Monthly Archives: December 2014

Ricketts picks Bracht to lead Nebraska Energy Office

Governor-Elect Pete Ricketts has chosen Omaha attorney David Bracht, a partner with the Stinson Leonard Street Law Firm with “extensive experience working with renewable energy projects,” to head up the Nebraska Energy Office.

In his announcement on Monday, reported by Martha Stoddard in the Omaha World Herald, Rickets said Bracht’s experience should help the state continue to attract new energy investments.”


LES Should Use Nebraska Wind

by Senator Ken Haar, Local View, Lincoln Journal Star 

First, the good news.  The Lincoln Electric System (LES) is to be congratulated on its announcement Friday that it will add 173 megawatts of wind and five megawatts of solar energy to its portfolio.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s number for “the current national average,” this is enough electricity to power 29,000 homes.  It is good news on three fronts:

To continue reading click here.

LES announces new wind, solar

Media Release Posted: 12/19/2014 – Lincoln Electric System’s website

LINCOLN – Lincoln Electric System has finalized power purchase agreements to add 173 megawatts of wind energy and 5 megawatts of solar photovoltaic energy to its power supply resource portfolio by 2016. These projects will increase the utility’s equivalent renewable generation portfolio to 48 percent of LES’ retail energy.

Mayor Chris Beutler and Kevin Wailes, administrator & CEO of Lincoln Electric System, today announced this as one of the most aggressive renewable energy portfolios.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, the projects will also save customers money. “When viewed as a package, our wind and solar contracts are expected to save LES customer-owners approximately $429 million over the next 25 years,” said Wailes.

The wind additions are spread across two wind contracts secured with the same developer, Invenergy, and involve the 73 megawatt Prairie Breeze II Wind Energy Center, located in northeastern Nebraska, and 100 megawatt Buckeye Wind Energy Center, located in north-central Kansas. In August, LES issued a Request for Proposal for up to 200 megawatts of wind energy. LES received 15 responses encompassing a total of 105 distinct proposals. The selected projects will bring LES’ total wind portfolio to 304 MW.

“This is a very opportune time for LES to invest in more wind energy due to future uncertainties of federal Production Tax Credits for wind developers, potential additional regulations on power plant emissions, and the volatility of fossil fuel prices.” said Wailes.

The solar contract was in response to an LES survey which indicated customers were willing to support more local solar energy. LES implemented SunShares, a new program in partnership with customers to bring a community solar project to the Lincoln area.

The 5 megawatt solar array will be located about 75th and W. Holdrege Street, visible from Interstate 80. LES will leverage savings achieved through its wind agreements to help supplement customer participation in the LES SunShares program, which allowed LES to obtain optimal pricing for the solar project.

This project will provide LES with valuable solar operating experience and will be the largest solar installation in the state.

Congress approved funding for Farm Bill clean energy programs in fiscal year 2015

– email from Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate, Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC)

The 2015 appropriations bill (“Cromnibus”) contained some good news amid some cuts. We are happy to report that farm energy progress will continue in 2015 – with some near-term project funding opportunities:

  • Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) mandatory funding was not cut, and REAP received minor discretionary funding of $1.35 million.
  • Biorefinery Assistance Program mandatory funding was reduced from $50 million to $30 million.
  • Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) mandatory funding was reduced from $25 million to $23 million.

Grants and loan guarantees for energy efficiency and renewable energy of all sorts include $250 million in mandatory funding and $100 million in discretionary funding over the five year period from 2014 to 2018. Click here for a summary of additional Energy Title Programs.

More details on the Farm Bill are available on ELPC’s Farm Energy.Org 

People and small businesses interested in seeking project funding from REAP should start gearing up. The FY2014 mandatory funding of $50 million and FY2015 funding will be released together, making for one of the largest funding solicitations in program history. The USDA is accepting applications now, and ELPC will soon release the next funding notice.

REAP Application Resources and Templates

REAP Nebraska USDA Contact
Debra Yocum, USDA Rural Development
100 Centennial Mall North, Room 152
Federal Building
Lincoln, NE 68508

Farm Energy Success Stories, 2014 Edition
A new report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) highlights clean energy projects made possible with grants and loan guarantees from the Farm Bill’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). You can read these stories here.

Wind and Solar Power: Transforming the Grid with Clean Energy – Reliably – Every Day

by John Moore, Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog

Despite years of successful experience, dozens of studies, and increasing utility support for clean energy, urban myth holds that electricity from renewable energy is unreliable. Yet over 75,000 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power have been integrated, reliably, into the nation’s electric grid to date. That’s enough electricity to supply 17.9 million homes.

And, as a new NRDC fact sheet published today illustrates, the electric grid can handle much higher levels of zero-carbon wind and solar power, far more than what’s necessary to achieve the relatively modest carbon emission reductions in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit pollution from existing power plants. But first, a little background on how our nation’s electric system works.

Click here to continue reading. 

EPA Announces New Energy Star Tool for Homeowners to Save Money, Energy This Winter

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently launched its Energy Star Home Advisor, an online tool designed to help Americans save money and energy by improving the energy efficiency of their homes through recommended, customized and prioritized home-improvement projects.

Study: Nebraska has capacity to export more wind energy

by Algis J. Laukaitis, Lincoln Journal Star 

Nebraska has the capacity to build and export more renewable energy generated by wind farms than it does now, according to a study that will be released by the Nebraska Power Review Board Monday.

The Nebraska Renewable Energy Export Study, mandated by the passage of LB1115 this past legislative session, said there is significant growth potential for renewable electricity generation in the state, both short- and long-term.

The Legislature appropriated $200,000 to the board for the study, which found that Nebraska’s existing transmission infrastructure could integrate at least 2,000 megawatts of additional wind energy capacity. Doing so would create jobs, spur economic growth and development, and would be good for Nebraska landowners and ratepayers, according to the study by the Brattle Group, a consulting firm with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 Click here to continue reading.

Thank you to Jared Friesen and to everyone who attended his presentation last evening!

Nebraskans for Solar would like to thank Jared Friesen, Renewable Energy Specialist at Morrissey Engineering, for his informative and well-received presentation, “The Economics of Generating Your Own Solar Electricity” last evening at UNO’s Community Engagement Center. It was one of our largest audiences, ever, for our ongoing series of community education workshops.

We also want to thank everyone who turned out for the event, as well as our co-sponsors: Green Bellevue, Omaha Biofuels Cooperative, Omaha Sierra Club, Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light, Nebraska Wildlife Federation, and Transition Omaha.

Everyone is invited back to the Community Engagement Center, Room 201, on January 8th at 7 p.m., when our guest speaker will be Dean Mueller, OPPD Division Manager, Sustainable Energy and Environmental Stewardship. Please check our calendar for additional details.

Minnesota will ‘get the ball rolling’ on community solar today

 by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Expectations are high today as Minnesota’s largest utility begins accepting applications for community solar projects at 9 a.m. today.

It’s anyone’s guess how many solar garden developers will submit on the first day of business for Xcel Energy‘s Solar Rewards Community program. Some developers have already marketed and sold out projects that have been not formally approved.

“We see high interest in this and we expect we’ll see a lot of applications but we don’t know what the pace will be,” said Laura McCarten, regional vice president. “One estimated guess is we could get 100 megawatts of applications, but we’ll see how it unfolds. Time will tell.”

The reason for the potentially large number of applicants is that Minnesota is the first state not to cap the amount of power that can be generated from community solar gardens. In Colorado, where Xcel also operates, the state imposed a limit of 6 MW on the amount of power that can be installed annually.

To continue reading, click here.

Nebraska Community Solar Development:
Lincoln Electric System’s SunShares
Central City plans to build state’s first community solar farm, by Algis J. Laukaitis, Lincoln Journal Star

Why More Solar Panels Should Be Facing West, Not South

Edited by David Leonhardt, Upshot Newsletter, New York Times

For years, homeowners who bought solar panels were advised to mount them on the roof facing south. That captures the most solar energy over the course of the day, which benefits the homeowner, but does so at hours that are not so helpful for the utility and the grid as a whole.

Mount them to catch the sunlight from the west in the afternoon, and the panels’ production over all would fall, but it would come at hours when the electricity was more valuable.

But that idea is slow to take hold. A new study of 110,000 California houses with rooftop solar systems confirmed that a vast majority of the panels were pointed south because most of the panel owners were paid by the number of kilowatt-hours the panels produced. Pointing them southward maximizes production over all, but peak production comes at midday, not in late afternoon, when it would be more helpful.

Click here to continue reading.

Lincoln Electric System (LES) provides an extra incentive for west-facing solar systems. See: “The Costs of Rooftop Solar in Nebraska Keep Declining – And Lincoln is Leading the Way!”