Monthly Archives: August 2015

How a new battery revolution will change your life

Lynn Trahey tests batteries at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Photo: Argonne National Laboratory

Lynn Trahey tests batteries at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Photo: Argonne National Laboratory

By David J. Unger, Christian Science Monitor


Scientists and engineers have long believed in the promise of batteries to change the world. Now – finally – energy storage is beginning to live up to the hype. Advanced batteries are moving out of the lab and into “gigafactories.” They’re scaling up from smartphones and into smartgrids. They’re moving out of niche markets and creeping into the mainstream, signaling a tipping point for forward-looking technologies such as electric cars and rooftop solar
panels . . . Even utilities, which have long viewed batteries and the alternative forms of energy they support as a threat, are learning to embrace the technologies as “enabling” rather than “disruptive.”

“It’s going to take a couple of decades, but the revolution is starting to happen now,” says Cosmin Laslau, a batteries analyst at Lux.

Read more here

Backers of wind & solar energy tax credits plan to try, try again

Nebraska Radio Network – Written by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton

John-HansenA Nebraska agricultural group is working with state legislators on a proposed tax credit for wind and solar energy projects. The effort fell short of passing last session but backers of the incentives say they’ll try again in 2016.

Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen says there’s plenty of support for the measure.

Hansen says, “We look at poll after poll after poll and the preliminary data from the Nebraska Rural Poll, it’s going to continue to show that the overwhelming, very high percentage majority of Nebraskans, including rural Nebraskans, support more rural energy development.”

Read the entire story here.

Nebraska Legislative Bill 423

Local View: Nebraska needs its own Clean Power Plan

By Ken Haar, Lincoln Journal Star Ken Haar

It would be irresponsible for Nebraska to punt the design of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan for Nebraska to the federal government. There are those who want to fight it or just wait for the federal government to impose a plan rather than determine how we can use it to our advantage. That’s like punting right after receiving the kickoff rather than giving your offense a chance to score. We wouldn’t do that in football, and we shouldn’t do it with EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Instead, the state of Nebraska should create its own compliance plan — one that takes advantage of opportunities that can benefit us.

Continue reading here.

President Obama unveils executive actions to drive distributed energy growth

Photo: Utility Dive

Photo: Utility Dive

By Gavin Bade, Utility Dive

PACE: Property Assessed Clean Energy

With the addition of a new $1 billion loan guarantee program, the White House said in a fact sheet that more than $10 billion in guarantees are now available for innovative distributed energy projects. But perhaps more significant in the long term are changes to the PACE program aimed at allowing more Americans the chance to deploy solar with no money down.

Under the new FHA guidance, the administration will allow homeowners with mortgages it underwrites to purchase properties with solar panels deployed under the PACE program. Under PACE, homeowners can pay off energy upgrades over time on their property taxes. The new guidance will allow those with FHA loans to buy houses with PACE contracts and assume payment for the energy facility when ownership is transferred. Greentech Media has a good in-depth look at the PACE program changes here.

Read the entire article here

PACE Resources
What is PACE Financing?

States with PACE Enabling Legislation, PACE Legislative Checklist, Legislation Protocol

Cities/Counties with PACE Programs

Electric Co-ops Have Experienced Tremendous Growth in Renewable Energy in the Past Five Years

Tiny Farmers Electric Cooperative’s big solar farm in Kalona, Iowa. Photo by FEC.

Tiny Farmers Electric Cooperative’s big solar farm in Kalona, Iowa. Photo by FEC.

According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association:
Today, more than 90 percent of the nation’s 900-plus rural electric co-ops provide electricity generated using renewable energy sources. Much of the nation’s renewable resources can be found in rural America. These include: wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower.

Data as of April 2015:

  • Nationwide, co-ops own and purchase nearly 6.4 GW of renewable capacity — in addition to roughly 10 GW of preference power contracts with federal hydroelectric facilities.
  • Co-ops own nearly 1.2 GW of renewable energy generation and have long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) for nearly 5.2 GW.
  • Including federal hydropower, co-ops own or purchase over 10 percent of U.S. renewable capacity.
  • Currently, 95 percent of NRECA’s distribution members (795 out of 838) offer renewable energy options to 40 million Americans.
  • The IRS has approved $900 million in CREB allocations for cooperative renewable energy development.

To learn more, click here.

NRECA’s Interactive Map,  “Cooperatives and Renewable Resources,” shows there are six electric cooperatives in our state with solar as a part of their customer-owned power programs.

Cooperatives in Nebraska with Solar
1. Chimney Rock PPD (Bayard)
2. Midwest ECC (Grant)
3. Northwest RPPD (Hay Springs)
4. Panhandle REMA (Alliance)
5. Roosevelt PPD (Scottsbluff)
6. Wheat Belt PPD (Sidney)

SUNDA: NRECA’s Innovative Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration Project

The Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration project, or SUNDA, 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, 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.

For more information about SUNDA, visit:

Watch the video, “Electric Cooperative Purpose and History” and other NRECA videos here:

Electric Cooperatives in the News

Iowa co-op withdraws proposed fee for customers, by Karen Uhlenhuth
Midwest Energy News

Photo By Rob Rudloff / Creative Commons

Photo By Rob Rudloff / Creative Commons

A rural electric cooperative in Iowa has backed away from a plan to impose an additional $57.50 monthly fee on customers with solar panels.

On Thursday afternoon, Pella Cooperative Electric informed the Iowa Utilities Board that it was withdrawing the tariff it filed earlier this summer.

“It kinda made my day,” said Bryce Engbers, a hog farmer living outside of Grinnell. Engbers has arrays on his house and on each of two confinement barns, and had said he’d sooner remove the arrays than pay the higher fee.

Read the entire story here.

Central Iowa Power Cooperative has announced it will build a 30-acre solar energy project

Nebraska Solar Schools Initiative


Solar & wind hybrid installation at a Ravenna, Nebraska public school, funded by a private grant. Photo: Pika Energy

Solar & wind hybrid installation at a Ravenna, Nebraska public school, funded by a private grant. Photo: Pika Energy

On October 10th representatives from a number of
statewide organizations will gather at a retreat to begin organizing a Nebraska Solar Schools Initiative. Current participants include: K-12 science teachers and division directors; university and community college energy science professors and instructors; government leaders; and representatives from all three major utility companies. Several representatives have been involved in the Wind Schools Working Group and will bring their valuable experience to the new initiative. A future objective will be to invite many more participants.

The initiative’s current primary focus areas are to develop a K-12 Solar Schools Curriculum that meets state science requirements and utilizes a cross-disciplinary approach and, secondly, to create grants and solar projects databases as companions to the curriculum. The grants database will enable schools and places like schools to apply for funds to local and national foundations and government agencies. Grant requests might include funds to purchase classroom solar energy kits and other curriculum materials or to install a demonstration solar system, an option and not a requirement for schools participating in the initiative.

According to a census maintained by The Solar Foundation, there are over 3,700 solar schools in the United States. Nebraska lags behind other states, with only two solar and wind hybrid schools. The Nebraska Solar Schools Initiative seeks to add many more, providing our students and our communities with much-needed educational opportunities.

A proposal will be presented at the October 10th meeting stating that once current group participants complete their initial planning and organizing work, the initiative will then be opened up to all teachers, students, and the general public, and anyone who is interested will be encouraged to contribute to the curriculum and grants/solar projects databases. Helen Deffenbacher is Lead Coordinator of the initiative and the October retreat.

Center for Rural Affairs’ New Energy Fact Sheets

Photo: Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD)

Photo: Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD)

– from the Center for Rural Affairs website
Wind energy and other renewable energy will revitalize rural communities rich in energy resources. To maximize the impact, there is a critical need for new and upgraded transmission capacity to unlock the renewable energy potential found in rural America. Both our economy and our future depend on moving power from the remote regions of the Great Plains and Upper Midwest to the demand centers that need it most.

The Center for Rural Affairs goal is to better assist landowners and other rural stakeholders to ensure that clean energy transmission is built in an equitable, sustainable way – a way that works best for rural citizens and their communities.

Energy Fact Sheet: The Grid And Transmission Lines: Without Transmission Updates, Midwestern Wind Energy Is A Stranded Resource

Energy Fact Sheet: Economic Benefits: Clean Energy Transmission Provides Several Benefits For Local Communities And Economies Throughout the Development Process

Map of Clean Energy Transmission Projects

Public Power Affords Ratepayer-Owners A Say In Our Energy Future

By Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch, Energy and Climate Program Associate
Center for Rural Affairs

Center for Rural Affairs

When it comes to power, Nebraska is unique from every other state. That’s because our state is the only one in the nation with public power, giving Nebraskans the ability to elect board members that will represent our interests when it comes to powering our homes and businesses. To insure that we are being properly represented, Nebraskans must be active in learning about energy in the state and what public power districts are planning for the future.

Nebraskans should be asking questions, and making their voices heard. Public Power affords all ratepayer-owners a say in our energy future.

Continue reading.

Are wind, solar tax credits early enough to make a difference?

Nebraska turbines

McCook Gazette / OPINION

If your summer vacation took you through a neighboring state this summer, there’s a good chance you encountered a glaring example of one way Nebraska is lagging behind.

It’s possible to see working wind turbines in north-central and northeast Nebraska, but you’re more likely to see their components being hauled over our highways on the way to somewhere else.

There’s a good chance legislation to provide a state tax credit for wind farms and solar projects will pass the Legislature this year, after it failed last year because several supporters were gone for a crucial vote.

Continue reading here.

Nebraska Legislative Bill 423

Nebraska Group Working On Renewable Energy Legislation, WNAX Radio