Monthly Archives: September 2014

Advantage Local: Why Local Energy Ownership Matters

by John Farrell, Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR)

Renewable energy is growing exponentially in the United States. Tens of thousands of megawatts (MW) of wind and solar are boosting rural and urban economies across the country.

But most clean energy projects fail to maximize the economic benefit to the communities and states where they are located by ignoring the value of local ownership.

 The rewards of maintaining local control and ownership are substantial. Locally-owned wind projects create an average of twice as many jobs as absentee-owned wind projects. And the total economic value to the community of locally-owned projects is 50 to 240% greater, as well.

Download the complete report here:

In Wisconsin: Tim O’Brien now builds all homes with solar ready features

By Erica Breunlin, Biz

At Tim O’Brien Homes Inc.’s corporate office, located in Pewaukee, about 35 percent of the building’s energy consumption is offset by 50 solar panels atop the building, according to Tim O’Brien, president of the company.

Tim O’Brien Homes, which operates in both metro Milwaukee and Madison, aims to give owners of its new homes an opportunity to achieve the same kind of energy efficiency. At the beginning of September, the semi-custom, single-family homebuilder announced that in coordination with Pewaukee-based SunVest Solar, Inc., it will ensure each one of its newly constructed homes is solar ready.

To continue reading, click here:

Upcoming ENERGY STAR Webinar: Zero Energy Ready Home Program
October 29, 1 to 2 p.m.

Study: Small towns can save big with efficiency, renewables

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

A pair of Iowa studies found that both utilities and their customers in small towns can substantially cut costs if they invest in deep efficiencies and, to a lesser extent, in renewable sources of generation.

The analyses, done by energy consultant Tom Wind and the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities with some funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, explored whether the communities of Bloomfield and Algona could become energy independent.

The conclusion: in about 15 years, Bloomfield could get to net-zero — generating as much energy as it consumes over a year — but not necessarily always at the times needed.

Algona could get about half that far, cutting current electricity use by about 50 percent.

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Expanding Solar Access Through Utility-led Community Solar

Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), September 2014

The average community solar program has 213 participants purchasing power from a 1-megawatt system which is 71% subscribed.

Utilities across the United States are taking a leading role in the spread of community solar projects aimed at expanding access to clean power for customers who, for a variety of reasons, may not want or be able to install solar panels on their roofs.

In the past 18 months alone, the number of community solar projects in the U.S. jumped 64 percent, according to figures from the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), which has been tracking the growth of these projects since 2012. Community solar programs initiated by utilities constitute 87 percent of the projects now online.

The complete report can be purchased at SEPA’s website:

Can batteries replace coal plants?

by Julie Wernau, Chicago Tribune

“ . . . Today, there are about 270 distributed energy storage projects across the United States with a combined capacity of 212 megawatts, according to Green Tech Media Research.

But now the industry is expected to surge, in part as a result of a ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that increased the pay for “fast”-responding energy sources like batteries.

A report recently released by Navigant Research predicts that global energy storage is expected to grow dramatically over the next decade, from 538 megawatts this year to 20.8 gigawatts. A gigawatt can power about 1 million homes.”

Wernau’s article features three battery storage projects near Chicago that Commonwealth Edison plans to connect to its grid next spring. With 60 megawatts of capacity, it will be the largest-ever distributed energy storage project in North America:

Links We Like – September 22nd

Some See Garbage, Others See an Opportunity: Installing Solar on Landfills, by Laurie Guevara-Stone, Rocky Mountain Institute

Why Lease Solar Panels When You Can Own Them? by Erin Clark, Renewable Energy World

Wyden Hearing Statement on the Future of American Energy Policy

Real-time map of winds around the world:

Tracking the Sun VII

An Historical Summary of the Installed Price of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998 to 2013 by Galen Barbose, Samantha Weaver, Naïm Darghouth, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, September 2014

As the deployment of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) systems has increased, so too has the desire to track the cost and price of these systems. This report helps to fill this need by summarizing trends in the installed price of grid-connected PV systems in the United States from 1998 through 2013, with partial data for the first half of 2014.

The following are among the report’s key findings:

*   International experience suggests that greater near-term price reductions in the United States are possible, as the median installed price of residential PV installations in 2013 (excluding sales/value-added tax) was just $2.1/W in Germany, $2.7/W in the United Kingdom, $2.9/W in Italy, and $4.0/W in France, compared to $4.4/W in the United States.

* The distribution of installed prices across projects has narrowed somewhat over time, but has remained relatively stable in recent years, and significant pricing variability persists. For example, among ≤10 kW systems installed in 2013, roughly 20% had an installed price less than $3.9/W, while a similar percentage was priced above $5.6/W.

Download the 66-page report here:

Tracking the Sun web link:

 Additional reports from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

How Much Do Local Regulations Matter? Exploring the Impact of Permitting and Local Regulatory Processes on PV Prices in the United States (PDF)

Vote Solar’s Project Permit resource helped provide data for the above report:

Utility-Scale Solar 2013: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States (PDF)

White House Announces Executive Actions and Commitments from Across the Country to Advance Solar Deployment and Energy Efficiency

For Immediate Release
– from the White House Press Office, September 18, 2014

The Obama Administration is committed to taking action to combat climate change. As part of that effort, today, the White House is announcing a series of public and private sector commitments and executive actions to advance solar deployment and promote energy efficiency.

The executive announcements today altogether will cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons through 2030 – equivalent to taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year – and will save homes and businesses more than $10 billion on their energy bills. Those executive actions are:

• Partnering with up to three military bases to create a veterans solar job training pilot;
• Investing $68 million in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural areas across the country, including 240 solar projects;
• Proposing an energy conservation standard for commercial unit air conditioners that has the potential to save more energy than any previously issued standard;
• Supporting funding for clean energy and energy efficiency for affordable housing;
• Strengthening commercial and residential buildings codes; and
• Harmonizing the power of national service and volunteerism to tackle climate change and its effects.

Additionally, 50 companies, states, communities, and multifamily housing leaders from across the country are announcing commitments to deploy onsite solar energy and improve energy efficiency. The commitments represent more than 35 megawatts of solar deployed – enough energy to power thousands of homes – as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower energy bills for more than 400 million square feet of buildings.

Earlier this year, the White House hosted a Solar Summit celebrating cross-sector leadership on solar and calling for commitments to support solar deployment and jobs through the expanded use of solar in our homes, businesses, and schools. Today’s announcements illustrate the progress our towns and businesses have made since the White House made this call for commitments. When combined with the announcements President Obama made in May, they represent more than 350 private and public sector commitments to deploy 885 megawatts of solar and improve the energy efficiency of more than 1.4 billion square feet of buildings.

Since the President took office, America has increased its electricity generation from solar more than ten-fold.  In 2013 alone, the price of commercial and residential solar declined by more than 12 percent. This is driving more and more Americans to install solar panels at their homes and businesses, and is supporting tens of thousands of solar jobs across the country. In fact, in the first half of 2014, more than half a million homeowners and commercial customers installed solar. We are also making progress cutting energy waste. Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has already put in place appliance efficiency standards that will save American consumers more than $450 billion on their utility bills through 2030.


Today, the White House is announcing a series of executive actions that will create jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and improve energy efficiency. These actions reinforce American leadership in innovating and deploying clean energy and cutting energy waste.

• Building a Skilled Solar Workforce:  To continue to build a skilled solar workforce, DOE’s Solar Instructor Training Network is launching a veterans’ job training pilot project at up to three military bases this fall. The pilot project will connect a talented Veteran population with DOE’s extensive network of more than 400 community college-based solar training institutions. The network will assist at least 50,000 highly-qualified new solar installers to enter the industry by 2020.

• USDA Awards Loans and Grants for Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency Improvements: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack is announcing USDA is investing $68 million in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide, including 240 solar projects. The funding is being provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) which offers financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.

• Improving Appliance Efficiency: DOE is issuing a proposed energy efficiency conservation standard for commercial unitary air conditioners, which are commonly used for space conditioning in commercial and industrial buildings. If finalized as proposed, this standard will save 11.7 quads of energy over the lifetime of units shipped over 30 years. That is equivalent to more than half of all the residential energy used in one year, making this potentially the largest energy savings estimated for any efficiency standard issued by DOE to date.  If finalized, it would also help cut carbon pollution by more than 60 million metric tons, and could save consumers nearly $10 billion on their energy bills through 2030. This year, DOE has issued seven final energy conservation standards, and when combined with the final rules already issued under this Administration, they will get us more than two-thirds of the way to achieving the President’s goal of reducing carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030.

• Strengthening Building Codes: In May 2014, DOE preliminarily affirmed that industry’s latest commercial building code – the ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1 – 2013 – provides more energy savings than the previous Standard. Today, DOE is issuing the final determination for this action. Additionally, DOE is issuing a preliminary determination that the latest residential building code – the 2015 IECC – provides at least the same energy savings as the 2012 version. The updated ANSI/ASHRAE/IES code will help states and the Federal government save money and energy on building operations and cut emissions by 230 million metric tons of CO2 through 2030. Improved codes for residential and commercial buildings have already saved U.S. homes and businesses $44 billion on their energy bills, and today’s action builds off of this progress.

• Federal Programs Supporting Clean Energy and Efficiency in Affordable Housing: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Community Planning and Development (CDP) office is affirming that under current guidelines, Section 108 funding can be used for clean energy and energy efficiency projects. To support local communities in utilizing this and other funding, HUD is creating a renewable energy toolkit for use by Community Planning and Development grantees.  The toolkit will provide program compliance information, tools, and capacity to integrate renewable energy components such as solar photovoltaic, solar hot water, and cogeneration in an efficient, cost-effective, and impactful way by using CPD funds, such as the Community Development Block Grant Section 108 program.  The toolkit will be finalized and available for use in early 2015.

• Prioritizing Energy Efficiency in Service Projects to Reduce Poverty: This month, the Corporation for National and Community Service will release their AmeriCorps VISTA Program Guidance, which directs the development of new VISTA projects and outlines the national programming priorities for the VISTA program for the fiscal year. For the first time, energy efficiency and climate resilience will be two of the factors used when selecting anti-poverty service projects in low-income communities.

• Improving Access to Federal Resources: DOE is launching Solar Powering America, available at, a one stop shop that will provide access to a wide range of Federal resources to drive solar deployment. The website will also be used to highlight and track private sector commitments to install distributed solar.

• Leveraging Financing Tools to Deploy Solar: The growth of solar has been fueled in part by access to innovative financing tools. Today, DOE is releasing an updated Guide to Federal Financing for Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Deployment. This guide will highlight financing programs located in various Federal agencies, such as the Treasury, HUD, and USDA, which can be used for energy efficiency and clean energy projects:

• Highlighting Progress on Solar in Schools: A SunShot Initiative partner, The Solar Foundation, is releasing a report exploring how U.S. schools are choosing solar to lower their energy costs and lower their carbon footprint. The report found that thousands of schools already are cutting their energy bills by choosing solar – using savings to pay for teachers and textbooks – and estimates that more than 70,000 additional schools could do the same. In fact, in 2014, the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program honored more than 40 schools and districts across the nation for drastically reducing their energy use through conservation behaviors and the use of on-site renewables, including solar:

• Releasing New Reports Showing the Declining Price of Solar: DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are releasing three new studies showing that the cost of solar energy continues to fall across all sectors, which indicates that initiatives targeting soft costs are starting to work. In 2013 alone, the installed price of commercial and residential solar declined by more than 12 percent:

• Convening Key Players to Drive Investments in Solar: The White House will host a roundtable discussion in October on how to facilitate increased capital flows into the solar market through measures such as the collection of performance data and the standardization of contracts and risk assessment tools. The meeting will bring together senior advisors from the White House and DOE, solar developers, investors, ratings agencies, and other relevant experts.

• Cutting Solar Soft Costs with Innovation:  DOE’s SunShot Catalyst business plan competition is now open and accepting applications through November 7, 2014. This prize challenge makes it faster and easier for American innovators to launch cutting-edge solar companies, while tackling time-sensitive market challenges like soft costs. Learn more and submit your video pitch at

• Driving Federal Procurement of Solar:  In April, the Administration launched a Capital Solar Challenge, directing Federal agencies, military installations, and Federally-subsidized complexes to identify opportunities to deploy solar energy at Federal locations across the National Capital Region. As part of the Capital Solar Challenge’s private sector outreach, the General Services Administration (GSA) will host an Industry Day on October 23, in Washington D.C. to perform market research and answer developers and investors questions about GSA’s procurement approach. The GSA Contracting Officer and Leadership will be present to discuss the Agency’s strategy for deploying solar in the National Capital Region and for using solar to help meet Federal renewable energy goals with industry.

• Increasing Energy Productivity: Just yesterday, Secretary Moniz announced that DOE, the Council on Competitiveness, and the Alliance to Save Energy are teaming up to launch Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030, an initiative supporting the President’s goal to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030. Private sector, state, and local leaders can join energy productivity dialogues, endorse the goal, and share best practices for capturing the economic benefits of improved energy productivity. Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030 will create a national roadmap to grow our economy while reducing our energy costs. Learn more at

Click on the following link to read the complete FACT SHEET:

Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools

This report, prepared by The Solar Foundation (TSF), is the first-ever assessment of K-12 solar schools throughout the United States. It shows how these schools are reducing their utility bills by installing solar energy and how 70,000 more schools that haven’t yet taken that step can benefit.

“Solar enables schools to save money, enrich learning and keep teachers in the classroom – all while providing local jobs and generating emissions-free electricity,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “With five times as many solar schools today than in 2008, it is clear that the solar schools movement is gaining momentum and providing kids with the greatest benefits,” Luecke added.

Key findings include:

• There are 3,752 K-12 schools in the United States with solar installations, meaning nearly 2.7 million students attend schools with solar energy systems.
• The 3,752 PV systems have a combined capacity of 490 megawatts (MW), and generate roughly 642,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity each year, which represents a combined $77.8 million per year in utility bills – an average of almost $21,000 per year per school.
• Despite this promising progress, solar potential remains largely untapped. Of the 125,000 schools in the country, between 40,000 and 72,000 can “go solar” cost-effectively.

To learn more, visit:

Download the complete report, Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools (PDF) here:

The Board of Directors of Nebraskans for Solar are pleased to welcome Jared Friesen to our Advisory Board

Jared Friesen is a project manager at Morrissey Engineering Inc (MEI), who specializes in small commercial to utility-scale renewable energy projects. He provides consulting services in photovoltaic (PV) performance and economic analysis exercises, designs and specifies systems, and leads the construction of solar projects throughout the region and beyond. Additionally, he provides an American Institute of Architects (AIA) accredited presentation to the architectural community on how to best incorporate photovoltaic that appropriately optimizes power production, reliability, economics, and aesthetics.

Jared is a licensed Professional Engineer with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL). He is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional and has received advanced training through Solar Energy International’s industry-recognized training program. In 2010 he was instrumental in bringing solar energy to Morrissey Engineering’s LEED Platinum certified office building at 4940 North 118th Street. A major expansion of that system was made in 2014, resulting in its current production of 20-25% of the building’s total energy needs.

About Morrissey Engineering Inc
Morrissey Engineering was the first building in Nebraska to be awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the highest certification level achievable. 

27 kW Photovoltaic System Expansion, by Jared Friesen

View the 4940 Building’s Live Solar Output here: