Monthly Archives: November 2014

Siena-Francis Solar Photovoltaic Installation

A Collaboration of the Omaha Public Power District, Nebraskans for Solar and Creighton University’s Energy Technology Program

By Anton G. Yanchilin / Edited by Dr. Andrew G. Baruth

The Siena Francis Homeless Shelter, founded in 1975, is an organization that strives to further the lives of the less fortunate men, women and children in the greater Omaha area through various means. Among these means are rehabilitation advisory groups, employment preparation, medical services, and the provision of food and shelter. Their campus includes two primary shelters, the Baright shelter for men and the Siena house for women and children. The Baright shelter houses a minimum of 222 each night, but typically houses an additional 100 men depending on the weather. The Siena house provides 40 beds per night.

Electricity costs are one factor that this organization faces while both accommodating a high volume of people and providing various services. To help mitigate this, students from the Creighton University Energy Technology Program, in collaboration with the Omaha Public Power District and Nebraskans for Solar, are designing a photovoltaic system this fall 2014. This specific group of students has extensive experience in renewable energy projects. The Baright shelter is the larger of the two primary buildings, has less shading obstructions, larger roof area, and a higher altitude. Therefore, it is the best option to house such a photovoltaic system.

The course “Introduction to Solar Energy,” created by Professor Andrew Baruth, Ph.D., has 11 students divided into three groups, each tackling the optimization for an installation design. The students, all upperclassmen, have submitted bi-weekly, structured reports detailing the requisite aspects of a typical feasibility study. With a competitive mentality, the three groups will pitch their best design ideas at the conclusion of the course to “win the bid” for the project.

The Energy Technology Program at Creighton University is designed for students interested in renewable energy from a liberal arts perspective, consistent with the Catholic Jesuit tradition. It guides incoming freshmen to be adept in the broad aspects essential to understanding renewable energy strategies and their role in society, including environmental ethics, energy policies, installation and design, as well as material science. Introduction to Solar Energy focuses on the details of designing a feasible photovoltaic installation as well as the science behind photovoltaics. This necessarily includes the creation of models to track the sun’s position from anywhere on Earth, understanding the role of solar radiation, basic semiconductor physics, as applied to solar cells, and observing good practices in system design. In the end, the students are exposed to everything they need to know to produce a complete design option. As the class has progressed, the students update their feasibility reports with the most recently learned content. As these pieces of the report come together, the students are able to see their hard work create a real-life product.

Communicating with Stormy Dean, Chief Administrative Officer for Siena Francis, the Energy Technology students have been able to visit the site to acquire accurate building dimensions, data on obstructions (shading), and a better understanding of the roof’s structural integrity. As time has progressed since the initiation of the project, the students began to incorporate other details into their assessments including, but not limited to, meteorological analyses, shading analyses, and preliminary suggestions of installation ideas to work off of for their final recommendation.

The three student groups from the class have created unique designs that will be bid upon at a forum on December 11th, 2014. Representatives from the Omaha Public Power District and Nebraskans for Solar will be present to move forward with a plan to actualize one of the designs.

Anton Yanchilin is a junior at Creighton University pursuing a double major of Energy Technology and Applied Physical Analysis. His career interests revolve around renewable energy applications, climate change mitigation policy, and the computer sciences.

Green Benefits: Companies Now Offer Solar Energy Programs for Employees

by Rosalind Jackson, Vote Solar – Posted on Renewable Energy World.Com

Vote Solar may be best known for our work advocating for state-level policy, but we’ve also been hard at work helping tackle solar soft costs head on through our GroupEnergy program. Our take on the solarize community purchasing model focuses on helping existing groups — think coworkers, clubs or congregations — pool their collective buying power to go solar at home.

We’ve seen particularly strong interest from major employers who want to take sustainability beyond the boardroom and into their broader communities. Participating companies get to offer a great employee benefit (solar), the employees get to navigate the process of going solar together (making it easier and more affordable), and the solar industry gets to serve a group of customers at once, reducing those nefarious customer acquisition soft costs. It builds solar awareness and lowers solar’s price tag in one fell swoop.

To continue reading, click here.

San Francisco’s SunShares Program. In their group purchasing program, solar installations cost $3.50 per installed watt, the same as at least four Nebraska solar professionals charge.

Central City plans to build state’s first community solar farm

by Algis J. Laukaitis, Lincoln Journal Star

Central City officials announced Thursday that they plan to build Nebraska’s first community solar energy project.

The 100-panel system will be constructed alongside an existing system that is owned by Mesner Development Co. of Central City in an industrial park next to Nebraska 14, north of the city.

“We are always looking for ways to save our citizens money, and developing this solar system is one way to do that,” Central City administrator Chris Anderson said in a news release. “It will allow us to lock in a stable price for electricity for the foreseeable future.”

To continue reading, click here. 

December Workshop: The Economics of Generating Your Own Solar Electricity

Speaker: Jared Friesen, Renewable Energy Specialist at Morrissey Engineering
When: December 11, 2014  – 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: UNO’s Community Engagement Center, 64th & Dodge, Large Meeting Room 201

No matter how efficient a home or commercial building is constructed, electricity will be consumed in its operation. Historically, producing your own clean OR dirty electric energy at a price competitive with purchasing it from the local utility was not practical or economically feasible. The precipitous drop in photovoltaic (PV) system hardware costs, ability to maintain utility grid support, and other available incentives have changed the economic reality for some building owners. With the developing PV industry in mind, this presentation will cover:

  • What is the “value of solar” as it relates to the electric utility and electric user
  • What is net metering, is it fair, and what are its pitfalls
  • Performance and economic metrics a potential solar owner should understand
  • The attainable levelized cost of solar-electric energy that can be compared directly to current OPPD energy prices for residential and small commercial customers
  • Steps that must be taken to realize an attractive levelized cost of solar electricity
  • Q&A

Interested attendees are invited to bring one year (12 consecutive months) of electric bills for self-evaluation during the talk.

The workshop is free & open to the public, so please join us and bring a friend! Refreshments provided. Free parking is available in the reserved lot to the north of the Community Engagement Center, near the Durham Bell Tower. Let the lot attendant know you’re there for the Nebraskans for Solar workshop in Room 201. Parking is also permitted in other lots.

Sponsors include: Nebraskans for Solar, Green Bellevue, Omaha Sierra Club, Nebraska Wildlife Federation, Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light, and Transition Omaha

Thank you to David Holtzclaw and to everyone who attended last night’s workshop

Nebraskans for Solar would like to thank energy expert David Hotzclaw, Owner of Transduction Technologies, for his informative and well-received presentation on energy conservation and solar last evening at UNO’s Community Engagement Center.

We also want to thank everyone who braved the very cold weather to attend. The audience raised a number of excellent questions throughout David’s discussion.

Everyone is invited to come back to the Community Engagement Center on December 11th for our next workshop. Please see our calendar or the announcement on our NewsBlog, “The Economics of Generating Your Own Solar Electricity,” for complete details. We will also launch our new Learning Group on December 11th, and attendees will have the opportunity to order a free copy of the 2015 edition of the bestseller, Solar Electricity Handbook.

We hope you’ll join us and bring a friend!

New! NFS Learning Group, Free Bestselling Book & December Workshop

You are cordially invited to join our new NFS Learning Group, which we will launch at our December 11th workshop and continue to sponsor the second Thursday of each month, 7 to 8:30 p.m., unless otherwise announced.

Everyone who attends our November 13th workshop will have the opportunity to sign up for the Learning Group, volunteer to help create a plan for 2015, order a free copy of the 2015 Solar Electricity Handbook, and write down your suggestions for fun and educational projects and events, for example: recommended book titles and other resources to post on our website, field trips (including opportunities to watch solar installations, visit a farm that’s off the grid, and a backyard, solar-powered greenhouse), plus step-by-step instructions for do-it-yourself solar projects, with one or more workshops and projects geared toward young people.

Please plan to attend our November 13th workshop (see our calendar for details) and bring your ideas for fun and educational group projects and activities!

Free Bestselling Book on Solar! 

Thirty-five early-release copies of the 2015 edition of the bestseller, Solar Electricity Handbook, by Michael Boxwell, have been donated to Nebraskans for Solar. The books will be distributed at our December 11th workshop. Additional copies can be purchased at the discounted price of $12 each.

The Solar Electricity Handbook is for everyone who wants to:

  • learn more about solar energy and its many uses
  • install a solar system on their homes or have it installed
  • install a larger, commercial-size system for their businesses or nonprofits
  • use solar to power their electric cars, mobile homes, cabins, camping tents, cell phones, laptop computers, portable radios and other electronic devices
  • install solar systems professionally (excellent beginning resource)

December Workshop – Plus More to Come in 2015! 

Our December 11th workshop presenter will be Jared Friesen, Renewable Energy Specialist and Electrical Project Manager with Morrissey Engineering Inc.

He will discuss “The Economics of Generating Your Own Solar Electricity” and facilitate a Q&A on solar energy. (Further details will be announced at our November 13th workshop).

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. Click here to watch a video presentation.

27 kW Photovoltaic System Expansion, by Jared Friesen

View the 4940 Building’s Live Solar Output here.

At our December 11th workshop, Nebraskans for Solar will also hand out a list of your suggestions for events and projects from our November 13th workshop and schedule a meeting for volunteers to help create a Learning Group Plan for 2015.

Released Today – The 2015 Fuel Economy Guide for Car Buyers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) today released the 2015 Fuel Economy Guide, providing consumers with a valuable resource to help them choose the most fuel-efficient and low greenhouse gas emitting vehicles that meet their needs.

In comparison to previous years, the 2015 models include a greater number of fuel efficient and low-emission vehicles in a broader variety of classes and sizes.

‘Automakers’ innovation is thriving, and Americans are benefiting from new consumer choices that limit carbon emissions and slow the effects of climate change,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This year’s guide is not just about how the latest models compare with one another; it’s about providing people with an excellent tool so that they can make informed decisions affecting their pocketbooks and the planet.’

More information, including a complete version of the guide and details on fuel economy labels, are available here and at this link for mobile devices. EPA and DOE will update the guide online as more 2015 vehicles become available.

Click here for tips on more fuel-efficient driving.

SUNDA Project Addresses Barriers to Solar Deployment at Electric Cooperatives

What is SUNDA?

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has joined forces with the U.S. Department of Energy to create the Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) Project.

The SUNDA Project is developing a “PV system package” consisting of engineering designs; business models, financing and insurance options; and optimized procurement that will drastically reduce soft-costs, including:

  • Engineering design costs 25%
  • Consolidated procurement costs by 10%
  • Insurance costs by 25%

The overall goal of the project is to reach a target of $1.60/Wp installed cost.

Executive Summary

There are over 900 electric cooperatives (co-ops) which serve more than 42 million Americans in 47 states while operating 2.4 million line-miles covering more than 70% of the nation’s land. Many co-ops are interested in solar PV, but only a few have deployed utility-scale (1 MW or more) systems because of insufficient: standardized designs; cost-benefit analysis tools; assistance with finance, procurement, and permitting; and training and best practices for operations and maintenance. The objective of the SUNDA project is to create a set of tools that will enhance the ability of co-ops to design, finance, deploy and operate utility-scale solar PV systems at their facilities. To achieve this objective, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is working with a select set of co-ops to develop, test and refine a standard “PV system package”, which will include standardized engineering designs and support products (purchasing, insurance, and training). This package will ultimately be available for use by all co-ops.

Fourteen co-ops from across the nation are involved in this collaborative project. Click here to learn more.

Distributed Generation (DG) Toolkit: To help electric cooperatives address the legal, economic, and technical issues raised by consumer-owned generation, NRECA has compiled a number of helpful resources called the DG Toolkit.