Monthly Archives: February 2016

Innovation Drives Shift to a 21st-Century Power Grid


By Phyllis Cuttino, Director of The PEW Charitable Trusts’ Clean Energy Initiative

A new collection of briefs from The Pew Charitable Trusts examines how federal support for microgrids, energy storage, and energy smart tools—much of which is provided to businesses and researchers through the U.S. national laboratories and public-private partnerships—is transforming the power sector from a 100-year-old centralized system to one that incorporates a range of distributed renewable and efficient innovations that can decrease costs, improve grid reliability, reduce emissions, and expand consumer choice. It also outlines the policy
changes—such as improving how system and social benefits are valued and monetized, grid integration standards, technical assistance programs, and financial and planning
incentives—that can further break down barriers to achieving the full promise of distributed energy systems.

The U.S. national laboratories as well as public-private partnerships provide financial resources and access to research facilities that foster innovation in three key areas: Microgrids, Energy Storage and Energy Smart Technologies.

Read more here.

Why (and How) Microgrid Technology Is a Good Power Source 
Energy Storage Backs Up Power Supply
The Smart Grid: How Energy Technology Is Evolving

Rural electric co-ops, traditional bastions of coal, are getting into solar

By David Roberts, Vox

Shutterstock Image

Shutterstock Image

In the US, rural areas and constituencies have typically weighed against progress on clean energy. But that may be changing. A new story out of Wisconsin illustrates that a slow, tentative shift is underway, as rural electricity consumers and the utilities that serve them take a new look at the benefits of solar power. In fact, if you squint just right, you can even glimpse a future in which rural America is at the vanguard of decarbonization. The self-reliance and local jobs enabled by renewable energy are of unique value in rural areas, and rural leaders are beginning to recognize that solar isn’t just for elitist coastal hippies any more.

Click here to continue reading.  

To learn more about Rural Energy For America Program (REAP) grants mentioned in the article, click here. May 2nd is the deadline for the current round of grant applications. 

Governors Sign Energy Policy Pledge

By Steve Johnson, Electric Co-op Today Staff Writer / Editor’s Pick, Energy & Environment

Terry BranstadGovernors’ Accord for a New Energy Future:

The governors said they will direct senior advisers to meet shortly to discuss ways to implement the goals in the accord. “We believe that economic growth and environmental protection aren’t mutually exclusive, but can happen in concert—we can indeed create good paying jobs, lower electricity bills for residents, and embrace greener, cleaner forms of energy,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, a Democrat.

Click here to read three of the governors’ priorities highlighted in the article. 

Photo: Republican Terry Branstad of Iowa, the nation’s longest-serving governor, is among signatories to the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future.  

Warren Buffett’s Statement in Annual Letter to Shareholders on Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s Investments in Renewables

Photo by David Silverman, Getty Photos

Photo by David Silverman, Getty Photos

Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE)
That company has invested $16 billion in renewables and now owns 7% of the country’s wind generation and 6% of its solar generation. Indeed, the 4,423 megawatts of wind generation owned and operated by our regulated utilities is six times the generation of the runner-up utility.

We’re not done. Last year, BHE made major commitments to the future development of renewables in support of the Paris Climate Change Conference. Our fulfilling those promises will make great sense, both for the environment and for Berkshire’s economics.

Click here to read the entire letter.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy is a signatory of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Click here to read Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s pledge. 

San Francisco May Require Solar Panels On All New Buildings

A group of people tour the solar panels on the top of the Moscone Center in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

A group of people tour the solar panels on the top of the Moscone Center in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – New legislation introduced Tuesday by San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener would require all new construction within the city, including residential and commercial buildings, to have solar panels installed. The renewable energy ordinance would make San Francisco the first and only major city in the country to require the installation of solar panels on new buildings. The [legislation] would also help push the city closer toward meeting its goal of having 100 percent of its energy come from a renewable source, according to Wiener’s office.

Click here to continue reading. 

Iowa City’s Solar Tree: 100 Grannies for a Livable Future Lead Groundswell for Downtown Public Art Showcase

Click image to watch YouTube Video, “The Energy Tree”

Click image to watch YouTube Video, “The Energy Tree”

By Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post

As a costly and controversial public art project reaches its final vote for funding at the Iowa City council meeting next Tuesday, a game-changing “solar tree” public art initiative launched by the 100 Grannies for a Livable Future has galvanized a groundswell of support for a more community-based, inclusive and environmentally focused alternative that could serve as a public art model for other American cities.

Incorporating the original purpose of the Black Hawk Mini Park to serve as “guardians of the land,” and as a hands-on follow-up to Iowa City’s recent commitment to the Compact of Mayor’s climate agreement, the 100 Grannies’ proposal is based on the globally acclaimed “Energy Tree” in Bristol, England’s central Millennium Square, which combines “community collaboration, artistic excellence, and science in a public art installation and renewable power source designed to engage the public in energy issues and address social inequality.”

Read the entire post here.

Condensed description of the Energy Tree by Jeff Biggers & 100 Grannies:
According to John Packer, the designer and artist behind the Bristol Energy Tree, “A tree is a metaphor, a playful metaphor – all trees are solar trees.” The Bristol Energy Tree is constructed with multi-directional solar panels for ‘leaves” and eight “roots” that enclose power points for recharging mobile phones. The solar cells are made from recycled fragments of broken panels that would otherwise have gone to waste. 

“The Zero Energy House – Key Features, Benefits & Value” Panel Presentation Hosted by Nebraskans for Solar

Tuesday, March 1st from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.
UNO’s Community Engagement Center, Room 201, 64th & Dodge
This event is free and open to the public. 


  • Tim Hemsath, Associate Professor in UNL’s College of Architecture, Research Fellow, UNL’s Center for Urban Sustainability. Tim was the architect for the ZNETH and ZNETH II energy efficient prototypes working with the College of Engineering.
  • Mahmoud “Moe” Alahmad, PhD, Associate Professor in The Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His industry experience includes over 10 years of infrastructure planning, design and analysis of electrical distribution systems for the built environment.
  • Avery Schwer, PhD, Associate Professor in The Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Director for the Sustainable Communities Project. Teaches the sustainable construction courses. Research focuses on the investigation of renewable and sustainable high performance building & community applications.


  • What are Zero Net Energy Homes?
  • What are their benefits?
  • How do you design and build a Zero Energy Home?
  • How do you transform your existing home into a Zero Energy Home?
  • How affordable are Zero Energy Homes?
  • Are there any Zero Energy Homes available for sale in Nebraska?
  • Can a home produce MORE energy than it uses?

Reserved parking is available in the lot in front of the Community Engagement Center, near the Durham Bell Tower. Refreshments will be served. Please join us and bring a friend! Questions? Email

Water Heaters: As Sexy as a Tesla?

How grid-interactive water heaters are joining the battery revolution,
by Margaret McCall, Rocky Mountain Institute Blog

$3.6 billion/year in value from a grid-interactive fleet of water heaters. Source: RMI.

$3.6 billion/year in value from a grid-interactive fleet of water heaters. Source: RMI.

Water heaters and batteries have one fundamental feature in common: they both store energy, batteries as charge and water heaters as heat. This ability to store energy gives water heaters flexibility. For example, they can be heated at night when power is cheap without jeopardizing your ability to take a hot shower in the morning.

Grid-interactive water heaters (GIWH) are electric water heaters that the grid operator or the local utility can control in real time (or the customer, automated software, or a third party could control them in response to granular retail price signals from the utility). This controllability makes a GIWH valuable for more than just hot showers. For example, in addition to heating water when power is cheap, it can also shut down during yearly system peaks, help integrate renewables, and provide services to the electric grid like frequency regulation. Optimizing water heaters like this can significantly reduce carbon emissions and, as explained below, create billions of dollars in value.

Read the entire blog here.

The Hidden Battery: Opportunities in Electric Water Heating (PDF), Brattle Group Report prepared for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA)

Wisconsin’s Dairyland Power Announces Historic Co-op Solar Advance

Farm Energy.Org

The Wisconsin cooperatives' new facilities will use sun-tracking technology to boost energy generation. Photo credit: pv magazine

The Wisconsin cooperatives’ new facilities will use sun-tracking technology to boost energy generation. Photo credit: pv magazine

Wisconsin’s Dairyland Power Cooperative and its member cooperatives announced a historic investment in solar energy on Wednesday, unveiling plans to build more than 15 megawatts of new solar energy at 12 locations across Wisconsin . . . Brad Klein, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said the Dairyland announcement sends a strong signal to rural electric cooperatives across the Midwest.

Read more here.

According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, “Member-owned electric cooperatives have nearly 240 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity online or on the drawing board across the country.”

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is the national service organization for more than 900 nonprofit rural electric cooperatives and public power districts providing retail electric service to more than 42 million consumers in 47 states and whose retail sales account for approximately 12 percent of total electricity sales in the United States. NRECA’s members include consumer-owned local distribution systems — the vast majority — and 66 generation and transmission (G&T) cooperatives, such as the Dairyland Power Cooperative, that supply wholesale power to their distribution cooperative owner-members.

Wisconsin electric cooperative to procure power from 15 MW of solar PV, by Christian Roselund, pv magazine. Wisconsin currently only has around 25 MW of installed PV, which means that this 15 MW will increase the state’s installed solar capacity by 40%.

Dairyland Power Cooperative Invests Heavily in Solar Energy, by Hope Kirwin, Wisconsin Public Radio. Dairyland’s Business Development Manager Craig Harmes said the new facilities will use sun-tracking technology instead of the typical fixed array.

Utilities want to make money at the edge of the grid, but how?

Utility Dive’s third annual survey of electric utilities shows utilities are looking to
everage new revenue streams

By Robert Walton, Utility Dive

Click image to download survey.

Click image to download survey.

The top emerging revenue streams areas represent a pivot away from traditional rate-based business models, and in many ways, is an embrace of factors which were supposed to contribute to a “death spiral” for utilities. Energy efficiency and demand management services topped the list of emerging revenue streams, with 66% of respondents saying they are pursuing new money-making opportunities in that sector. Community solar and electric vehicle charging infrastructure came in second and third, each noted by more than half of respondents. When you add in distributed storage (40%) and residential rooftop solar (36%), the list of new revenue streams utilities are pursuing looks a lot like the factors once thought to signal their
demise . . . “Solar in general, and community solar in particular, is a hot topic,” said Navigant Senior Analyst Brett Feldman. “That is developing with or without the utilities, so they might as well get a piece of the action and have more control over it.”

Read the entire article here.