Category Archives: Solar Energy Education

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

Fremont moves forward on second solar farm due to high demand

By James Farrell, Fremont Tribune

Before Fremont’s first-ever community solar farm has produced a kilowatt of energy for its pioneering subscribers, the city has started seeking a contractor for a second farm. That’s because of the overflowing demand from residents who couldn’t get spots in the first farm, which is filled to capacity, according to Troy Schaben, assistant city administrator of utilities . . . The city put out a Request for Proposals for the new farm on Feb. 14 with a March 2 deadline for submissions. A contract should be doled out by the middle of March or beginning of April, Schaben said. The city hopes to have the second farm online by the beginning of October.
Learn more here.

Photos Courtesy of Troy Schaben, Assistant City Administrator, Fremont Department of Utilities: Fremont’s First Solar Farm and Inverter Station

When asked in an email if local schools may participate in Fremont’s Community Solar Program, Mr. Schaben replied, “While they did not participate in this phase of the solar farm, they were eligible to participate.”


Save the Date! Avoiding the Growing Pains of Community Solar – SEPA Webinar Includes Fremont’s Program: April 5, 2018 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm. Speakers will include Brian Newton, City of Fremont Administrator and Fremont Department of Utilities Manager. Click here for additional details.

How-to: New book ‘DIY Solar Power’ puts solar energy in your hands [free chapter]

Electrek guest post by Micah Toll, author of DIY Lithium Batteries








My new book, DIY Solar Power, is the culmination of years of work and experience with electronics, batteries and – of course – solar power. I wrote the book with the needs of multiple audiences in mind, including those that are just beginning to enter the world of solar power and those that have some prior experience but desire a deeper understanding of the subject to apply it to their own current projects. There are so many interesting and useful ways to employ solar power in your own gadgets, and I covered as many as possible in my book. Read more here.

Nebraskans for Solar will have both books at our information tables for our community event this Thursday, February 1, 2018: Recent Solar Energy Developments in Nebraska With Ken Winston @ UNO’s Community Engagement Center, Rooms 201 & 205  Ken is director of policy and outreach for Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light. 

Additional details are posted on our calendar. The public is invited. Please join us!

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 our January 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.