Monthly Archives: October 2014

Solar Powering Habitat for Humanity Houses

By Blake Johnsonpic1

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha and Nebraskans for Solar partnered in an effort to bring the first solar installations to low income housing in the area. The two organizations realized a potential to join forces and advocate for cleaner energy systems in residential housing and ultimately save Habitat homeowners money.

Habitat for Humanity Omaha offers no interest mortgage loans to qualifying families looking to purchase their fully renovated or new homes.

The families selected for the program then partner with Habitat Omaha, agreeing to complete up to 350 hours of “Sweat Equity,” working side by side with Habitat Omaha staff and volunteers to help build their own as well as their neighbors’ homes. The homes are then purchased for full market assessed value and the neighborhood is transformed.

The homes themselves are held to a high standard of quality construction and building materials. They are built to very stringent Energy Star 3.0 standards, using only high efficiency appliances, windows and premium insulation practices so that the homes operate as economically as possible. It made sense to go even further and consider solar a viable option to improve the efficiency of the homes.

Solar hot water systems were installed on the first two homes selected, based on solar exposure of the lots and the timing in Habitat Omaha’s construction schedule. The neighboring homes are located in one of the organization’s target neighborhoods of north Omaha, and now sit completed amongst an ever-improving area of the city.

The system is composed of south-facing solar collectors on the roof and an eighty gallon insulated storage tank plumbed ahead of the homes traditional electric water heater. The system will supply the families with 70% of their needed hot water supply and save them an estimated $500 annually. The money saved can be used to buy food, clothing, and educational opportunities for their children, items that sometimes are a secondary thought in extremely tight budgets.

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha and Nebraskans for Solar are currently working on two additional solar hot water systems, one recently completed in south Omaha, and one in the Benson neighborhood, set for installation in late fall. The partnership so far has proven a successful one and has brought to light the possibilities of solar power in low-income neighborhoods.

Blake Johnson is Construction Warranty Supervisor for Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, serving for four years with the nonprofit organization. He has over 10 years experience in home and landscape construction and construction management. His passions include working to build quality affordable housing to help end the cycle of poverty, and green, sustainable initiatives to protect our planet. He serves on the Board of Directors of Nebraskans for Solar.

Reduce – Then Produce: Energy Conservation & Solar

Free Workshop Co-Sponsored by Nebraskans for Solar & Transduction Technologies

Speaker: David Holtzclaw, Ph.D., P.E., C.E.M., President, Transduction Technologies, energy consultant, building science expert                            headshot_me-150x150

When: Thursday, November 13, 2014 – 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: UNO’s Community Engagement Center (near the Durham Bell Tower), Room 209
Parking: Please see information below.

Last year, the cost of installation of photovoltaic (PV} panels on residential and commercial properties fell approximately 10-15%, the 4th consecutive year of solar installation price reduction.

However, in 2014, the lowest cost of residential and small commercial solar installation (4 kW or 16 solar panels) in Nebraska is still at least $8,000 (after all incentives and tax breaks), which is beyond the means of most homeowners and small commercial developers without financing.

A key player in the nation’s “all of the above” energy strategy is energy efficiency. In 2008, New York Gov. David Paterson stated, “The cheapest (and cleanest) energy is the energy never used.”

During this presentation, we will:

  • Focus on short-term and long term energy efficiency strategies for the residential, non-profit, and small commercial markets.
  • Discuss basic building science principles that govern energy consumption in these markets, how to determine the best upgrades to make, how to find good contractors, what questions to ask, and the importance of 3rd party verification.
  • We will also present some newer technologies that will have a major impact on these markets.
  • Finally, we will bring it full circle and demonstrate how energy efficient upgrades can significantly reduce your initial solar investment and improve your rate of return, all while decreasing your carbon footprint, increasing your savings, and improving your comfort and indoor air quality.

Free and open to the public! Refreshments provided.

RSVP: Space is limited to 35 attendees, so please email your reservation right away to:

Important information about parking:
Please use the lot on the north side of the Community Engagement Center, near the Durham Bell Tower. A parking lot attendant will be in the kiosk at the entrance to the lot. Tell him or her that you’re there for the Nebraskans for Solar event in Room 209. There is no parking fee.

If you want to go solar, check out your utility company’s online resources

The following solar energy resources are available on the websites of LES, OPPD, and NPPD.

To find solar energy information on LES’s website:
1.  Log onto
2.  On the menu bar at the top of the Home page, click “Savings & energy” and scroll down to “Solar & Net Metering.” Here you will find information on Community solar: LES SunShares and Net Metering. Under Net Metering, the following resources are available:
* Customer-owned Renewable Generation, a two-page PDF that includes an overview of the program and incentives, how you will be compensated, what information LES needs to begin the application process, checklist, definitions of terms, links to the required forms, contact information, and where to send your application form and proposed project specifications:
* Policy & Guidelines for Customer-owned Generation (60-page PDF)
LES’s Website Search Service
A website search using the words, “solar energy” results in links to approximately 131 additional resources on a variety of energy topics. Entering the words, “installing solar energy” provides, among others, a link to LES’s Resource Library .

To find solar energy information on OPPD’s website:
1. Log onto
2. On the menu bar at the top, hold your mouse over Residential. Scroll down and click on Residential Rates.
3. From the menu on the left-hand side, select Customer Generation.
On this page you will find links to:
How to Read Your Bill
OPPD’s Distributed Generation (DG) Manual, Revised 2002
Application For Distributed Generation (DG) Interconnection
(10kW or smaller). For larger solar arrays, contact OPPD.
OPPD’s Search Service
A website search for “solar” provides several links, including one to Customer Generation. Searches using the terms, “solar energy” and “installing solar energy” results in links to numerous resources, primarily energy-related.

To find solar energy information on NPPD’s website:
1. Log onto
2. Scroll to the bottom of the Home page and click on “Site map.” Next, click on “Renewable Energy.” This link takes you to information on: C-Bed Statement, Generation Connection Application, Net Metering, Small Scale Renewable Resources, Landowner Resources, and Small Wind Electric Systems.
NPPD’s Search Service
Website searches using the words, “solar energy” or “installing solar energy,” result in links to documents on a diversity of topics.

Glossary of Terms – U.S. Department of Energy & Other Sources

alternating current (AC) – A type of electrical current, the direction of which is reversed at regular intervals or cycles. In the United States, the standard is 120 reversals or 60 cycles per second. Electricity transmission networks use AC because voltage can be controlled with relative ease. See direct current (DC)

azimuth – The angle between true south and the point on the horizon directly below the sun.

base load – The average amount of electric power that a utility must supply in any period.

building-integrated photovoltaics — A term for the design and integration of photovoltaic (PV) technology into the building envelope, typically replacing conventional building materials. This integration may be in vertical facades, replacing view glass, spandrel glass, or other facade material; into semitransparent skylight systems; into roofing systems, replacing traditional roofing materials; into shading “eyebrows” over windows; or other building envelope systems.

capacity factor – The ratio of the average load on (or power output of) an electricity generating unit or system to the capacity rating of the unit or system over a specified period of time.

capacity payments – Solar installation incentives offered by Lincoln Electric System (LES). LES will make a one-time capacity payment to the owner of the renewable generation based on the contribution of peak reduction by the renewable resource. Incentive amounts: Southern-facing fixed solar: $375/kW-DC of nameplate capacity. Western-facing fixed solar: $475/kW-DC of nameplate capacity. Single or dual tracking solar: $475/kW-DC of nameplate capacity. Source: “Customer-owned Renewable Generation” (PDF)

direct current (DC) A type of electricity transmission and distribution by which electricity flows in one direction through the conductor, usually relatively low voltage and high current. To be used for typical 120 volt or 220 volt household appliances, DC must be converted to alternating current, its opposite. See alternating current (AC).

distributed generation A popular term for localized or on-site power generation.

distributed systems — Systems that are installed at or near the location where the electricity is used, as opposed to central systems that supply electricity to grids. A residential photovoltaic system is a distributed system.

electrical grid An integrated system of electricity distribution, usually covering a large area.

gigawatt (GW) — A unit of power equal to 1 billion Watts; 1 million kilowatts, or 1,000 megawatts.

grid-interactive — An energy producing system in which the output is synchronized with and connected into utility/grid power distribution, such that the connected system’s energy seamlessly and naturally supports local loads first, with excess generation supporting the closest grid loads next. A net-metered system is grid-interactive, but grid-interactive systems aren’t always net metered (if excess generation within a defined period is not credited at customers retail rate).

hybrid system — A solar electric or photovoltaic system that includes other sources of electricity generation, such as wind or diesel generators-

inverter – A device that converts direct current electricity to alternating current either for stand-alone systems or to supply power to an electricity grid.

kilowatt – A standard unit of electrical power equal to 1000 watts.

kilowatt-hour (kWh) – A kilowatt hour (kWh) is a measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of !,000 watts for 1 hour. (The average household uses 1000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month. Check your monthly electric bill to find out how much your household uses).

levelized cost of energy (LCOE) — The cost of energy of a solar system that is based on the system’s installed price, its total lifetime cost, and its lifetime electricity production.

life-cycle cost — The estimated cost of owning and operating a photovoltaic system for the period of its useful life.

load — The demand on an energy producing system; the energy consumption or requirement of a piece or group of equipment. Usually expressed in terms of amperes or watts in reference to electricity.

megawatt (MW) — 1,000 kilowatt, or 1 million watts; standard measure of electric power plant generating capacity.

net metering – Net metering is a billing arrangement where residential and business customers who produce their own energy from renewable sources can get a credit on their electric bills for extra energy that flows back into our distribution system. . . Energy produced in excess of your need (or net kilowatt-hours) is credited to your bill at a renewable rate similar to our residential retail energy rate. Lincoln Electric System will net meter generators up to 25 kilowatts.- Source: Lincoln Electric System (LES)

one-axis tracking — A system capable of rotating about one axis.

orientation — Placement with respect to the cardinal directions, N, S, E, W; azimuth is the measure of orientation from north.

peak demand/load — The maximum energy demand or load in a specified time period.

photovoltaic (PV) panel — often used interchangeably with PV module.

photovoltaic (PV) system — A complete set of components for converting sunlight into electricity by the photovoltaic process, including the array and balance of system components.

plug-and-play PV system — A commercial, off-the-shelf photovoltaic system that is fully inclusive with little need for individual customization. The system can be installed without special training and using few tools. The homeowner plugs the system into a PV-ready circuit and an automatic PV discovery process initiates communication between the system and the utility. The system and grid are automatically configured for optimal operation.

smart grid — An intelligent electric power system that regulates the two-way flow of electricity and information between power plants and consumers to control grid activity.

soft costs — Non-hardware costs related to PV systems, such as financing, permitting, installation, interconnection, and inspection.

solar energy — Electromagnetic energy transmitted from the sun (solar radiation). The amount that reaches the earth is equal to one billionth of total solar energy generated, or the equivalent of about 420 trillion kilowatt-hours.

solar panelSee photovoltaic (PV) panel.

stand-alone system — An autonomous or hybrid photovoltaic system not connected to a grid. May or may not have storage, but most stand-alone systems require batteries or some other form of storage.

subsystem — Any one of several components in a photovoltaic system (i.e., array, controller, batteries, inverter, load).

thin-film photovoltaic module — A photovoltaic module constructed with sequential layers of thin film semiconductor materials.

tracking array — A photovoltaic (PV) array that follows the path of the sun to maximize the solar radiation incident on the PV surface. The two most common orientations are (1) one axis where the array tracks the sun east to west and (2) two-axis tracking where the array points directly at the sun at all times. Tracking arrays use both the direct and diffuse sunlight. Two-axis tracking arrays capture the maximum possible daily energy.

two-axis tracking — A photovoltaic tracking system capable of rotating independently about two axes (e.g., vertical and horizontal).

Nebraska Energy Office’s Low-Interest Loans Available for Solar Installations

Who: Nebraskans are now able to secure low-interest bank financing for solar installations. These loans are backed by the Energy Office of the State of Nebraska and are available to legal residents of the state, a Nebraska taxpayer, a Nebraska partnership, a Nebraska-chartered corporation, a subdivision of Nebraska government, or a person who has maintained a permanent residence and lived in the state for more than six months.

Loan limits: For solar hot water installations, $14,000; for photovoltaic (solar electric) installations the limit is $14,000 for the first kilowatt (kW) of electric-generating capacity and $4,000 for each additional kW of capacity, on systems that are 10 kW or smaller in total capacity, a limit sufficient to cover all residential and many small business installations. So for a 4-kW residential installation, the loan limit would be $26,000 ($14,000 for the first kW + $12,000 for the next 3 kW). The loan limit in this example is way more than would be needed for a 4-kW installation in Nebraska currently; current costs would approximate $3.50 per installed watt or $14,000 total for a 4-kW installation (4000 watts x $3.50). This cost is before a 30% federal tax credit is applied. These credits expire December 31, 2016 and may or may not be renewed. At least one Nebraska public utility, Lincoln Electric Systems, has further financial incentives for photovoltaic installations.

How: You would need to get bids or quotes first, so that you would have them available for your lender, a Nebraska bank or credit union. Make sure the solar contractor/installer providing the bid or quote breaks down all costs as specified on the application you submit to the Nebraska Energy Office. These itemized costs must include all equipment, labor, and other costs necessary to install solar electric or solar hot water systems per the manufacturer’s instructions for optimum operability and output. All installations must meet local, state, and federal codes and regulations—cost may include obtaining a city permit and inspection, for example. Although you are only required to get one bid under the Energy Office program, it is generally a good idea to seek more than one quote in a making your purchasing decision.   It is also the case that the bank or credit union you approach may well require more than one bid or quote,so be sure to check with them.

For more information, contact the Nebraska Energy Office by mail, P.O. Box 95085, Lincoln, NE 68509-5085, by phone: (402) 471-2867, or by e-mail: .   An application may be downloaded at:   .

The Prospect Village Initiative – Nebraskans for Solar Joins Over Thirty Other Local Organizations

Nebraskans for Solar’s Board of Directors are pleased to announce that our nonprofit was recently invited to be a part of the Prospect Village Initiative, joining approximately thirty other currently participating organizations.

David Thomas, Assistant Director of the City of Omaha’s Planning Department, Housing and Community Development Division, has provided the following overview:

The City of Omaha Planning Department is now involved with the most comprehensive neighborhood revitalization initiative it has launched to date. The focus of this initiative is Prospect Village (30th to 36th, Hamilton to Lake) and the intent of the initiative is to be as holistic as possible. In brief, the Prospect Village Initiative involves the following:

Housing: demolition of unsafe/unfit structures; the construction of new housing, rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing, rehabilitation of renter housing; lead-hazard control in owner and renter housing; energy conservation improvements in existing housing; health, safety and energy improvements in existing housing; “healthy homes” assessments and consultation on healthy homes improvements.

Gardening & Vacant Lot Maintenance: on lots owned by the City, a gardening and lot maintenance program.

Services: Financial management education; energy conservation and level payment plan workshops; programs, presentations and workshops addressing childhood obesity, youth employment, safety and security in the neighborhood, parenting and other life skills; etc.

Economic Development: And finally, while the initiative itself does not create jobs, there is another way in which neighborhood economic development is addressed, i.e., through the savings that results in utility and house maintenance bills. Fifty to seventy homes saving, let’s say, $40/month on utility bills is not insignificant. The result is more disposable income for the household. This plus the benefits available through financial management education (and peer support/coaching) can sum to a meaningful difference for low-income families.

Currently, there are approximately thirty organizations participating in the Prospect Village Initiative with approximately eighty specific programs available through these organizations. Part and parcel of this initiative is the need to develop a strong neighborhood association (well underway) as well as the need to develop feedback and evaluation processes that allow the neighborhood and the various programs involved to know what has been accomplished and to change course, if need be.

The overall intent of the initiative is to develop a holistic model for neighborhood revitalization, a model that can be moved from neighborhood to neighborhood to the advantage of each neighborhood it touches and therefore, of advantage to the health and vitality of the city overall.

The organizations currently a part of this initiative are:

Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance
Habitat for Humanity
Rebuilding Together
Family Housing Advisory Services
No More Empty Pots
City Sprouts
Big Garden
King of Kings
Nebraskans for Solar
Holy Name Housing Corporation
Omaha 100
Financial Hope Collaborative
Live Well Omaha Kids
Alegent Creighton Health
Center for Holistic Development
Boys Town
Nebraska Families Collaborative
The Empowerment Network
Abide Network
Compass Ministries
Compassion in Action
Restoration Exchange Omaha
Prospect Village Neighborhood Association
North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance
75 North Development
Prospect Hill Cemetery
City of Omaha Planning Department
City of Omaha Police Department
City of Omaha Fire Department
City of Omaha Parks Department
UNO Service Learning

Solar Tour – Nebraska Wind & Solar Conference Event


Save the Date!

Solar Tour of OPPD, Creighton University and Metropolitan Community College Solar Facilities October 28 ahead of 2014 Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference

For Immediate Release – October 1, 2014 For More Information Contact: Paula Steenson (402) 346-3950

Lincoln, NE- Participants arriving on Tuesday, October 28 for the October 29-30, 2014 Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference in La Vista have an opportunity to take a very educational and informative bus tour of three impressive solar and sustainable energy facilities in Omaha. The tour manager is Michael Shonka, an Omaha area solar expert and member of the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference committee. The cost of the 1:30-4:30 PM tour is only $10. The tour bus will leave from in front of the Embassy Suites LaVista at 1:30 PM and expects to be back to the Embassy Suites by 4:30 PM.

 The tour bus stops will include the following solar facilities:

  • A first stop at the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) Omaha Service Center near Eppley Airfield where OPPD renewable installations will be viewed and a briefing provided. This 75,000 square-foot facility is loaded with “green” features such as: a 60 kilowatt (kW) PV solar array, solar tracking system, 1.2 kW vertical-axis wind turbine, ground loop heat pump system as well as many other energy efficient and environmentally friendly features. OPPD was awarded with a Platinum Certification according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards developed by the United States Green Building Council for its improvements in energy and water efficiency, reduced emissions, and overall stewardship practices during the construction and operation of the building.
  • A second stop at the Metropolitan Community College (MCC) Ft. Omaha Campus for a tour of their Solar Lab and Greenhouse which includes a combination of radiant floor heating and solar electric power. MCC is empowering today’s students to be future leaders in the growing clean and green economy. MCC’s approach to sustainability is three-pronged; sustainability touches our classrooms, campus and the community. MCC partners with Central Community College, WasteCap Nebraska, and the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities and is in its second year of a monthly presentation series on topics related to sustainability, energy, the environment, and how they apply to you. MCC is committed to leading and fostering a sustainable environment for our community. A briefing will be provided by MCC officials.
  • A third stop at the Creighton University parking lot photovoltaic (PV) structure for a tour and briefing. Creighton University Energy Technology Program is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Program. Creighton’s program considers interdisciplinary investigations of energy issues, including: Design; Material Science; Physics; Atmospheric Science; Communication; Policy. Creighton University officials will provide a briefing.

Participants wanting to sign up for the tour must do so at and pay the $10 tour fee. They can do so when they register for the conference.

Registration for the conference is $125 until October 28 and $150 for walk-in registrations the day of the conference. For conference and tour registrations, and to view the program, go to:

For hotel reservations, contact Embassy Suites Omaha-La Vista/Hotel & Conference Center, 12520 Westport Pkwy, La Vista, NE 68128 402-331-7400. To view last year’s presentations, go to

UNL Report – Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska

Globally, we face significant economic, social, and environmental risks as we confront the challenges associated with climate change. The magnitude and rapidity of the projected changes in climate are unprecedented, and their implications for the health of our planet and the legacy we will leave to our children, our grandchildren, and future generations are of vital concern. We need to develop strategies now to adapt to the changes, and this process must begin at the local level.

Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska documents many of the key challenges that Nebraska will face as a result of climate change. Commentaries from experts on Nebraska’s water resources, energy supply and use, agriculture, forests, health, ecosystems, urban systems and rural communities, and infrastructure and vulnerabilities raise serious concerns about the impacts of projected changes in climate, but they also provide a starting point for discussions about the actions that we can take to overcome these challenges.

Download the report here: