Monthly Archives: December 2021

Solar power projects see the light on former Appalachian coal land

By Carey L. Biron, Thomsen Reuters Foundation News

The U.S. government formally began looking at putting renewable energy installations
on disturbed land – including mines, but also contaminated sites and landfills – in 2008. Since then, the RE-Powering America’s Land program has mapped over 100,000 potential sites covering more than 44 million acres.

DICKENSON COUNTY, Virginia – Looking west from Hazel Mountain, Brad Kreps can see forested hills stretching to the Tennessee border and beyond, but it is the flat, denuded area in front of him he finds exciting.

Surface coal mining ended on this site several years ago. But with a clean-up underway, it is now being prepared for a new chapter in the region’s longstanding role as a major energy producer – this time from a renewable source: the sun.

While using former mining land to generate solar energy has long been discussed, this and five related sites are among the first projects to move forward in the coalfields of the central Appalachian Mountains, as well as nationally. Continue reading here.

Virginia’s Clean Energy Legislation

Previously Posted: Interior Investing Over $260 Million to Help Create Jobs and Revitalize Land in Coal Communities, Department of the Interior News Release

DESERT RENEWABLE ENERGY CONSERVATION PLAN


The Biden Administration seeks to conserve 30% of U.S. land by 2030. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is one way to that goal.

See: Road to 30, Center for Western Priorities. Scroll down to learn about this plan and more Ways to Get to 30.

DOI News Release: Interior Department Advances Three Solar Projects in California, Marking Significant Progress to Develop a Clean Energy Economy


The three projects will generate roughly 1,000 megawatts (or 1 gigawatt of power) and are the first projects approved under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) in the desert regions of seven California counties. 

 

Additional Resources

FEATURED REAP STORY FROM NORTH CAROLINA

Salisbury water buffalo farm installs solar panels with help from Rural Energy for America Program, Salisbury Post 

Caring for the buffalo and making products with their milk is hard work, and it also requires a significant amount of energy. That’s why the couple decided to install solar panels on the roof of their milking parlor and creamery last year. They were excited to find out in the spring they were awarded a $13,000 grant to help finance the project from the United States Department of Agriculture through its Rural Energy for America Program.

Next REAP Application Deadline: March 31, 2022

AMERICAN CLEAN POWER ASSOCIATION NEWS & RESOURCES

Celebrating Clean Power’s Progress and Reflecting on ACP’s First Year
ACP was created to unite the power of America’s clean energy industry. Our trade association brings together wind, solar, transmission and storage companies, along with manufacturers and construction companies, project developers and owners/operators, utilities, financial firms, and corporate purchasers of clean power to advance our shared goals and to transform the U.S. power grid to a low-cost, reliable, and renewable power system. 

Featured ACP Resources

Additional recommended reading on the above topic: Three Myths About Renewable Energy and the Grid, Debunked, by Amory B. Lovins and M.V. Ramana, Yale Environment 360

Renewable energy skeptics argue that because of their variability, wind and solar cannot be the foundation of a dependable electricity grid. But the expansion of renewables and new methods of energy management and storage can lead to a grid that is reliable and clean.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Ogallala, Nebraska Public Power announce ‘community solar farm’ project

By Todd Von Kampen,  Scottsbluff Star-Herald

The city of Ogallala and Nebraska Public Power District are poised to make the Keith County seat NPPD’s seventh retail town with a “community solar farm.” The Ogallala City Council Dec. 14 approved buying 13.53 acres south of Country View Campgrounds where solar panels will be installed, Interim City Manager Jane Skinner said last week.

The project should allow the city to cut its NPPD power bills and allow Ogallala residents to do likewise by subscribing for shares, said Pat Hanrahan, the district’s general manager for retail services. Ogallala is one of 79 Nebraska cities and villages where NPPD both sells and delivers electricity. North Platte buys its power from NPPD but distributes it to residents and businesses through city-owned Municipal Light & Water. Read more here.

Links to Additional Information

Photo: Kearney Solar Farm

GRAND ISLAND SENIOR HIGH

Grand Island Public offers ‘pathway’ to a greener world, by Jessica Votipka, Grand Island Independent

“I have a team of students who are designing and building solar phone charge stations for the new Stolley Park Community Gardens. We are hoping to finalize them and install them in March, but the solar panels themselves have been made already.” – Alex Kemnitz, alternative energy and robotics teacher. Next semester Alternative Energy Pathway students are going to do an energy audit on Newell Elementary School, to identify find out how to remedy any energy efficiency weakness, he said. 

Click the following link to learn more about the Academies of Grand Island Senior High.

MORE NEBRASKA NEWS

Key minerals discovered in Nebraska, but challenges loom, by Josh Funk, The Associated Press, York Dispatch

The Biden administration made rare earth elements a focus of its supply chain review earlier this year and is investigating the national security implications of relying so heavily on imports. A task force is planned to identify U.S. sites for production. The new $1 trillion infrastructure plan that provides incentives for electrical vehicles and wind power is expected to boost demand for critical minerals.

Previously Posted

Department of Natural Resources awarded grant for initiative to assess rare earth elements, critical minerals, The Missouri Times

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A partnership between the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the University of Kansas will receive $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to study the feasibility of recovering critical minerals from coal and associated strata in the Cherokee-Forest City Basin, which encompasses Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Osage Nation. The Department of Energy’s Carbon Ore, Rare Earth and Critical Minerals Initiative is a $19 million nationwide effort to assess rare earth elements and critical minerals in fossil fuel-producing areas.

DOE Awards $19 Million for Initiatives to Produce Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals, Department of Energy News Release 

“The very same fossil fuel communities that have powered our nation for decades can be at the forefront of the clean energy economy by producing the critical minerals needed to build electric vehicles, wind turbines, and so much more,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “By building clean energy products here at home, we’re securing the supply chain for the innovative solutions needed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – all while creating good-paying jobs in all parts of America.” 

Production of rare earth elements and critical minerals, which serve as key components to several clean energy applications such as magnets in wind turbines and batteries in electric and conventional vehicles, is a prime example of how DOE is supporting regional economic growth and job creation in regions traditionally home to the fossil fuel industry.

See Also:

U.S. can get to 100% clean energy with wind, water, solar and zero nuclear, Stanford professor says

By Catherine Clifford, CNBC

Mark Jacobson, a Stanford professor of civil and environmental engineering and the director of its Atmosphere/Energy Program, has been promoting the idea of all renewable energy as the best way forward for more than a decade. His latest calculations toward this ambitious goal were recently published in the scientific journal Renewable Energy.

Transitioning to a clean-energy grid should happen by 2035, the study advises, with at least 80% of that adjustment completed by 2030. For the purposes of Jacobson’s study, his team factored in presumed population growth and efficiency improvements in energy to envision what that would look like in 2050. Read more here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING & VIEWING

DOE Establishes New Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Department of Energy News Release, December 21, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the establishment of the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, a new DOE office that will help deliver on President Biden’s bold climate agenda, create new, good-paying jobs for American families and workers, and reduce pollution while benefitting disadvantaged communities.


Job Opportunities

Previously Posted

OPPD News 

OPPD awards contract for battery storage project, by Jodi Baker, The Wire


“We expect energy storage will play a vital part in OPPD’s decarbonization efforts as we add more solar, wind, or other forms of renewable energy in the future,” said Collin Sniff, alternative energy contracts manager for OPPD.

 

Featured Nebraska Wind & Solar Conference Videos 

 

 

 


Utility-Scale Battery Storage

Presented By:

  • Carter Scott, Director, Energy Strategy, Ranger Power
  • Courtney Kennedy, Alternative Energy Program Manager, Omaha Public Power District
  • Moderator: David Rich, Sustainable Energy Manager, Nebraska Public Power District

Community Scale – Solar Battery Storage
Presented By:

  • Jeff Berggren, Nebraska Program Manager, Genpro Energy Solutions
  • Travis Kepler, Director of Engineering, GRNE
  • Drake Becksted, Contracts Administrator, Interconnection Systems, Inc.
  • Moderator: Josh Moenning, Mayor, City of Norfolk

Letter to the Editor by Heidi Heitkamp 

American Farmers Are Leaning Into a Clean Energy Future: Here’s How We Can Help, Progressive Farmer

It’s undeniable that climate change will impact our country’s farmers, but the more pressing question is, how can we help them leverage the tools necessary to fight back? Unlike in previous years, most American farmers today are ready and willing to embrace their role in implementing natural climate change solutions. According to a recent poll from Farm and Rural Life, approximately 80% of American farmers believe climate change is occurring, and more than half of respondents were concerned about the climate’s impact on their operations. 

Heidi Heitkamp is Director of Agriculture for alliantgroup and former U.S. Senator representing North Dakota from 2013 to 2019.

 NRDC Expert Blog 

Accelerating Progress on Clean Vehicles, by Luke Tonachel, Natural Resources Defense Council 

The United States is getting back on the road to cleaning up transportation pollution. This year, multiple states enacted strong pollution standards for cars and freight trucks, helping to accelerate the shift to pollution-free electric vehicles (EVs). Investments in plugs to charge electric vehicles also grew across the country. And, in a fitting cap to 2021, the Biden administration just finalized standards for new passenger cars that will allow all Americans to drive cleaner, more affordable vehicles.

UMWA statement on Build Back Better legislation

News Release, December 20, 2021

[TRIANGLE, VA.] United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“The United Mine Workers and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have a long and friendly relationship. We remain grateful for his hard work to preserve the pensions and health care of our retirees across the nation, including thousands in West Virginia. He has been at our side as we have worked to preserve coal miners’ jobs in a changing energy marketplace, and we appreciate that very much.

“The Build Back Better (BBB) legislation includes several items that we believe are important for our members and their communities – some of which are part of the UMWA’s Principles for Energy Transition we laid out last spring.

“The bill includes language that would extend the current fee paid by coal companies to fund benefits received by victims of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or Black Lung. But now that fee will be cut in half, further shifting the burden of paying these benefits away from the coal companies and on to taxpayers.

“The bill includes language that will provide tax incentives to encourage manufacturers to build facilities in the coalfields that would employ thousands of coal miners who have lost their jobs. We support that and are ready to help supply those plants with a trained, professional workforce. But now the potential for those jobs is significantly threatened.

“The bill includes language that would, for the first time, financially penalize outlaw employers that deny workers their rights to form a union on the job. This language is critical to any long-term ability to restore the right to organize in America in the face of ramped-up union-busting by employers. But now there is no path forward for millions of workers to exercise their rights at work.

“For those and other reasons, we are disappointed that the bill will not pass. We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities.

“I also want to reiterate our support for the passage of voting rights legislation as soon as possible, and strongly encourage Senator Manchin and every other Senator to be prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Anti-democracy legislators and their allies are working every day to roll back the right to vote in America. Failure by the Senate to stand up to that is unacceptable and a dereliction of their duty to the Constitution.”

From The White House Briefing Room

Readout of Investment Roundtable Hosted by the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization

The discussion highlighted how President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are already catalyzing economic activity in energy communities and how the Build Back Better Act will further expand economic opportunity in these communities. 

What We’re Watching in Reconciliation: Regular Updates from EDF

By Danielle Arostegui, Environmental Defense Fund Blog

NFS Note: The House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better
Act on November 19.
The final vote was 220-213.

Dec. 13 EDF Update: Build Back Better Act moves through the Senate; White House releases new Executive Order building on climate investments.

[Even] as we wait for the Build Back Better Act to move through the Senate, the White House is not hesitating to act on the climate crisis. [On December 8] President Biden signed an Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs through Federal Sustainability and released a Federal Sustainability Plan detailing the government’s plan to “walk the talk” on clean energy. 

While the Build Back Better Act contains the administration’s flagship climate programs, including clean energy tax credits, clean manufacturing incentives, environmental justice investments, a civilian climate corps, and funding for low-carbon procurement, all of these investments will complement and accelerate the initiatives articulated in the Executive Order. In turn, the Executive Order provides an unprecedented demand-pull for clean technologies, amplifying the benefits of the investments in the Build Back Better Act.  Read more here.

Want a primer on the key issues EDF will be watching? Read all about them here.

The Environmental Defense Fund is a leading national nonprofit organization representing more than 2.5 million members and activists. In 2017 EDF celebrated 50 years of progress.

Photo Credit: John Williams, Flickr

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Celebrates Expansion of Locally-Led Conservation Efforts in First Year of “America the Beautiful” Initiative, December 20, 2021

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration issued its first annual progress report on the America the Beautiful initiative, highlighting steps the Administration has taken over the past year to support locally-led and voluntary efforts to conserve, connect, and restore lands and waters across the nation that sustain the health of our communities, power local economies, and help combat climate change.

Omaha utility and environmentalists agree on the path to net-zero — but not the timeline

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

The Omaha Public Power District and the Sierra Club, often at odds over energy issues, have found some important common ground: The utility can achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at minimal additional cost — or even slightly reduced cost — to customers. 

The utility and environmental group both recently made public the results of computer modeling by consultants to determine how the utility could meet its net-zero goal while minimizing impacts on reliability, resiliency, and affordability. Continue reading here.

Photo: Omaha Public Power District’s Nebraska City Station. Credit: Ammodramus / Creative Commons

Additional Recommended Reading

American Public Power Association: The Need for Direct Payment Of Refundable Tax Credits for Public Power 

Tax-exempt entities, including public power utilities, cannot directly benefit from either the ITC or PTC for a facility that they own. Some entities with little to no tax liability do jointly own qualifying facilities with a “tax equity” partner whose sole role is to monetize an ITC or PTC. However, a public power utility cannot feasibly enter this sort of “partnership flip” transaction.  Public power utilities can indirectly benefit from such credits by entering long-term power-purchase agreements with taxable entities that can claim these credits. However, the transactional costs of such agreements can be high. Additionally, only a portion of the value of the tax credit is generally considered to be passed on to the purchaser, thus muting the incentive effect.

These costs and limitations are problematic in that tax-exempt entities serve a substantial percentage of the nation’s retail electric customers (14.4 percent by public power and 13.0 percent by rural electric cooperatives). Additionally, omitting tax-exempt entities from energy-related tax incentives makes it more costly for public power utilities to make investments in renewable and other non-emitting resources and clean energy technologies that will be needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. This is a significant shortcoming if Congress is seeking market-wide changes in energy-related investment and production decisions.

Lancaster Co. approves permit for State’s largest solar farm

KOLN

The Lancaster County Board gave approval Thursday to a special permit that would allow construction of the Salt Creek solar project, which would be the largest solar installation in Nebraska, stretching approximately between O Street and Havelock, from 120th to 190th Streets on the east side of Lincoln. Read more here.

Previously Posted: Opponents make last attempt to convince Lancaster County Board to deny solar farm permit, Lincoln Journal Star

USDA Invests $5.2 Billion to Build and Improve Critical Rural Infrastructure in 46 States and Puerto Rico

USDA News Release, December 16, 2021

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is investing $5.2 billion to build and improve critical rural infrastructure in 46 states and Puerto Rico. The investments reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to Building a Better America by investing in rural communities and will help expand access to high-speed internet, clean water and reliable electricity in people’s homes and businesses across rural America. Read more here.

Water & Environmental Programs
USDA investments in Nebraska by types and amounts:

Village of Mason City – Loans: $537,000 / Grants: $482,000
Village of Page – Grants: $82,000
Village of Whitney – Loans: $203,000 / Grants: $432,000

Electric Loans Total: $4,064,469,000
Just one example of USDA’s investments in this infrastructure category: $550 million to the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, a nonprofit created and owned by a network of rural electric cooperatives, with 1,000 member owners across 49 states. Headquartered in the State of Virginia.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

The roundtable focused on new private sector and philanthropic investments that have been spurred by the Administration’s efforts to support economic revitalization in energy communities. The roundtable also discussed the announcement of initial awards from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) $300 million Coal Communities Commitment to support economic revitalization, infrastructure investments, and quality jobs in coal communities with funding from the American Rescue Plan.

“Weatherization retrofits and home energy upgrades – like heat pumps, LED lighting, insulation and sealing up leaks — cuts monthly energy bills for families by up to 30%, and makes our air healthier,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Thanks to the investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, DOE will be able to help even more communities, cut more air pollution, and generate good-paying local jobs.” For more information about this effort, visit the Weather Assistance Program website.

Previously Posted

City of Greensburg offers advice, assistance to Mayfield, Ky. following deadly tornado

By Shawn Loging, KWCH, Greensburg, Kansas

After the Greensburg tornado, the small Kansas town committed to the goal of sustainability in the build-back process, and the municipal utility became 100 percent renewable. Bob Dixon is the former mayor of Greensburg. He saw and directed this city’s return, but he says in these early days, after a disaster, you have to remember those who lost their lives.

“You need to make sure you honor the lives lost, but at the time, realize that there’s some success being made,” said Dixon.

Bob’s daughter and current city administrator Stacy Barnes and current mayor Matt Christenson both grew up in Greensburg but had moved away when the tornado hit. Both moved back to watch the town come back from its defining moment. Read more or watch the video here.

Related 

Photo: Aerial view of Mayfield, Kentucky on December 12, 2021. Credit: State Farm via Wiki Commons

UNITED POWER & TRI-STATE G&T

United Power Files Notice Of Intent To Leave Tri-State Generation and Transmission, United Power News Release, December 14, 2021

Brighton, Colorado/Washington D.C. — United Power, a rural electric cooperative based in Brighton, Colorado, today filed its Notice of Intent to withdraw from the membership of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, D.C., effective January 1, 2024. The two-year notice period was accepted by FERC in an October 29, 2021 ruling. United Power is the largest member of Tri-State and accounts for nearly 20% of the G&T’s annual revenue.

Additional Recommended Reading: Will Tri-State’s exit fee dispute at FERC shake up the cooperative utility model?, by Ethan Howland, Utility Dive

Nebraska Tri-State members seeking exit fees: Wheat Belt Public Power District and the Northwest Rural Public Power District.

FEATURED NEBRASKA WIND & SOLAR CONFERENCE VIDEO

Tri-State G&T – Responsible Energy Plan
Duane Highley, CEO, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association
Moderator: Ken Curry, Vice President, Nebraska Public Power District

NEBRASKA DED PROGRAM

Village of Hemingford Fosters Entrepreneurial Growth to Launch Solar, Social Development, Nebraska Department of Economic Development News Release, EIN Presswire

Ongoing business development and efforts to expand renewable energy opportunities in the village of Hemingford (pop. 806) have earned continued recognition from the State of Nebraska. This week, the Department of Economic Development (DED) announced Hemingford’s recertification in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. Gov. Pete Ricketts’ West Central Director and Western Nebraska Development Consultant for DED, Brittany Hardin, honored local leaders during a special presentation on December 14. Hemingford is one of 31 Nebraska LCC’s, and was western Nebraska’s first community to qualify for the program, which was created in 2011 to help villages and municipalities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development.

NATIONAL EV CHARGING ACTION PLAN

FACT SHEET: The Biden-⁠Harris Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan, December 13, 2021
Today, the Biden-Harris-Administration is releasing an EV Charging Action Plan to outline steps federal agencies are taking to support developing and deploying chargers in American communities across the country. As a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Transportation (DOT) will establish a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation focused on deploying EV infrastructure, working hand-in-hand to collect input and guidance from industry leaders, manufacturers, workers, and other stakeholders that will ensure the national network provides convenient charging for all. The initial focus will be building a convenient, reliable public charging network that can build public confidence, with a focus on filling gaps in rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach locations.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Midlands Voices: Getting off of coal quickly can save the Missouri River

This summer the writer kayaked the 2,341 miles of the Missouri River, documenting the impacts to surrounding communities of the coal plants he encountered along the way, raising awareness about climate change and the need for bolder, swifter action.

By Graham Jordison, Omaha World-Herald

Paddling the Missouri River was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I knew the challenges that lay ahead and I learned to embrace them. At times I was uncertain whether I would finish my journey, but I knew in the end it would make me a better person. I know that OPPD ‘s path to decarbonization will the the hardest thing the utility will overcome. OPPD too will face challenges that it will have to embrace, but in the end it will be a much better company for Omaha and all of Nebraska. 

I hope you will join me in urging the OPPD board and senior leadership to choose an accelerated decarbonization pathway to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2035 and stop burning coal in the next decade. Read more here.

Graham Jordison of Lincoln is a Sierra Club organizing representative.

You can write to OPPD Board Members and Senior Managers HERE.

Related Reading

OPPD YouTube Video: Pathways to Decarbonization: Energy Portfolio Final Results

NEBRASKA PUBLIC POWER DISTRICT 

NPPD Board approves net-zero carbon goal by 2050, NPPD News Release

NPPD President and CEO Tom Kent says, “We believe it will take a variety of actions to reach this goal, from alternative fuels, energy efficiency projects, lower or zero carbon emission generation resources, carbon capture, carbon-offsets, beneficial electrification, energy storage, and other new emerging technologies that may not yet be commercially available or have yet to be developed.”

NPPD Leadership

ACP Statement on Nebraska Public Power District net-zero carbon emissions goal, American Clean Power Association

FEATURED NEBRASKA WIND & SOLAR CONFERENCE VIDEO


Nebraska Public Power Utilities CEO Panel

  • Tom Kent, CEO, Nebraska Public Power District
  • Kevin Wailes, CEO, Lincoln Electric System
  • Javier Fernandez, CEO, Omaha Public Power District
  • Moderator: Stephen Bruckner, Partner, Fraser Stryker