Monthly Archives: October 2013

Q&A: Karl Rábago, grandfather of the value-of-solar tariff

By Dan Haugen, Midwest Energy News

As a municipal utility executive in Austin, Texas, Karl Rábago led a team that came up with the very first value-of-solar tariff, an alternative to net-metering that aims to pay utility customers a rate for solar power that reflects its actual value to the grid and society.

Today, as an independent consultant, Rábago is the concept’s chief evangelist. He’s been hired by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to participate in a series of stakeholder workshops that will help the state set the rules for how value-of-solar tariffs should be calculated in Minnesota. To continue reading, click here:

A Nebraska Farm’s Renewable Energy Enterprise Is Reaping Profits While Protecting Soil & Water

Danny and Josie Kluthe own the first on-farm electrical generator in Nebraska powered by manure methane. The methane is harvested from an anaerobic manure digester on their swine farm in Dodge, Nebraska to produce electricity and compressed natural gas (CNG).

Some of their homegrown, renewable energy is used for the farm. The excess, enough to power approximately 50 homes, is sold to the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) through the Kluthe’s alternative energy business, called OLean Energy. NPPD distributes the energy to neighboring Cuming County Public Power District.

It all started with the Kluthe’s desire to be good neighbors, to control the odor from their farm, particularly with a church nearby.  At a symposium  presented by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the Nebraska Public Power District, Danny discovered that the manure from an anaerobic digester essentially comes out odorless. “So it seemed like a perfect fit.”

The USDA and the Nebraska Environmental Trust provided grants to help fund the construction of the farm’s electrical generator. The manure methane produced by the digester is piped to the generator to power it.

“We are displacing $4-per-gallon diesel with the methane we produce here on the farm, so the payback is phenomenal. We now can make our own electricity, our own vehicle fuel and our own fuel to heat the barns. It’s nice to be energy-independent and not be at the mercy of energy costs.”

To read more about the Kluthe family and additional ways they are protecting the soil and water resources at Bacon Hill, share their story and connect with others, click on this link:

The Midwest Rural Energy Council’s website provides resources on Anaerobic Digesters and Biogas, including: Anaerobic Digester Basics, Financial Assistance & Economics of Using Anaerobic Digesters, Farmers’ Digester Experience, Organizations that Support Anaerobic Digestion Endeavors, and more:

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s AgStar Program provides an online Anaerobic Digester (AD) 101 guide, answers to Frequent Questions, Fact Sheets, and additional resources at this link: 

Omaha Solar Energy Tour

Nebraskans for Solar would like to thank everyone who braved the cold and wind to attend yesterday’s solar tour, as well as the following speakers who kindly took time out of their busy schedules to meet with us at the different sites:

Dr. Michael Cherney at Creighton University; Lee and Scott Bowen, Signs and Shapes International; Crystal Rhoades and Michael Shonka, Metropolitan Community College; Blake Johnson, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha; and Ken Engle, a homeowner who has installed his own large solar and small wind energy systems.

We also thank the following renewable energy advocacy groups for co-sponsoring the event with Nebraskans for Solar: Bold Nebraska, Clean Energy Omaha, Douglas County Farmers Union, Green Bellevue, Guardians of the Good Life, Missouri Valley Group of the Sierra Club, Nebraska 350.Org, Nebraska Solar Energy Society, Nebraska Wildlife Federation, Omaha Biofuels Cooperative, and Transition Omaha.

At the tour we learned about new solar installations that have been completed recently and about others that will soon be installed. These will provide a great start for a second solar tour next spring!

As our organization receives funding from one or more foundations we’ve applied to under the fiscal sponsorship of the Omaha Community Foundation, as well as additional grants we’ll qualify for when we receive our own 501(c)3, we look forward to continuing to work with Habitat for Humanity of Omaha and many other local nonprofit groups. Working together we can reduce poverty in Nebraska, create jobs for our solar trainees, educate school age youth and the general public about solar and other sources of renewable energy, and benefit local economies and the environment.

Nebraskans for Solar Board member, David Corbin, took photographs of the tour, which can be viewed here:

4 Major New Rulings That Will Boost Solar Power and Energy Storage in California

by Eric Wesoff

“As goes California, so goes the rest of the nation.”

Two of the rulings Wesoff reports on will greatly impact poverty mitigation and community economic development in California, creating inspiring model programs for other states:

SB 43 initiates a 600-megawatt shared solar limit and virtual net metering program, of which 100 megawatts are reserved for “the most impacted and disadvantaged communities” and “areas disproportionately affected by environmental pollution.”

AB 217 expands and extends California’s low-income solar program, with the state’s goal of installing systems equivalent to 50 megawatts of generating capacity for low-income housing.

To read Eric Wesoff’s article, click here:

OPPD approves plan to more than double renewable energy sources

By Cody Winchester, Omaha World Herald

The Omaha Public Power District has approved a plan to buy 400 megawatts of wind power from a proposed wind farm near O’Neill, Neb.

If all works out, the project would more than double OPPD’s portfolio of renewable energy sources.

The OPPD board on Thursday approved a 20-year power purchase agreement with Geronimo Energy of Edina, Minn., to buy the power from the Grande Prairie Wind Farm, scheduled to come online in 2015. To continue reading, click here:

See also:

Wind energy gains ground with OPPD purchase, by Algis J. Laukaitis, Lincoln Journal Star

Newest Wind Power Purchase To Be OPPD’s Largest To Date, WOWT News, Omaha, Nebraska

OPPD Announces Wind Energy Purchase, KOLN-TV 1011, Lincoln, Nebraska

Solar Means Business 2013

The Solar Energy Industries Association and Vote Solar recently released their second annual report, Solar Means Business 2013: Top U.S. Commercial Solar Users. As the cost of photovoltaic systems has continued to drop, an increasing number of businesses across the country, large and small, have invested in on-site photovoltaic installations. In mid-2013 collective commercial deployment totaled 3,380 MW at over 32,800 commercial warehouses, stores and facilities, an increase of more than 40% over the previous year.

Energy is the largest operating expense for many businesses, and as traditional energy sources continue to rise, deploying solar technology enables them to lock in fixed prices for decades, reduce energy costs, improve profits–all of which provide a business a competitive edge in the marketplace.

To download the PDF version of Solar Means Business 2013, click here:

To view photos from the report, click on this link:

MCC solar project wins sustainability award

A solar energy project at Metropolitan Community College earned recognition last week from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Metro earned the Campus Sustainability Case Study Award for its solar power, horticulture and culinary arts integration project at the Fort Omaha campus, the college announced. To continue reading, click here and scroll down:

The complete list of 2013 winners and finalists is posted here:

MCC’s solar greenhouse and lab are on the itinerary of the October 26th Free Solar Tour – Plus A Bonus event sponsored by twelve renewable energy advocacy groups. The tour is free and open to the public. Click here for more information:

Nebraska’s Solar Energy Jobs Per Capita

Nebraska has tremendous potential for solar energy development, one of the best in the country, and numerous opportunities for its application, including solar powered irrigation on our state’s many farms and ranches—not to mention rooftop and ground solar systems to reduce a farm’s energy costs over the lifetime of the solar panels, which typically last 25 to 30 years. Rural and urban renewable energy development is creating huge economic benefits, including local jobs, to communities all across the country.

The State Solar Jobs Map shows that Nebraska ranks 46th in the number of solar jobs per capita and Iowa 45th. According to the website’s latest figures, Nebraska has 120 solar jobs and Iowa 210. Other states’ jobs per capita rankings include:

1st   Arizona – 9,800 jobs
2nd  Hawaii – 1,600
3rd   California – 43,700
4th   Washington DC – 720
5th   Nevada – 2,400
6th   Oregon – 2,900
7th   Colorado – 3,600
8th   Massachusetts – 4,500
9th   New Jersey – 5,700
10th New Mexico – 1,100

A description of the map from the website:
“Employment figures in the State Solar Jobs Map were generated using thousands of data points from a combination of high-quality sources, including The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2012, the Solar Energy Industries Association’s National Solar Database, and other sources. These numbers are believed to be the most credible and up-to-date state-level jobs numbers in existence. It is also the first time that all 50 states are highlighted. While many states may benefit from conducting their own jobs studies, the cost of doing so is often prohibitive.”

NPPD will not pursue additional wind in 2013; will continue to work towards 10 percent goal

Columbus, Neb. – Nebraska Public Power District will continue to move forward with its established goal of generating 10 percent of its energy resources with new renewable energy, primarily wind, by 2020. A proposed resolution to purchase up to 200 additional megawatts of wind energy by the end of the year was rejected by the Board, with three votes in favor and six opposed. 


“I do not believe this vote is a referendum on wind. This is an issue of resource planning. This does not mean that NPPD will not seek power from wind farms in the future. We just will not be pursuing additional wind generation by the end of this year,” said CEO and President Pat Pope. To continue reading click here:  


See also:

NPPD board votes against additional wind energy purchase, by Paul Hammel, Omaha World Herald

Solar Powered Irrigation

The Solar Energy Industries Association hosts a fun website called My Solar Job, where Americans who work in the solar industry (currently over 100,000) can send photographs and brief descriptions of their work.

One of the more recent photographs is of Ron Rose, Energy Efficiency Consultant with NPPD, and Michael Shonka, owner of Solar Heat and Electric and a Nebraskans for Solar board member. It shows them installing the last panel on Nebraska’s first solar assisted center pivot irrigation system at the Beller family farm near Lindsay, Nebraska. Photo credit, Mike Beller:

Here’s the link to the story about the project, published in the Loup Power District’s Summer 2013 Newsletter: