Monthly Archives: January 2015

Nationally Recognized Solar Expert & Author Will Be Special Guest At February 12th Event

Sponsors: Nebraskans for Solar & Omaha Sierra Club 

Everyone who attends Michael Shonka’s presentation on Nebraska’s first solar farm on Thursday, February 12th will receive an added bonus—an early Valentine’s Day gift!

Michael has invited his friend and colleague from New Mexico, Chuck Marken, a nationally recognized solar expert and author, as his co-presenter. (Please see his bio, below). They will each speak for about 45 minutes, with Chuck providing a national perspective on solar farms and other topics. Time will be allotted for questions from the audience.

Chuck Marken is an instructor for Solar Energy International and a licensed electrical, plumbing and HVAC-R contractor in New Mexico. He started installing solar water heating systems in 1979 and PV systems in 1983. Chuck is also a technical editor for Home Power and SolarPro magazines and has authored more than 50 articles on solar topics. He has hands-on experience selling, installing and servicing hundreds of solar energy systems of all types – including off-grid and grid-connected PV systems, hot water and swimming pool solar systems.

After founding and owning AAA Solar for more than 25 years, he sold the company in 2010. He has, through contracts with Sandia National Laboratories supported the US Department of Energy, served as an expert for the Solar Instructor Training Network and Solar America Cities program. He has also taught classes and workshops for numerous other educational and not-for-profit organizations in the US and is the co-author of the current NABCEP Solar Heating Installer Resource Guide.

Questions? Suggestions? Please email NFS Events Organizer, Helen Deffenbacher at

Utility Dive’s 2015 State of the Electric Utility Survey

The results of Utility Dive’s second annual 2015 State of the Electric Utility Survey show that, “Utility executives clearly see immense opportunities in energy efficiency, rooftop solar and the customer relationship. They just aren’t sure what to do about it,” said Davide Savenije, senior editor at Utility Dive. “There is no proven utility business model today for these new services.”

One sign of progress is that utilities are beginning to transition from a business model based on electricity sales towards others that are more service-oriented. Many utilities are developing new models–energy efficiency, demand response, consumer information services, and distributed solar–with the customer at the heart of their business.

Click here to download the survey.

About the State of the Electric Utility Survey
The second annual survey was compiled using responses from more than 400 U.S. electric utility executives currently employed at U.S. electric utilities. This year’s report strives to identify the key challenges and opportunities that will determine the future of the U.S. electric utility industry.

About Utility Dive
Utility Dive is a property of Industry Dive, a mobile-first business media publisher. Utility Dive reaches over 250,000 electric utility executives with news and information through its mobile app, website, e-newsletter and social channels. Visit the website at

OPPD Is Requesting Public Comments on 6 Proposed Programs for Energy-Efficiency & Management

OPPD is currently considering six programs designed to make homes and businesses more energy-efficient and reduce their electricity use at peak times by 300 megawatts. These programs are:

Residential Efficient Heating & Cooling
Residential AC Management Program Expanded
Residential Income Qualified
Business Version of the AC Management Program
Business Prescriptive Program
Business Custom Program

Click here to read about each program and access the comment form. 

Minnesota Group Works To Help Low-Income Families Go Solar

by Katie Valentine, ThinkProgress.Org

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, a 15-year-old organization that’s made increasing access to solar power its mission, is taking that goal one step further. The group is creating a system in which families on the federal government’s energy assistance program can get their power from solar, instead of from fossil fuels.

Jason Edens, founder and director of RREAL, told ThinkProgress that the project, dubbed Community Solar for Community Action, would be the first to create a system in which low-income families could gain free access to free solar power. Right now, families who receive energy assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is federally funded but whose funds are distributed among the 50 states, don’t have a say in where that energy comes from — their utilities simply receive money for the heating and electricity bills they aren’t able to fully pay.

To continue reading, click here.

State of the Union Is Right: U.S. Is #1 In Wind Energy

by Shauna Theel, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Blog

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama noted that “America is number one in wind power.” Indeed, the U.S. generates more energy from wind than any other country, leading China, Spain, and Germany.

That is because U.S. turbines are nearly twice as productive as Chinese turbines on average. This is due to technological innovation and productivity that has been encouraged by a policy incentive – the renewable energy Production Tax Credit – that only rewards production.

To continue reading, click here.

Check out AWEA’s “Nebraska Wind Energy Fact Sheet.”

National Solar Jobs Census 2014

The Solar Foundation recently released their 5th Annual National Solar Jobs Census. It found that, as of November 2014, there were 173,807 Americans employed in the solar industry, an increase of 21.8% over the previous year. Since the publication of The Solar Foundation’s first annual jobs census, employment in the solar industry has increased by 86%!

In the full report, you’ll also find:

  • Information on jobs added by industry sector (installation, manufacturing, sales & distribution, project development, and ‘other’);
  • Details on employer hiring expectations and growth projections for 2015
  • Updated figures on wages and the demographic breakdown of the solar workforce, and;
  • Information on trends in solar workforce development over the past several years, including a career progression for PV installers.

To download the report or check out The Solar Foundation’s fact sheet and infographic, click here.

Nebraska Senators Push for Better Wind Energy Incentives

by Paul Hammel / World-Herald Bureau

LINCOLN — A group of senators is gearing up another push for better incentives for wind energy projects in Nebraska, including a first-ever production tax credit.

With the expiration of the federal production tax credit and growing demand for clean energy by companies and utilities, lawmakers say now is the time to remove barriers and increase incentives for wind farms.

Click here to continue reading.

Thank you to Dean Mueller and everyone who attended his presentation last evening!

Nebraskans for Solar would like to thank Dean Mueller, OPPD Division Manager, Sustainable Energy & Environmental Stewardship, for his informative and well-received presentation last night at UNO’s Community Engagement Center. We also thank everyone who turned out for the event, especially on a very cold and blustery evening. As Dean commented afterwards, he was impressed by the number of well-informed questions the audience raised throughout his discussion.

Everyone is cordially invited back to the Community Engagement Center, Room 201, on February 12th at 7 p.m., when our speaker will be Michael Shonka, who has been working in renewable energy since 1983.

Michael will discuss the just-completed solar farm in Central City, as well as several other  projects he’s involved in, including rooftop solar. Please see our calendar or the previous post for complete details.

If you were unable to attend last night’s forum but signed up for a copy of the 2015 Solar Electricity Handbook, by Michael Boxwell, the books will be available at our February 12th workshop. If you represent a green group or a renewable energy / energy efficiency business, you are invited to bring your materials to share at our information tables.

Questions? Suggestions? Please email Events Organizer, Helen Deffenbacher:

Central City Solar Farm – A New Step for Nebraska in Energy Innovation


Speaker: Michael Shonka, Renewable Energy Advocate & Spokesperson, Instructor & Business Owner – Solar Heat & Electric
When: February 12, 2015 – 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: UNO’s Community Engagement Center, 64th & Dodge, Room 201

Michael recently completed Nebraska’s first solar farm, a 100-panel system installed in an industrial park next to an existing solar system owned by Mesner Development Company of Central City. Residents and businesses of Central City, which has a population of 2,900, will be able to purchase shares of the energy generated by the system in the future. Other names for solar farms include: “shared renewables,” “community solar” and “solar gardens.”


In this presentation, Michael will discuss the Central City Solar Farm project in detail and will outline the required steps for other interested Nebraska communities to develop solar farms. He will also discuss some of his other just-completed or future solar projects in our state, including rooftop solar. Time will be allotted for Q&As.

Michael Shonka, owner of Solar Heat and Electric, has been designing, installing, and maintaining solar and wind energy systems since 1983. In collaboration with colleagues in the renewable energy industry and many other renewable energy advocates in our state, he promotes adoption of renewable energy by the general public and government, and is involved on updating city code and legislation to facilitate greater renewable energy development in Nebraska. He has helped to pass a state tax credit for renewable energy and to implement the new net metering law. He is also involved with teaching of solar, wind, sustainability and energy conservation classes statewide.

The workshop is free & open to the public, so please share this announcement with others. Refreshments provided. We will also have information tables available for green groups & renewable energy / energy efficiency businesses to share your materials with attendees. If you ordered a copy of the 2015 Solar Electricity Handbook, by Michael Boxwell, these will be handed out before the workshop. 

Free parking is available in the reserved lot to the north of the Community Engagement Center, near the Durham Bell Tower, plus all adjacent lots. Let the lot attendant know you’re there for the Nebraskans for Solar workshop in Room 201. Questions? Suggestions? Please email

Nebraskans for Solar’s Board of Directors Update

Our Board of Directors will convene again for our first monthly meeting in the New Year on January 10th with the following slate of leaders:

David Corbin, President
Eric Williams, President-Elect
Ken Deffenbacher, Past President

We will also welcome a new member to the board: Anton Yanchilin, and honor two outgoing board members for their service over the past year: Donnis Arens and Albert Lierz.

Additional Board Members
Blake Johnson
Erin Cheese
Gus von Roenn
Helen Deffenbacher
Jon Dixon
Leo Arens
Michael Shonka
Syed Ali

Advisory Board
Doug Perry
Jared Friesen
Randy Schantell
Robert Byrnes
Shervin Ansari