Category Archives: Nebraska / Midwest News

Farm practices could be a way to reduce impact of heavy rains, UNL researcher says

By Roseann Moring, Omaha World-Herald

Keep living roots in the soil to get more precipitation absorbed. That was a key takeaway from a University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher’s deep dive into water retention practices. The Nebraska Legislature this year approved the creation of the Healthy Soils Task Force. Healthy soils are those with more carbon, or living matter, in it, said Chairman Keith Berns, a Bladen farmer who also runs a cover crop seed business. The benefits of healthy soil, he said, include being better for the environment, producing healthy food and saving money for the producer.

“It works really well and allows them to make more money but it’s also environmentally better,” Berns said. And, yes, it increases water absorption — which in turn helps prevent flooding and erosion. [Aaron Hird, Nebraska’s soil health specialist at the Natural Resource Conservation Service] said every farmer he talked to that had cover crops during this year’s flooding said those fields fared better than others nearby. And cover crops can help the soil recover from the effects of the flood, allowing production to resume faster, he said. Read the entire article here.

The above graphic was published as part of the research Andrea Basche and co-author Marcia DeLonge conducted to analyze different farming practices and soil retention. Credit: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Related Article
Analysis IDs ag practices to fight flood, drought, by Scott Schrage, University Communication, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

About the Co-Authors
Andrea Basche is Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Marcia DeLonge is Research Director and Senior Scientist, Food and Environment, Union of Concerned Scientists.

Previously Posted Articles

  • Nebraskans talk extreme weather. Just don’t call it climate change, Christian Science Monitor
  • Soil matters more than you thinkby Shauna Sadowski, GreenBiz
    A single teaspoon of healthy soil can support more microorganisms than there are people on the planet. These microorganisms play a role in unlocking the soil’s complex network of physical, biological and chemical functions, and scientists are just scratching the surface in understanding these interconnected relationships. What we do know is that healthy soil has the potential to restore ecosystems, increase biodiversity and improve water quality, among other ecosystem services. It also can draw carbon out of the atmosphere and store it underground, helping to reduce greenhouse gases. With 70 percent of sequestered carbon stored in lands directly influenced by agriculture, grazing or forest management, the food industry has a unique opportunity to tackle climate change through better soil management. 
  • How regenerative land and livestock management practices can sequester carbon, by Shauna Sadowski, GreenBiz. Developing a holistic, inclusive and outcomes-based approach to regenerative agriculture means inviting all types of farmers to the conversation and prioritizing impact measurements at the farm-level. We recognize that farmers are critical to advancing this work, and we want to do what we can to support them and advance their regenerative practices.

National / International Resources

Nebraska Resources

Nebraska Legislation
LB 243, to create a Healthy Soils Task Force, was passed by the Nebraska Legislature on April 11, 2019 by a vote of 43 to 0 and signed by Governor Ricketts on April 18th.

Featured White Paper
Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming, The Rodale Institute

The white paper from the Rodale Institute found developing tests to measure carbon sequestration is the best chance for quantitatively showing the amount of regenerative agriculture needed to actually help the climate. The trials will find the best ideas and offer support networks for farmers who are already working on regenerative models. “With the use of cover crops, compost, crop rotation and reduced tillage, we can actually sequester more carbon than is currently emitted, tipping the needle past 100% to reverse climate change,” Mark Smallwood, executive director of Rodale Institute, said in the report.

Upcoming Webcast
GreenBiz – Natural Climate Solutions: Tap into the Opportunities, November 12, 2019, 10 to 11 am.

IEA Bags US$67 Million Contract For 130-MW Wind Farm In Iowa

By Saif Bepari, Technology Magazine

Speaking on the announcement, JP Roehm, Chief Executive Officer, IEA, said that the Richland project validates Iowa’s ongoing and strong commitment towards wind energy. Iowa has already made some substantial progress by installing nearly 9,000 megawatts, while more than 1,100 additional megawatts are currently under construction in the region. Read more here.

Previously Posted IEA News Release, August 6, 2019
Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives, Inc. Announces $98 Million Wind Construction Project in Nebraska, Globe Newswire. The award is for construction of the Milligan 1 Wind Farm in Saline County in southeast Nebraska. This is a 300-megawatt project that is expected to provide enough energy to power up to 115,000 homes. The power generated by the project’s planned 99 turbines will be delivered into the Southwest Power Pool electrical grid. Work on the Milligan 1 project is scheduled to begin in September with full operation by November 2020.

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

ABIGAIL ROSS HOPPER POST

Why America’s Top Businesses Are Also Leading on Solar Energy, SEIA Blog

FEATURED OP-ED

It’s time to value DER in resource adequacy
In this op-ed for pv magazine, Craig Lewis of Clean Coalition argues for a greater role for distributed energy resources to mitigate future power shortages and grid instability.

NEW STUDY

NREL engineer on the ‘grand challenges’ of supersizing wind power on the grid, Energy News Network. Wind energy is growing at a fast pace, with various forecasts projecting it will supply between one-quarter and one-third of the world’s electricity by 2050. The potential could range up to half if scientists and engineers can resolve three big challenges, according to a new review study published this month in the journal Science. 

COMMERCIAL SOLAR MARKET

5 Observations on the Commercial Solar Market, contributed article by Richard Walsh, Greentech Media. There’s more capital chasing solar assets than there are quality projects available, giving developers their pick of partners, the author writes. Richard Walsh is managing partner at Madison Energy Investments, a platform that develops, owns and operates distributed generation projects within the commercial and industrial and small utility-scale sectors.

GREEN HYDROGEN

Getting Real Serious About Renewable Hydrogen In Real America, CleanTechnica

CIRCULAR ECONOMY NEWS

5 emerging jobs in the circular economy, GreenBiz
The circular economy is celebrated as a trillion-dollar opportunity beginning to penetrate industries around the world. There’s no sector or region left untouched by the potential for reinventing systems, products and services in a fashion that ultimately creates no waste and even regenerates natural systems. At least that’s the hope among evangelists of circularity, notably the Ellen MacArthur Foundation alongside many hundreds of corporations aligned on various ambitious circular goals.

WIND WILDLIFE RESEARCH FUND

Funding innovation to support science-based solutions: The Wind Wildlife Research Fund, Into the Wind, AWEA Blog. This is a guest post from Kyle Boudreaux, NextEra Energy Resources and Chair of the Wind Wildlife Research Fund Advisory Council.

NEGATIVE WHOLESALE POWER PRICES

Strong wind power in the US Midwest today means wholesale prices are below zero, Electrek
The Plains states are seeing strong, steady winds today that are keeping the wind turbines turning, so wholesale power prices have fallen below zero. Negative electricity rates are becoming more common as utilities incorporate solar and wind power with no fossil-fuel costs. This will only increase as the US reduces coal consumption and builds more green energy sources.

OPPD proposes changes that focus on large-scale utility solar

By Jason Kuiper, The Wire

OPPD President and CEO Tim Burke said the new generation, the details of which would become clearer after requests for proposal are answered, is needed in light of a changing generation and customer landscape.

At their November meeting, the board could approve a final recommendation and authorize management to negotiate and enter into contracts. The stakeholder process, where customers can provide feedback on the proposal, will be open until Nov. 8 at oppdlistens.com.
Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading & Viewing 

Previously Posted 

  • OPPD Laying The Groundwork For A Bright Energy Future, OPPD News Release, June 20, 2019
    Initiatives will include a long-term study to address the long-term balance of load generation, along with decarbonization options for the district’s generation mix. Vice President Mary Fisher spoke to the topic, noting that the energy generation landscape is changing rapidly. Fisher said the drivers are primarily improving renewable technology, and environmental considerations around carbon emissions and climate change, “something our customers clearly care about.”
  • With new board members, Omaha utility making moves toward low-carbon future, Midwest Energy News

Data on Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Renewable Energy Versus Fossil Fuels 

  • An introduction to the state of wind power in the U.S., by Philip Warburg, environmental lawyer and former president of the Conservation Law Foundation. Published by Yale Climate Connections. As a non-carbon-emitting technology, wind power has a big environmental advantage over its leading fossil fuel competitors. Onshore and offshore wind has a life cycle carbon footprint of 20 grams or less of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. The “cleanest” natural gas power plants – those that use combined cycle technology – produce more than 400 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. Supercritical coal plants – the least polluting in the industry – generate close to 800 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
  • Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Solar Photovoltaics, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Photovoltaic (PV) solar has a life cycle carbon footprint of 40 grams or less of COequivalent per kilowatt-hour.

Rocky Mountain Institute Study

Related News Story

  • The Stranded Asset Threat to Natural Gas, Greentech Media
    There are $70 billion worth of natural-gas-fired power plants planned in the U.S. through the mid-2020s. But a combination of wind, solar, batteries and demand-side management could threaten up to 90 percent of those investments. New modeling from the Rocky Mountain Institute shows that more than 60 gigawatts of new gas plants are already economically challenged by those technologies. And by the mid-2030s, existing gas plants will be under threat. How severe is the threat? Could we eventually see tens of gigawatts of stranded gas plants? RMI set out to answer that question in two reports on the economics of gas generation and gas pipelines. The tipping point is now, it concludes. 

What are “stranded assets?”

Stranded assets are now generally accepted to be fossil fuel supply and generation resources which, at some time prior to the end of their economic life (as assumed at the investment decision point), are no longer able to earn an economic return (i.e. meet the company’s internal rate of return), as a result of changes associated with the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Source: Carbon Tracker Initiative

Engineers tell commissioners that R-Project prep has started

By Todd Von Kampen, North Platte Telegraph

Field preparations for building the R-Project transmission line through Nebraska’s Sandhills are under way, though Nebraska Public Power District officials say construction likely must wait for spring. Engineers for NPPD and project contractor Forbes Bros. Timberline Construction Inc. updated Lincoln County commissioners Monday on progress toward starting the 225-mile-long, 345-kilovolt line north from Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland. County Board members urged NPPD senior project manager Paul Brune to stay in close touch so construction and supply crews minimize damage to county roads as they plant towers and string lines. Continue reading here.

NPPD Resources

NPPD plans to construct a 345,000-volt transmission line from NPPD’s Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland to NPPD’s existing substation east of Thedford. The new line will then proceed east and connect to a second substation to be sited in Holt County. NPPD’s electric grid is an essential link to ensuring service for our customers. The R-Project will increase the reliability of the transmission system, relieve congestion on the existing system, and provide additional opportunities for development of renewable projects if desired at the local level. The first two reasons take precedence over the third as, even if no renewable energy projects ever connect to this line, it is still needed to address reliability concerns and relieve congestion.

SPP’s ROLE
NPPD is a member of the Southwest Power Pool, a regional transmission organization. The SPP conducted a study, also known as the Integrated Transmission Plan, to assess the needs of the entire transmission network with the SPP region over the next 10 years. The R-Project is one of numerous projects to come out of that study. If NPPD did not build the R-Project, the SPP would find another entity to do so.

WHY THEDFORD
For the R-Project, adding facilities to an existing substation to meet transmission network reliability or customer electrical energy delivery needs is the most cost-effective solution. Additionally, the Thedford 115kV substation is at the midpoint of the west leg of the 115kV transmission network serving north central Nebraska and is centrally located with respect to the termination points of the R-Project transmission line.

Blueprint Nebraska aims to build a vibrant, growing state

By Laura King-Homan, The Wire

The aim of Blueprint Nebraska, a statewide strategic plan for economic growth, is to bring the state together to address its challenges and capitalize on its strengths. It is an ambitious project, but one that former State Sen. Jim Smith said will position Nebraska for a strong future. Beginning this fall, Blueprint Nebraska and its partners will begin to tackle 15 initiatives. These initiatives include promoting internships and apprenticeships, revamping education at all levels, promoting diversity, and improving transportation, among others. All 15 initiatives will surround one of four themes: people, places, government and sectors. Blueprint Nebraska will roll out the 15 initiatives over the next nine months, launch them and build teams around each. Smith’s next step is to go back out into the communities and find people willing, capable and able to be on the teams executing the initiatives. Read more here.

Want the real deal for a New Deal on climate? Look to the states

By Robert Klee, Ph.D., J.D., lecturer at the Yale School of Forestry &
Environmental Studies and Yale Law School. Posted by GreenBiz.

We should look no further than the blue and red states currently leading on climate to see the strategies in action that would achieve the swift and far-reaching emissions reductions we require. These leading states are setting legally binding, economy-wide, greenhouse gas emissions targets. They’re creating mandatory clean energy requirements for their electric systems. They’re actively procuring grid-scale clean energy, and striving to ensure distributed clean energy is for all homes and businesses, not just the wealthy few. They’re requiring manufacturers to deliver zero emission vehicles, and building the infrastructure to support them. They’re unleashing clean energy investors to provide the private capital to solve this public problem. And they’ve figured out how to bridge the partisan divides that normally stymie any progress on global warming. Read more here.

Originally appearing on the Clean Energy Finance Forum produced by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, this article is the first in a series by Robert Klee exploring policies from states across the country that, if adopted nationally with sufficient speed and ambition, could form the basis for the deep decarbonization of the U.S. economy. Read the rest of the series here.

Photo by the National Guard posted on Flickr: Flooding at the National Guard’s Camp Ashland, Nebraska facility in March.

Sarpy County data centers have $522 million impact statewide, UNL report shows

By Reece Ristau, Omaha World-Herald

Business leaders in Nebraska take every available opportunity to refer to the state as the “Silicon Prairie,” a play on the term for Northern California’s cluster of big technology companies. The idea behind the term — to bring those companies, and by extension, high-paying jobs and more money, into the state — is playing out in Sarpy County, which recently landed its eighth data center with Google’s $600 million announcement. University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers recently set out to determine how big an impact the data center industry has on the local economy, and their findings revealed some whopping figures. Continue reading here.

Argonne and University of Illinois to form hydrogen fuel cell coalition

News Release, Argonne National Laboratory

“With the coalition, we want to raise awareness of the potential for hydrogen and fuel cells — to provide energy resilience and security, reduce emissions and foster economic growth — so we can enable their adoption in the Midwest region,” said Ted Krause, Argonne’s fuel cell laboratory program manager and a department head with Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering division.

The states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas are home to a quarter of the U.S. population and consume 30 percent of electric power generated in the U.S. The states account for 35 percent of U.S.-installed wind capacity and while the region only produces about 4 percent of the nation’s solar energy, a number of pending large solar farms and community solar projects will greatly increase the region’s solar generating capacity. As a consequence, the Midwestern states have some of the highest levels of renewable energy on their grids. Hydrogen can be used as an effective storage medium to increase utilization of these renewable energy resources. Read more here.

International Green Hydrogen News

Siemens backs 5 GW green hydrogen plan for Australia, PV Magazine
A massive clean energy project aiming to produce green hydrogen powered by up to 5 GW of solar and wind generation capacity has been unveiled for Western Australia. In a significant early stage milestone, Hydrogen Renewables Australia has joined forces with Siemens to deploy the latter’s Silyzer electrolyzer at the Murchison project. Situated just north of the coastal town of Kalbarri in the midwest of the state, the location had been identified in a study by U.S. engineering multinational AECOM as one of Australia’s best for its combination of solar and wind potential.

Previously Posted

  • South Australia unveils plans for 100% renewable hydrogen economy, Renew Economy
    Recent studies have shown that the cost of wind and solar has fallen so dramatically, and the cost of electrolysers is also expected to fall at the same rate, that renewable hydrogen will be able to compete on costs with “brown” or “grey” hydrogen, used from coal or other fossil fuel sources.
  • The slow, inexorable rise of green hydrogen, PV Magazine
    The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) believes the production of hydrogen from renewables has the potential to deliver 19 exajoules of energy in 2050. Some 16 TW of solar and wind power generation capacity – 120 exajoules – may be needed to generate green hydrogen or related products from electrolysis by that point. Today the world hosts around 7 TW of total power generation capacity, around 1 TW of which comes from solar and wind, according to IRENA’s Hydrogen: A renewable energy perspective report. An International Energy Agency report on The Future of Hydrogen stated fossil-fueled production of the fuel is responsible for “annual CO
    2 emissions equivalent to those of Indonesia and the United Kingdom combined”.
  • Electrolysis breakthrough could solve the hydrogen conundrum, by Alexandr Simonov, Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Published by Phys.Org. Australia, with its abundant sun and wind, has the potential to become a renewable energy superpower. By using electrolysis, hydrogen gas could be created from excess electricity generated by large renewable electricity projects. This hydrogen could be used as a fuel within Australia and exported to countries hungry for fossil fuels alternatives.

Featured Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Resources

Local View: This week, celebrate public power

By Layne Sup, LES Administrative Board Chair,
Lincoln Journal Star

The week of Oct. 6-12 is Public Power Week, our annual chance to highlight public power and what it means. While public power is honored nationwide this week, Nebraska has special cause to celebrate.

Public power utilities in Nebraska have had a long tradition of providing customers safe, reliable electric service. Ours is the only 100% public power state in the United States because Nebraskans understand the value proposition of public power — affordability, reliability, safety and community control.

Continue reading here.

Related

Your utility: 5 facts about public power, The Wire
American Public Power Association Stats and Facts

  • One in seven Americans are served by a public power utility. More than 2,000 communities – in 49 states and 5 U.S. territories – have a public power utility.
  • 10% of electricity generated in the U.S. is from public power facilities.
  • In 2017, more than 40% of this electricity was generated from non-carbon emitting sources.
  • Public power reduced its carbon emissions by 33% from 2005 to 2017.

News From Other States

Lithium Batteries

The Midwest’s solar future will be unlike anything seen before

By Tim Sylvia, PV Magazine    

Fitch Solutions Marco Research has released a report, Midwest US Set To Experience Strong Growth In Solar Sector, which makes some very bold predictions about the future of the solar industry in America’s heartland. Chief among those bold predictions, Fitch states that it expects the region to add 100 GW of solar power capacity over the next 10 years. This astronomical, gargantuan, whichever word of scope you use to describe, prediction is supported mainly by the region’s large proposed solar project pipeline, with a total potential added capacity of a smidge under 79 GWac that are registered within the MISO, SPP and PJM generation interconnection queues – the grid operators that cover the region. Read more here.

Regional Transmission Organizations

Photo Credit: Ideal Energy in Iowa

NATIONAL NEWS

  • Decentralization is more than a dream, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine
    The idea that rooftop solar and other distributed resources could avoid the need for new power lines isn’t theory. In its 2017-2018 transmission plan, California’s grid operator cancelled 20 new transmission projects and revised 21 more due to energy efficiency and residential solar power altering load forecasts, with a projected savings of $2.6 billion.
  • Federal policy could unlock new value from rooftop solar and home batteries, by David Thill, Energy News Network. The report describes how policy guidance from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the wholesale markets, could open the door for more participation of aggregated distributed energy resources in the markets. Right now, customer-managed storage, and storage paired with generation like solar, are the resources developers seem most interested in aggregating for wholesale participation, said Jeff Dennis, managing director and general counsel at Advanced Energy Economy.
  • US Wind Industry Seeks Same Tax Incentives as Solar, by Karl-Erik Stromsta, Greentech Media
    In a strategic shift, the American wind industry has begun pressing lawmakers to extend solar’s ITC to onshore wind projects. Regardless of what happens in the battle for tax-credit extensions, the wind market is in the midst of its all-time biggest boom years. Wood Mackenzie expects the U.S. to add nearly 40 gigawatts of capacity in 2019-2021 as developers race to beat the PTC deadline.

EV NEWS

  • 6 US regions leading the way on electric buses, by contributor Jason Plautz, Smart Cities Dive
    Although electric buses can present technological and logistical hurdles for cities and school districts, advanced planning and dedicated resources can make them fit into any environment. That’s the message of a new report from the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Environment America, which examined six U.S. cities and regions that have taken the lead on phasing out diesel buses. 
  • Electric bus fleets are the latest tool for improving air quality, contributed article by William Drier, Research Analyst, Transportation Innovations, Navigant Research. Published by GreenBiz.
    Concerns about air quality and vehicle emissions are rising globally. According to the Health Effects Institute (PDF), air pollution is one of the top-ranking risk factors for death and disability, with vehicle emissions the main contributor of outdoor pollution. Local and regional governments are increasingly focused on improving their ambient air quality.