment to saving energy, water and other natural resources and provded steps attendees can take in their own homes.

Many thanks, too, to everyone who made the beautiful drive to attend the event, coming from Blair, Omaha, Bellevue, Lincoln, Council Bluffs and as far away as Seward!

Built in 2010, the home’s features include a passive solar design; huge windows for natural lighting; insulated concrete-form floors and walls, which prevent air infiltration and loss, a major contributing factor to the typical home’s energy costs; Energy Star windows and Energy Star appliances; R-50 attic insulation; 5 closed-loop geothermal wells for heating, cooling and hot-water generation; a 5-ton HVAC system; radiant flooring that provides free cooling; and photovoltaic (PV) systems: 18 panels installed in July 2011 and 14 in May 2016.

  • These were both do-it-yourself projects designed and installed by Karen and Darren.
  • The total energy generated by their PV system in 2017 was 11,303 kilowatt hours (kWh), providing 100+% of their home’s energy needs!

The cost of designing and building their net-positive energy home was very comparable to the cost of a conventional build.

Karen, now retired, holds a degree in accounting, and Darren, director of utilities in UNMC Facilities, Management and Planning, has a degree in mechanical engineering. They are also volunteers at the Washington County Recycling Center, working alongside others to sort boxes of cans and bottles, paper and plastic.

They and their son Pierce “walk the walk” in this area, too, in a variety of ways and encourage others to do so, as well, as they did yesterday, including: not only recycling but also purchasing recycled products; trading with others; buying in bulk, thus reducing packaging, and taking reusable, washable containers to stores, including mesh produce bags; and repurposing materials, as Karen and Darren did when they recovered lumber that had been thrown away to build their chicken coop.

Each one of these steps conserves energy, water, and other natural resources over the manufacturing and use of new things.

Following up on the Dageforde family’s inspiring presentation, handouts, and individual tours and discussions yesterday, the links to resources, below, provide additional information on energy conservation and renewable energy incentives for homes and businesses.


200 Communities Are Now SolSmart Designees!

Today, with the designation of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, SolSmart marked the 200th community nationwide to achieve designation as SolSmart Gold, Silver, or Bronze!  These 200 designees are in 35 states and the District of Columbia and represent over 59 million Americans.

The application process is now open for the third round of SolSmart Advisors. SolSmart Advisors provide no-cost, hands-on technical assistance in communities that are selected through this competitive application process. Each Advisor works in a community or region full-time for approximately six months.

SolSmart is accepting applications for both 1) Communities interested in hosting an Advisor, or 2) Organizations interested in serving as Advisors. Learn more here.

Attend SolSmart webinars on May 16, 2018 to find out more about the process.

  • Webinar for Community-Based Application: 2pm Central Time. Register here.
  • Webinar for the Organization-Based RFP: 3pm Central Time. Register here.

Examples of actions SolSmart communities have taken to make solar
more affordable and accessible for homes and businesses:

  • Cutting permitting costs and saving money for customers. For example, West Palm Beach, Florida started a “walk-through” permit process that takes as little as 15 minutes.
  • Engaging with community members to encourage solar development. For example, a SolSmart Advisor helped the cities of Goshen and South Bend, Indiana launch Solarize campaigns, which allow residents to come together to install solar at a discounted cost.
  • Reducing zoning obstacles to solar. For example, Brownsville, Texas adopted a zoning ordinance that will help facilitate the growth of new solar projects.
  • Streamlining inspection processes. For example, Pima County, Arizona launched a “remote inspections” process to provide same-day approval on solar and other projects.
  • Encouraging local job growth. Solar energy employs more than 250,000 Americans.
    A SolSmart designation positions a city or county to bring these jobs to the local community.
  • Other actions SolSmart communities have taken include installing solar on government buildings, developing “solar-ready” construction guidelines, integrating solar PV with energy storage, hosting community-wide solar workshops, and training local government staff.

Visit for more information.

Nebraskans for Solar and Joslyn Castle Neighborhood Association Partner to Bring Solar to Clarkson Park on Earth Day

Clarkson Park, located at 124 North 42nd Street, is now the first Omaha city park to be equipped with solar panels. Funding for the project was provided by a grant awarded to the Joslyn Castle Neighborhood Association (JCNA)  through the Mayor’s Neighborhood Grant Program.

Nebraskans for Solar donated the panels, and volunteers, led by Eric and Scott Williams, installed them.

In a recent news release, Joslyn Castle Neighborhood Association President Margie Magnuson wrote, “By bringing clean, reliable power to Clarkson Park, the community will be able to schedule more events and activities, such as movie nights, food festivals, and other activities that require a power source. In addition, this project could be a pilot project for other, larger city parks that need power. Solar panels could be a future cost savings, taking the burden off the city’s electrical grid, and helping Omaha move towards more sustainable green energy.”

For more information, contact:
Margie Magnuson

See more photos here:

Update: Omaha World-Herald article added April 23, 2018

Clarkson Park becomes Omaha’s first to install solar panels, by Nancy Gaarder
On Sunday, volunteers with Nebraskans for Solar and the Joslyn Castle Neighborhood Association spent the afternoon getting the park ready for installation of solar panels on the south- and southwest-facing portions of the picnic shelter’s roof . . . [Margie Magnuson, president of the neighborhood association] and Eric Williams, a member of the Nebraskans for Solar board, said solar panels are the most practical and affordable way to get electricity to small parks such as Clarkson. “This is an extremely inexpensive way to get power to a park,” Williams said. “I would hope that solar would spread to other parks if this is successful.”
Read the complete story here.

Let’s Be Clear: Solar Energy Benefits Everyone

By Sean Gallagher, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Blog

Since the Stone Age, back when Fred Flintstone fought with Barney Rubble, there has been tension between neighbors. Yet the neighborly spat UC Berkeley Professor Lucas Davis recently blogged about shouldn’t be a fight at all. Solar panels aren’t just good for the people who have them — they’re good for everybody.

Davis claims if a neighbor installs solar panels, it will cost him $65/year in higher electric bills, but his math is wrong. Instead of costing him more, it’s very likely those panels are saving Davis money. Read more here.

More News – Mainly Solar

Wind Energy News

EV News

VW’s Electrify America to install EV chargers at Walmart stores, Reuters


Many thanks to Dr. Bing Chen and to everyone who attended Nebraskans for Solar’s April forum

Nebraskans for Solar board members wish to thank our distinguished guest speaker for Earth Month 2018, Dr. Bing Chen, for his excellent and well-received presentation last evening at UNO’s Community Engagement Center. Dr. Chen is Professor of Electrical Engineering, UNL, and Passive Solar Research Group (PSRG) Director.

His discussion focused on PSRG’s current research project and the application of passive solar features to a demonstration assisted living unit (ALU) utilizing renewable energy, which the group has dubbed “Small House on the Prairie.” Dr. Chen also addressed steps audience members can take to conserve energy in their own homes, from the less-expensive to more comprehensive passive solar retrofits.

The rationale for the Small House on the Prairie project is both sound and timely, as the need to provide alternative housing solutions in lieu of expensive nursing home care is growing nationwide, with members of the “baby boomers” generation approaching retirement or having already retired. Dr. Chen cited the following notable statistics:

  • 76 million births occurred in the US between 1946 and 1964 – the 19 years usually referred to as the “baby boom”
  • Nursing home care costs more than $90,500 annually, according to a 2012 survey by MetLife

Dr. Chen’s presentation slides also highlighted the following renewable and sustainable features the Passive Solar Research Group have incorporated or plan to incorporate into the “Small House on the Prairie” demonstration project:

  • Passive solar energy for space heating
  • Photovoltaics (PV) power for electrical generation
  • High-efficiency heat pumps
  • High-efficiency appliances
  • Advanced insulated windows
  • Potable water from roof collection
  • Grey water reuse
  • Smart energy monitoring and patient/medical monitoring via Alexa/Echo

Additional Resource
Dr. Chen referenced the following book in his discussion, which is available at the Nebraska Energy Office website and which NEO describes as containing information “that remains timeless.”

Path To Passive: Nebraska’s Passive Solar Primer, written by Bing Chen and Passive Solar Research Group {PSRG) colleagues

Omaha World-Herald Community Events Calendar: Renewable energy program

Learn about solar energy research and the Small House on the Prairie project from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Bing Chen, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and director of the Passive Solar Research Group, will speak about sustainable assisted-living units and using renewable energy.

The program is at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Community Engagement Center, 6400 University Drive Road North. Admission is free.

Please see our calendar for additional details, including parking information.

Zoltenko Farms Near Hardy, Nebraska Hosting Open House to Showcase New 1,164-Solar-Panel System

 Written by Amy Hadachek for The Fence Post

A boar stud operation on the Kansas/Nebraska border, which recently added a sophisticated geothermal (heating and cooling) system to keep boars at a consistently comfortable body temperature, has also recently completed a major installation of a solar energy system.

Zoltenko Farms near Hardy, Neb., which was founded just over 100 years ago in 1917, will showcase their new 1,164-solar paneled system to the community during their Solar Power Open House at the Zoltenko Farms site on April 21 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Click here for additional details. 

Photo by AB27 / Creative Commons

Amy Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at:

American AgCredit
Founded in 1916, American AgCredit is part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, specializing  in providing financial services to agricultural and rural customers throughout California, Nevada, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico – as well as to capital markets customers throughout the country.

Farm Credit Services of America
Farm Credit Services of America, based in Omaha, Nebraska, is also a part of the Farm Credit System, serving the financing needs of agricultural producers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Farm Credit System
The Farm Credit System is a nationwide agricultural network providing credit and affiliated services to farm and ranch operators across the United States. See a list of participating associations here.


April is National Poetry Month – Create Sun & Other Nature Haikus for Earth Day Events!

Haiku 俳句 is a form of Japanese poetry often inspired by nature. Haiku poems traditionally consist of 17 syllables on 3 lines. The first and last lines have 5 syllables each and the middle line has 7 syllables. One way to start a haiku is to brainstorm ideas and words related to an experience or moment of beauty.

Haiku Starter – Download & Create!

Bring your poems to the Earth Day events where Nebraskans for Solar and Nebraska Solar Schools will sponsor a table, and our volunteers will post them on a large display board for others to enjoy. Illustrate your poems with paints, magic markers or a photograph, for example, if you want. Click here to read about all our Earth Day activities.
Photo Link

Additional Resources for All Ages
K-12 STEAM Projects & Activities
Climate Change Projects and Activities

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