Monthly Archives: October 2015

Battery Energy Storage Caucus Launches to Bipartisan Support in Congress

PR-Newswire-logoRepresentatives Collins (R-NY) and Takano (D-CA) Form Caucus to Expand Energy Storage


“Across the nation, states are facing an aging electrical grid that is increasingly unprepared to handle the demands of modern businesses and consumers,” said Rep. Collins. “Energy storage technology is uniquely suited to address infrastructure and energy challenges we face in the United States. The battery storage industry is creating new businesses and providing new jobs to the U.S. economy, and American companies are leading the way globally.”

“Energy storage is modernizing the grid and enabling new economic possibilities, saving businesses and consumers money,” said Rep. Takano. “In Southern California, energy storage is proving to be a transformative technology for our utilities and grid operators. It is a key component of our strategy for replacing retiring generation and managing grid congestion, as well as a critical asset for expanding solar, wind and other renewable energy resources.”

Read the entire news release here.

SEIA’s Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power: An Overview on PV Systems, Options for Going Solar, and Questions to Ask

SEIA GuideIn June, the Solar Energy Industries Association published the Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power: An Overview on PV Systems, Options for Going Solar, and Questions to Ask. This 6-page guide, which SEIA will update regularly, informs potential solar customers about the financing options available, contracting terms to be aware of, and other useful tips. It includes an overview of PV Systems, questions to ask your installer, and resources to check out for more information. SEIA will sponsor a live webinar on November 19, 2015, 12 to 1 p.m. Central Time to provide an overview of the guide and a discussion on how participants can use it to navigate the path to going solar. With solar still a new energy choice for many homeowners, it’s very important for them to have tools like this at their disposal.

Download the SEIA Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power (PDF).

Register for the webinar here.

Why some big businesses support the Clean Power Plan

2.2-megawatt solar array that powers the Staples distribution center in  Central Ohio. Photo: Staples

2.2-megawatt solar array that powers the Staples distribution center in Central Ohio. Photo: Staples

Interlochen Public Radio (IPR) / Writer, Julie Grant, is a reporter with the environment news program, The Allegheny Front

Big businesses often oppose increased regulations. But not always: take the Clean Power Plan. The Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule requires states to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

The coal industry and some states, including Michigan (Attorney General Bill Schuette joined the lawsuit), are fighting the rule. But, hundreds of businesses have stepped forward to support it.

Continue reading.

NEWS RELEASE: USDA Provides Funding for More than $1.8 Million Nebraska Renewable Energy Projects in Federal Fiscal Year 2015

Tom VilsackWASHINGTON, District of Columbia – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA has selected Mid America Agri Products/Wheatland, LLC of Madrid, NE to receive $500,000 for ethanol production and Aaron Ross of Columbus, NE to receive $41,250 for wind energy.

These two projects bring the Federal Fiscal Year 2015 funding in Nebraska to 70 projects for $1,806,905 through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for renewable energy/energy efficiency projects.  Through these projects, enough energy was generated or saved to power 4,808 homes. Additionally, an energy auditing program was funded under the REAP Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance for $71,363.

Read the entire news release here.

See additional Nebraska grant awards for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects here: Rural Energy for America Program – October 26, 2015 (PDF)

City and State Leaders to Welcome Attendees to the 8th Annual Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference and Exhibition

LINCOLN – Omaha City Council President Ben Gray and Nebraska State Senator Ken Schilz will welcome attendees of the eighth annual Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference to Omaha at the Omaha Hilton, 1001 Cass St on Wednesday, November 4 at 8:15 a.m.

Ben GrayCouncil President Gray is in his second term of representing City Council District 2. His voice and face are familiar to the community as he can be seen in the classroom, on television, on the stage in local theatre productions and many community meetings. Council President Gray was the Executive Producer of “Kaleidoscope” on ABC’s affiliate station KETV for over 30 years, and won multiple local, regional and national awards as a reporter, photojournalist and host of a TV show.

“We are pleased to have Council President Gray welcome the attendees to Omaha for our conference as he is well known and respected for his involvement in the Omaha community,” said conference co-chairman Adam Herink. “He believes in practicing social and community responsibility which is an integral part of the renewable energy industry.”

From the opposite end of the state, Senator Schilz represents SchilzNebraska’s Legislative District 47, which consists of the State’s southern panhandle. He was elected in November 2008 and serves as the Chair of the Natural Resources Committee. Senator Schilz graduated from the University Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and returned home to Ogallala to work on the family farm, and later becoming the general manager of the McGinley Schilz Feed Yard.

“Senator Schilz is a proactive leader for the wind and solar industry through legislation and advocacy,” said conference co-chairman John Hansen. “The part of the state he represents has tremendous wind resources, wants to move forward with wind development, and is frustrated when they can see miles of wind turbines across the state line in Colorado.  He has been a consistent leader in supporting wind and solar energy legislation in the Legislature while also helping our state develop a more comprehensive state energy policy.  Senator Schilz has been a leader in helping develop the necessary consensus and support to move renewable energy legislation forward.”

Registration is $200 and student registration is $65. Standard and student registration includes the Consumer Energy Showcase, Tuesday, November 3rd from 5:30 to 8:30 pm at the Hilton Omaha.  The event is open to the general public for a $5 admission fee and includes parking.  Registration and hotel registration information is available at the conference website:




Nebraska Energy Office Director to Speak at Conference

Internationally Recognized Climate and Drought Expert to Speak at Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference

Conference Attendee Favorite to Return as Keynote Speaker

Nebraskans honored as White House “champions of change for sustainable and climate-smart agriculture”

Norfolk Daily News 

In an effort to conserve the use of fossil fuels, [Martin] Kleinschmit now owns and manages MarLin Wind & Solar, LLC. He currently holds positions on a rural water district board and the Nebraska Farmers Union. His wife, Linda, also is a longtime champion for the family farm, preservation of natural resources and the rural way of life. The other Nebraska honorees are Keith Berns and his brother, Brian, who are co-owners and operators of Providence Farms at Bladen. The 2,000-acre diversified family-farming operation and Green Cover Seed, is one of the nation’s leading providers of cover-crop information and seed. Read more here.

Martin Kleinschmit

Martin Kleinschmit

Keith and Brian Berns

Keith and Brian Berns






White House News Release: FACT SHEET: Obama Administration Announces New Efforts to Promote Sustainable and Climate-Smart AgricultureThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced funding for more than 1,100 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers reduce energy usage and costs in their operations nationwide.

Farms flexing solar power

Hammond Farm.1

Rick Hammond has flipped the switch on his new 25-kilowatt solar array, which will power his farm operation west of Benedict. Photo by Matt Ryerson/Lincoln Journal Star

By Nicholas Bergin / Lincoln Journal Star

BENEDICT – On Rick Hammond’s farm, between the gravel road on its east edge and the grain bins where he will store this year’s corn harvest, sit 96 solar panels mounted on two rows of gray metal frames . . . He is one of a growing number of Nebraska farmers, homeowners and businesspeople who have sharpened their pencils, done some math and found small-scale solar arrays will save them money while reducing their carbon footprint . . . Putting up a solar system takes a fair amount of cash up front. Hammond’s array cost $84,864, but a combination of a USDA grant and federal tax credits brought the cost to him down to $19,100. [With payback “in just over six years” and solar modules typically lasting 25 or more years, the Hammond Farm will benefit from free energy for a very long time].

Read more here.

Ways to reduce the cost of a solar system:

  • USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grant covers 25% of the durable-asset investment. (See previous post for more information).
  • Federal Tax Credit of 30% for qualified installations
  • Accelerated depreciation for businesses
  • Self-Employment Tax Credit


Houston Chronicle: Solar power gaining popularity among Nebraska farmers

USDA Seeks Grant Applications for Rural Renewable Energy Projects by October 31st

USDALINCOLN, NEBRASKA – The next deadline for Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) grants is October 31, 2015.  This deadline for grant applications has designated funding for small projects requesting $20,000 or less (25% of total eligible project costs). Grant requests for this round have a simplified, streamlined process and can be as low as $2,500 for renewable energy projects and $1,500 for energy efficiency projects. All agricultural producers, including farmers and ranchers, who derive 50% or more of their gross income from agricultural operations are eligible. Businesses in a rural area, meeting the Small Business Administration size standards, may also apply. A private entity, a rural utility, and rural electric cooperatives are typically eligible; however, nonprofit and public bodies are not eligible.

USDA Rural Development provides financial assistance in the form of grants and guaranteed loans to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements through the REAP.  This program provides funds for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and to make energy-efficiency improvements.  The renewable energy projects range from installation of solar, geothermal, wind, and biomass; and energy efficiency improvements to irrigation systems, poultry houses, upgrading air conditioning, lighting and refrigeration systems.

Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. CST on October 31, 2015.  Please contact Jeff Carpenter, State Energy Coordinator, at the Nebraska USDA Rural Development State Office, Suite 308, Federal Building 100 Centennial Mall North Lincoln, Nebraska 68508, call 402-437-5554 or email

The next funding deadline will be April 30, 2016 for projects of any size with maximum grants limited to $500,000 for renewable energy projects and $250,000 for energy efficiency projects (25% of total eligible project costs).  Any eligible applications not funded during the October 31, 2015 funding cycle will be reconsidered.

To find the office which serves your county visit: on “View All State Program Contacts.” You may also visit this same website for more general information on the program and details on how to apply for funding.


  • Federal Tax Credit of 30% for qualified installations
  • Accelerated depreciation for businesses
  • Self-Employment Tax Credit

USDA Rural Development Awards Funding to 23 Nebraska Recipients to Assist with Energy Needs – August 26, 2015

USDA Invests $63 Million to Support 264 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects—15 Nebraska Energy Projects Funded at Nearly $159,000 – August 12, 2015  

USDA Rural Development Awards Funding to 15 Nebraska Recipients to Assist with Energy Needs – August 4, 2015 

Funding supports Energy Audits in Rural Nebraska to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses in evaluating the energy efficiency of their operations and considering alternative equipment, machinery and systems. – July 7, 2015

USDA Rural Development Awards Funding to 15 Nebraska Recipients to Assist with Energy Needs – June 12, 2015

Nebraskans selected as White House Champions of Change for “Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture”

Champions of ChangeThe White House announced in a press release today that it has chosen 12 individuals from across the nation as Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture. “The Champions have helped implement agricultural practices that promote soil health and energy efficiency, improve water quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The White House will recognize them on Monday, October 26th at 1:00 p.m. Central Time. The event will be live-streamed at Among those who will be honored are Nebraska residents: Keith and Brian Berns of Bladen and Martin Kleinschmit of Hartington. Here is what is written about them in the White House Press Release:

Keith Berns and his brother Brian are co-owners and operators of Providence Farms, a 2,000-acre diversified family-farming operation in Bladen, Nebraska and Green Cover Seed, one of the nation’s leading providers of cover-crop information and seed. Green Cover Seed has grown from supplying seed and information for 1,000 acres of cover crops in 2009 to over 500,000 acres in 2015. Green Cover Seed’s “SmartMix Calculator” is the industry standard for planning and designing cover-crop mixes and is used extensively across the country. Keith spends countless hours educating farmers and ranchers about the importance of soil health and carbon sequestration through field days, workshops, and conferences.

Martin Kleinschmit is the owner of an organic farm in Nebraska that produces grains and raises grass-finished cattle on annual and permanent pastures. The farm maintains natural fertility using crop rotation, cover-crop mixtures and animal impact. After recognizing the need for a high-microbial life to foster carbon sequestration, Martin mentored other farmers through a 4-year program that was instrumental in enrolling over 60,000 Nebraska acres in a USDA organic transition program. In his 17 years serving as a staff member for the Center for Rural Affairs, Martin managed and taught projects to inform farmers of the importance of soil carbon. In an effort to conserve the use of fossil fuels, Martin now owns and manages MarLin Wind & Solar, LLC. He currently holds positions on the rural water district board and the Nebraska Farmers Union.

Solar Array on Martin Kleinschmit's Farm

Solar Array on Martin Kleinschmit’s Farm

Read about all the honorees here

Nebraska Cooperative Included in USDA Awards of Nearly $2.3 Billion in Loans for 77 Rural Electric Infrastructure Projects

Tom VilsackWASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack [yesterday] announced nearly $2.3 billion in loans to build and improve rural electric infrastructure in 31 states.

“Improving our rural electric utility systems will help us continue to provide reliable and affordable electricity to rural customers,” Vilsack said. “By financing these improvements, USDA helps increase efficiencies, reduce carbon emissions and improve the quality of life in rural areas.”

USDA is awarding loans to 77 utilities and cooperatives in 31 states. The funding includes more than $108 million for smart grid technology, $41 million for renewable energy improvements and $9 million for storm damage repairs. These loans will help build or improve 12,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines.

Read more here. 

In Nebraska the Midwest Electric Cooperative Corporation in Grant was awarded a loan of $7,919,000, involving 194 total miles of line, with $1,042,700 for smart grid techology: