Category Archives: Financing

USDA Rural Energy for America Program Grant Applications Now Open

USDA Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development 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 

Higher Education and Solar Energy: A Partnership Whose Time Has Come

By Geoff Greenfield, Renewable Energy World

Many administrators are not aware of a critical development in deploying clean energy: the majority of modern campus solar projects are built with no capital outlay from the institution. The most popular way institutions are making the shift to clean energy is with solar projects financed by private investors seeking to earn a “clean return” developing and owning these modern power plants. Private investors are able to harvest tax credits that are unavailable to non-taxable institutions, and their investments are repaid by selling clean energy back to the campus over time. In return for “hosting” privately financed solar power plants on rooftops, fields or covered parking areas, colleges are able to purchase clean energy for less than they paid for conventional power. These long-term contracts offer an additional benefit as they replace the volatility and inflation of electricity prices with a predictable locked in rate for 20-30 years. Currently more than 800 colleges or universities across the country offset a portion of their energy costs with some sort of solar array. Read more here.


U.S. cities moving more toward clean, renewable energy

 By Jodie Van Horn, Director of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 Campaign
Published by Herald and News

Today, more than 50 cities and towns in the United States have committed to move to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. From big cities like Atlanta and San Diego to small towns like Abita Springs, La., and Hanover, N.H., cities are switching to 100 percent clean energy because it’s better for them — clean energy creates local jobs, cuts pollution, and saves homes and businesses money. More than 150 mayors, Democrats and Republicans, have also pledged to power their cities entirely with renewable energy.

Cities are not alone in this pursuit. Some states already source significant amounts of energy from clean sources. More than a third of all power in Iowa, for example, comes from wind energy. More than100 companies have also pledged to source 100 percent of their energy from renewables, including Apple, General Motors, Walmart and Johnson & Johnson. Continue here.





JPMorgan Chase goes all in on renewable energy

By Christian Roselund, PV Magazine

The financial services giant plans to source renewables for 100% of its global energy needs by 2020, and to facilitate $200 billion in clean financing through 2025 – the largest commitment by any global financial institution to date. Continue reading.

Read about more companies that have made a commitment to go 100% renewable, the actions they are taking and why at RE100.Org:


Bloomberg New Energy Finance: Coal to fade as cost of renewables falls even faster

By Mark Hutchins, PV Magazine 

The latest long-term forecast from analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predicts solar energy costs to drop a further 66% by 2040, and onshore wind by 47%. Given these predictions, BNEF expect that renewables will undercut the majority of fossil based generation by 2030, even in India and China. Read more.

Download the report here.

Photo credit: CNBC

Nebraska cities, state lawmakers express growing interest in PACE financing

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

An ordinance to create the infrastructure for a PACE district — which provides a long-term financing option for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects — is likely to be introduced in the state’s largest city by mid-April. “This seems like a great tool,” said Omaha City Council member Aimee Melton, who has been working for months on developing a PACE program for her hometown. “I believe the council will be supportive.” Several other
cities — including Lincoln, Grand Island and the Omaha suburbs of Papillion, Bellevue and La Vista — also have expressed interest in joining the PACE movement, according to Chris Peterson, a managing partner with PACE SAGE, a loan originator and PACE lender based in Kansas City. Read more here.

Photo by Pat Hawks / Creative Commons: The Omaha City Council is expected next month to consider establishing a Property Assessed Clean Energy financing district. 


Energy storage is America’s industry to lose

By David Ferris, First in a series, E&E News

Julie Blunden is a former solar executive who now focuses her analytical ability on energy storage. When she sits down with an iced tea to run the numbers, they fill her with a sense of urgency. She sees a market that is strapping on its boots for a steep and inexorable climb. Blunden and a growing number of experts believe that energy storage will be worth tens of billions of dollars in revenue within a decade, regardless of what the Trump administration does to harm or help. Batteries will start showing up everywhere, sending shock waves through the auto industry, the electric grid, the petroleum industry and the broader power sector, adding tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs to the economy. Read more here.

Photos included in the article: In the next decade, the energy storage industry will go from the familiar, like the iPhone, into much bigger applications like electric cars and the power grid. Credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Pixabay, Dave Dugdale/Flickr (Tesla).




How much does a solar electric system cost in Nebraska?

  • Residential Rooftop Systems – Size Range: 3-10 kilowatts (kW)
    Typical Cost = $3.00 – $3.50 / installed watt
  • Commercial rooftop systems: 10 kilowatts to 2 megawatts have a separate price range.
  • These estimates are for installations not using the “Plug & Play” ConnectDER, which saves labor and time.  

Cost estimates for 3-5 kilowatt systems. 

At $3.50 per installed watt, the costs of three sizes of PV systems, before rebates & other incentives are subtracted, are:
3-kilowatt PV system: 3000 watts x $3.50 = $10,500
4-kilowatt PV system: 4000 watts  x $3.50 = $!4,000
5-kilowatt PV system: 5000 watts x $3.50 = $17,500

The cost of a system after subtracting theFederal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30%
3-kilowatt PV system: $10,500 – $3150 = $7,350
4-kilowatt PV system:   $!4,000 – $4,200 = $9,800
5-kilowatt PV system: $17,500 – $5,250 = $12,250

Additional Solar Energy Incentives Offered by LES


Lincoln Electric System (LES) provides additional customer incentives based on the solar system’s energy-generating capacity, as described in the PDF, “Customer-owned Renewable Generation.” These LES customer rebates are called “capacity payments” and are determined as follows:


South-facing, fixed-PV systems: $375 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity. The savings in the following examples would be:
3-kilowatt PV system: $1,125
4-kilowatt PV system: $1,500
5-kilowatt PV system: $1,875

The costs after both the federal Investment Tax Credit + LES capacity payments are subtracted:
3-kilowatt PV system: $6,225
4-kilowatt PV system: $8,300
5-kilowatt PV system: $10,375

West-facing or single or dual-axis tracking PV system: $475 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity.
3-kilowatt PV system: $1,425
4-kilowatt PV system: $1,900
5-kilowatt PV system: $2,375

The total cost to the buyer after both the federal Investment Tax Credit + LES capacity payments, above, are subtracted:
3-kilowatt PV system: $5,925
4-kilowatt PV system: $7,900
5-kilowatt PV system: $9,875

Two Additional Incentives for Installing a PV System

  • Accelerated Depreciation for Businesses
  • Self-Employment Tax Credit

REAP Grants for Nebraska Farms & Rural Small Businesses

Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants, available to qualified Nebraska farms and rural small businesses, provide an additional 25% of the cost of a solar electric system.

The costs of installing a PV system after the 30% federal Investment Tax Incentive and a REAP grant of 25% are subtracted:
3-kilowatt PV system: $4,725
4-kilowatt PV system: $6,300
5-kilowatt PV system: $7,875

For more information about REAP grants, contact Jeff Carpenter, State Energy Coordinator at the Nebraska USDA Rural Development State Office, Suite 308, Federal Building, 100 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln, Nebraska 68508.
Telephone: 402-437-5554 / Email:
Nebraska USDA Rural Development Website:

The Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has established an energy-auditing program to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses in evaluating the energy efficiency of their operations and the potential for incorporating renewable energy into them. An energy audit is required for the REAP grant application. MEP will pay 75% of its cost for qualified applicants. Contact: Matthew Jorgensen, Project Specialist, Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership Telephone: 308-293-5884 or Email: Website:

The Incentive to Conserve Energy
The average household uses about 1000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each month. Check your electric bills over the past 12 months to find out how many kilowatt-hours your home or business is currently consuming. Conserving energy saves money and, of course, reduces the size solar system you will need.  Nebraskans for Solar board member Eric Williams’ 3-kilowatt system, shown above, produces about 50% of the electricity used by his energy-efficient home and electric car. The solar panels are warranted by the manufacturer to last for 25 years.

Additional Resources

Off Grid Solar, by Joseph P. O’Connor

This is an excellent guide written with do-it-yourselfers in mind. The author, Joseph O’Connor, is a solar manufacturing entrepreneur as well as a consultant, speaker, and prolific writer on solar energy.

Solar Electricity Handbook – 2017 Edition, by Michael Boxwell

Now in its eleventh edition, this book provides a step-by-step guide on how to successfully design and install a solar energy system from scratch. The website that accompanies the book includes online solar calculators and tools to simplify a solar installation. Michael Boxwell is a leading expert on solar energy, authoring more than twenty books in the field, which he first started working in twenty years ago.


How much is a solar electric system?

A solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system typically costs $1 to $1.50 per watt, depending on the brand name. This includes solar panels, inverter and racking.

At $1 to $1.50 per watt, the costs of three sizes of PV systems, before incentives are subtracted, are:

3-kilowatt PV system: $3,000 to $4,500
4-kilowatt PV system $4,000 to $6,000
5-kilowatt PV system $5,000 to $7,500

The cost of each system after subtracting the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30%
3-kilowatt PV system: $2,100 to $3,150
4-kilowatt PV system:  $2,800 to $4,200
5-kilowatt PV system: $3,500 to $5,250

Additional incentive offered to Lincoln Electric System customers: Capacity Payments (See Above). The cost of each south- or west-facing system after these are subtracted:

South-facing, fixed-PV systems: $375 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity.
3-kilowatt PV system: $975 to $2,025
4-kilowatt PV system:  $1,300 to $2,700
5-kilowatt PV system: $1,625 to $3,375

West-facing or single or dual-axis tracking PV system: $475 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity.
3-kilowatt PV system: $675 to $1,725
4-kilowatt PV system:  $900 to $2,300
5-kilowatt PV system: $1,125 to $2,875

Where can you buy solar systems in Nebraska?
Van Meter, an employee-owned electrical supply company in Omaha at 10931 E Circle, sells solar energy equipment. Dixon Power Systems on 3250 N 20th Street in Lincoln and Solar Heat & Electric at 7342 Farnam Street in Omaha also sell everything a do-it-yourselfer needs to install a solar system at his or her home or business.

Two Additional Incentives for Installing a PV System

  • Accelerated Depreciation for Businesses
  • Self-Employment Tax Credit

Solar Permit
There is an additional cost of paying an electrician to obtain the permit to install a solar system on your home or business.

Solar Installation Workshops / Classes in Nebraska – These are announced in our electronic newsletters and posted on our calendar

  • Solar installation classes at local community colleges.
  • John Hay, Professor at UNL’s Biosystems Engineering Department with a focus on energy and Nebraska Extension Educator, teaches solar seminars and installation workshops at Extension Offices across Nebraska, which have been featured on our website and in our newsletters. Subscribe to our newsletter at
  • Van Meter sponsors solar installation training workshops in partnership with Julie Brazeau and Matt Parks from the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. MREA is the sponsor of the annual Solar Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin. Check Van Meter’s website for information about their workshops:
  • Solar do-it-yourselfers, including Eric Williams, Nebraskans for Solar board member, and Don Preister, President of Green Bellevue, are also happy to answer questions from anyone considering going solar. You’ll see them both at Earth Day Omaha and Sarpy County Earth Day events and at solar energy workshops and forums.

Nebraska Community Colleges
Central Community College
Metropolitan Community College
Mid-Plains Community College
Southeast Community College
Western Nebraska Community College

Looking at all angles of solar energy

By Emily Hemphill, Seward County Independent

F. John Hay of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln spoke to Seward-area farmers, ranchers and others interested in solar energy Feb. 17 in the Jones National Bank and Trust Co. lower level auditorium. Hay works as an Extension educator in bioengineering and has spent the past 10 years educating people about wind and solar energy on large and small scales. Hay installed a solar photovoltaic system at his home over the winter and spoke to attendees about the installation process and weighing the benefits of a solar energy system.
Read more here.

In her article, Emily Hemphill references: 


Top Photo Courtesy of GC Resolve: Family Farm in Minden, Nebraska. The 21-kilowatt solar system provides most of the farm’s energy needs. The project was partly funded by a USDA Rural Energy for America (REAP) grant, which covered 25% of its cost. Additional financing was obtained through the Nebraska Energy Office’s low-interest loan program for solar installations.

Two initiatives could empower more households to go solar

By Dale White, Herald-Tribune

The League of Women Voters of Florida is partnering with Florida Solar United Neighborhoods to encourage residents to band together and form solar cooperatives. Members use their group buying power to get panels installed at a discounted price. They do not have to reside in the same neighborhood . . . Mike Antheil, executive director of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association and the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, encourages residents in the Sarasota-Manatee area to tell their county commissioners to take advantage of what is called PACE (“property assessed clean energy”). Read more here. 

Photo: Mary Dipboye of Florida Solar United Neighborhoods explains Monday how Floridians can form cooperatives to reduce the cost of installing solar panels. Credit: Herald-Tribune / Dale White