Category Archives: Installation

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

Shopping Mall Solar Install Uses Bifacial PV Panels

By Dan McCue, Renewable Energy Magazine

The system is reportedly the largest commercial rooftop Solar PV installation in Hanford and the largest solar system to be installed, to date, on a shopping mall in the state. The system is estimated to generate almost 3,000,000 kWh of electricity annually – enough energy to serve approximately 450 homes. Learn more here.

YouTube Video: Click here for an aerial view of the bifacial solar panels on the Hanford, California Shopping Mall.

Photo: University of California, Berkeley’s Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation in the College of Engineering. Credit: Sunpreme


Henry Doorly Zoo Solar Shade Canopy

Morrissey Engineering worked to develop and engineer this project and SWT Energy was the prime installer. It is located at the Africa Exhibit Skyfari lift landing. This project used bifacial panels that are glass on top and bottom and can actually convert a portion of bottom-side light reflected off surrounding surfaces into additional power. The panels have a 300W rating without the boost from the underside and there are 80 in total.

 Custom Solar Canopy

This custom-designed canopy by Dixon Power Systems features glass-on-glass bifacial solar modules allowing sunlight to pass through individual solar cells, harvesting sunlight on both sides. Integrated into the homeowners’ deck, the canopy provides shade similar to standing under a tree. The structure is made from cedar with steel brackets that are also custom designed and built by Dixon Power Systems.

To solve ‘duck curve,’ Missouri utility to pay bonus for west-facing solar panels

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

In an effort to better align solar-energy production with peak demand, the electric utility in Columbia, Missouri has begun to pay higher rebates for new west-facing arrays than it will for those facing south.

The city-owned utility adjusted its rebates as of Aug. 1 in order to encourage more solar production in late afternoon, when electricity use tends to peak, especially during the high-demand summer months. Continue reading.

Photo by John S. Quarterman / Creative Commons

Lincoln Electric System provides customers incentives that are based on the solar system’s orientation and its 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

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

For more information, visit, and select Savings & Energy > Solar & customer-owned generation or call LES Energy Services Specialist Jay Stoa at 402-475-4211.

How much does a solar electric system cost in Nebraska?

5 Ways OPPD Is Making the Greater Omaha Community More Solar Friendly for Customer Owners

The first four steps that OPPD has stated it is undertaking to provide customer-owners with the information and tools they need to “go solar” are posted on our Home Page. These will make the solar installation process more streamlined and cost-effective for installers, code inspectors, and customers.  Additionally, OPPD is moving forward on community solar development. (See August 5th update, below).

OPPD is to be commended for taking each one of these steps for all customer owners who want to install a solar system on their homes and/or businesses or who wish to participate in a community solar program.

      • OPPD plans to offer solar installers and code inspectors training on the interconnection process and is currently reviewing three major items prior to that effort. They are:
      • OPPD Distributed Generation (DG) Manual: This document provides the guidance and specifications that inter-connected systems, such as solar arrays, are required to meet prior to going “on-line.”
      • The ConnectDER: Effective July 1, 2017, the ConnectDER has been accepted by OPPD for use on certain Distributive Energy Resources (DER), including solar installations. The device has the potential of creating a “fast track” for residential (net metering) solar applications.  The ConnectDER offers various advantages, including added protection of house circuit breakers and the Distributed Energy Resources installation, itself. Any questions should be directed to Wyndle Young 402-636-3552 or email at
        ConnectDER Video
      • OPPD Website: Renovation of the Distributed Generation portion of OPPD’s website.
      • OPPD has met with representatives from 12 different groups, including Nebraskans for Solar, to discuss concepts for community solar projects, and has issued a Non-Sealed Bid Request for Community Solar Proposals (August 5th Update):

Photo: Solar farm on a former landfill. Credit: Energy Center

The ConnectDER – Solar innovation that saves time & money

Click image to watch a brief video about the ConnectDER.

The ConnectDER enables rapid connection of grid-ready distributed energy resources (DERs), especially solar photovoltaic systems, by creating a connection point to a collar that installs between a residential electric meter and a meter socket.  It drives a number of benefits for the installation process:

  • Reduces costs by removing some balance of system components and premises wiring upgrades
  • Minimizes logistics headaches & site inspection time
  • Eliminates one of the primary areas of inspection failures, the load-side wiring

It comes in two versions: the Simple ConnectDER, which provides the basic connection, and the Smart ConnectDER, which adds metering and management functions for the local utility.

Department of Energy Information About The ConnectDER
Typically, after sunlight gathered by solar panels is turned into electricity by an inverter, it must be connected to a home’s electrical service panel. This can be difficult because panels are often located in hard-to-reach areas of a home, like basements or attics. For those who live in older homes, electrical service panels may not be built to handle the amount of energy being produced by solar panels and upgrading may be expensive.

The ConnectDER device makes it faster and easier to install a solar array by removing the need to upgrade electrical service panels or run wiring through a home’s interior, meaning solar technicians don’t need to enter your home. The ConnectDER is mounted between a home’s electric meter and meter socket, which is located outside. Cables from the inverter are connected directly to the device instead of being routed through a home. The meter can also handle more voltage than an electrical service panel, easily bearing the burden of routing power into the home.

By removing the need to replace the electrical service panel and run wiring through a house, the ConnectDER device saves consumers in installation costs. It also saves time, shortening what can be a lengthy process.

Watch a brief video about the ConnectDER.

Questions? The website provides a contact form, or send an email to: 

Madison solar firms picked for group buy program

By Bill Novak, Wisconsin State Journal

A sample system shown on Midwest Solar Power’s website would cost $13,000, but that would be cut almost in half through federal tax credits, rebates and the group buy. The group purchase program is run by the non-profit RENEW Wisconsin Inc. on behalf of the city of Madison with support from Middleton. Read the entire article here.

Photo Credit: RENEW Wisconsin


ECO-Omaha Team’s Program Selected by Solar in Your Community Challenge

More people will soon have access to solar, as over 250 teams have been named to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy Initiative: Solar in Your Community Challenge. The Challenge is a $5 million contest to support innovative and replicable community-based solar business models and programs that will bring solar to underserved communities.

The ECO-Omaha Team was selected to develop a community solar program that will install solar arrays on city-owned vacant lots and former brownfield sites with the power generated from the arrays sold to OPPD. All of the generated revenue will help fund Omaha’s Energy Conservation/Healthy Homes Program, which provides free energy efficiency repairs and improvements to low-to-moderate income (LMI) households.

Team Leader: Lisa Smith, City Planner/GIS
Challenge Begins May 2017
Challenge Ends October 2018
Final Prize Announcement January 2019

Teams Directory by State


SunShot Technology Awardee:
Solar Software Platform Can Make Interconnection Times up to 98% Faster
With more than 42 gigawatts of solar on the grid, one SunShot awardee is making sure utilities can fast-track the interconnection process and add even more solar to the grid. GridUnity is completely changing the interconnection process with a new platform that can remotely assess a solar project’s impact on the grid. Its platform enables utilities to screen applications more efficiently, allowing them to focus their time and resources on connecting high-impact projects and helping them speed up connection for everyone. Learn more here.

National guidebook maps the way toward ‘tipping points’ in solar adoption

By Heather Fitzgerald, Yale News

Backed by research out of Yale and Duke, a newly released guidebook details a range of best practices for boosting the adoption of rooftop solar power. Titled “Solarize Your Community,” the national guidebook makes the case for “contagious” rooftop solar. The findings are distilled from a three-year study of successful campaigns in Connecticut that tripled the number of rooftop installations, reduced the average cost of residential solar by 20% to 30%, and created local jobs in participating communities. Continue reading.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Download Solarize Your Community: An Evidence-Based Guide for Accelerating the Adoption of Residential Solar

  • Digital version click HERE
  • Printable version click HERE
  • Printable step-by-step timeline click HERE

Midwest states seek to cut time, costs for solar connections

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

States across the Midwest are updating their interconnection rules for solar customers, a process likely to cut the time and money required to establish a connection to the grid. In addition, the new standards will equip utilities to efficiently process solar applications as their numbers likely escalate in coming years, according to an attorney who worked on revisions recently approved by the Iowa Utilities Board. Updated and improved interconnection standards are “a critical part of moving distributed generation ahead.. And having clear, fair and efficient interconnection rules is critical to enabling a healthy distributed generation market,” said Sky Stanfield, an attorney who was involved in negotiating the new standards.
Continue reading.

Photo by plien / Creative Commons


In March Green Bellevue presented the workshop, “Solar Powering Your Home,” co-sponsored by the Green Omaha Coalition and Nebraskans for Solar. If you missed it, you can watch it on YouTube here.

Updated Information: Regarding the discussion toward the end of the video about interconnection, OPPD is offering solar installers and code inspectors training on this process. Undoubtedly, this will make it more streamlined and customer-friendly, and OPPD is to be commended for taking this step.

Co-Ops Bring Solar to Hundreds of Rural Communities

By Tina Casey, Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit

The U.S. Energy Department pushed out a raft of good news for renewable energy fans this past week. Of particular note is an update on the PV System Toolkit supported by the agency’s SunShot solar initiative. The toolkit focuses on helping rural communities partake in the surging solar market that cities and suburban communities now enjoy. The new PV System Toolkit demonstrates just how deeply the solar industry is now embedded in the civic infrastructure of the US. The effort is helmed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), which won an Energy Department ‘Sunrise’ award designed to cut costs by developing templates for replicating solar innovations. Read more.