Monthly Archives: April 2022

USDA Seeking Applications for Rural Energy For America Grants & Loans

Next Deadline: October 31, 2022 

What does this program do?
The program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Agricultural producers may also apply for new energy efficient equipment and new system loans for agricultural production and processing.

Who may apply for this program?

  • Agricultural producers with at least 50 percent of their gross income coming from agricultural operations.
  • Small businesses in eligible rural areas.

Learn more here: Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants in Nebraska

Above Photo: In 2015 Rick and Heidi Hammond installed a 25-kilowatt photovoltaic system on their farm west of Benedict in York County, Nebraska. The project estimate at the time was $84,864; however, a USDA grant and federal tax credits reduced the cost to only $19,100, The payback was just over 6 years, which was achieved in 2021. Solar panels typically last 30 or more years.
Installers: MarLin Wind & Solar and North Star Solar Bears

Another Local Example: The Brummond Farm

Click the link, below, to access a Successful Farming story published in 2021 about the Brummond Farm near Craig, Nebraska. The installer, Graham Christensen of GC ReVOLT, offers renewable energy grants writing among the company’s services. The Solar Power Bonanza: Farmers Can Readily Tap Into The Explosive Growth In Solar Generation

Most Recent Nebraska REAP Grant Awardees

USDA Invests Nearly $800 Million in Critical Infrastructure to Combat Climate Change Across Rural America This Earth Day, USDA News Release 

In Nebraska, six recipients were awarded grants under the Rural Energy for America Program. Recipients here are: in Albion, MSJM Properties Partnership, Marilee Niewohner, and Niewohner Grandchildren’s Limited Partnership; in Boyd, Valley Foods Cooperative; in Holdrege, Spady Buick Pontiac GMC Inc.; and in Monroe, Alan G Preister. Combined, they were awarded $68,500 for projects that will save or generate 491,444 kWh per year, enough energy to power 45 homes annually. 

“I encourage Nebraskans to connect with us to find out how USDA can partner with them for their energy conservation needs. For more information, contact Jeff Carpenter, energy coordinator, at (402) 437-5554 or at NE.RBCS@usda.gov,” said Bolz. 

Information on the federal investment tax credit (currently 26%), energy audits, depreciation, NDEE loans and more can be found here: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency – Nebraska.

Quick Links

The US generated a record 18% of its electricity from wind and solar in March

By Michelle Lewis, Electrek

Last month, the US generated 18% of its electricity from wind and solar (59 TWh) for the first time. That beat the previous record set in March 2021 (53 TWh), according to new data from global energy think tank EmberThe International Energy Agency states that in order to reach net zero, wind and solar need to reach 20% of global electricity by 2025 and 70% by 2050. Read more here.

MORE NEWS & RESOURCES

RECENT DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY BLOG POSTS & NEWS RELEASES 

Solar project helps power the community, more importantly empower students

By Steve White, Nebraska TV

GRAND ISLAND, Neb — Power tools replace textbooks which is fitting for students learning to wire the world. “They designed and built solar panels, designed and built mounts,” explained teacher Alex Kemnitz. Grand Island Senior High’s alternative energy program attracted the attention of future engineer Mason Messmer. “The field I want to go into deals with solar panels and wind and this will really help with my future,” the high school junior said. Continue reading or watch the video here.

Photo: Alex Kemnitz

Previously Posted

Grand Island Public offers ‘pathway’ to a greener world, by Jessica Votipka, Grand Island Independent, December 26, 2021

“I have a team of students who are designing and building solar phone charge stations for the new Stolley Park Community Gardens.” – 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.

Creighton University 1st Place Winner in Department of Energy’s Solar District Cup Class of 2021-2022

On April 25, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the first-, second-, and third-place winners in each division. Following the announcement, the three first-place teams presented to a public audience, who voted for the Project Pitch Champions.

“The Solar District Cup convenes college competitors to accelerate the transition to the clean energy future and to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district energy system. The Creighton team designed a proposed distributed energy system for Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Their proposal included strong photovoltaics system design, tracker angular rotation schedule, distribution analysis, and financial analyses.”

The Solar District Cup is directed and administered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and is funded by the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office. Learn more here.

Conservation Nebraska Event This Saturday!


One of the students representing Creighton University in the competition was Max Markuson DiPrince, who will be Conservation Nebraska’s guest speaker this Saturday, April 30th at 10 a.m. for a virtual presentation that was recently announced in our: Special Earth Month Edition Newsletter.

Register to attend the event at the link provided.

PV in the Circular Economy: Modeling tool helps predict flow of solar materials

By Anne Fischer, Senior Editor, PV Magazine

Exponential growth of PV installations continues in the US and so will the growth in PV panel waste streams. According to the Solar Futures Study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), solar could account for as much as 40% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2035 and 45% by 2050.

To reach these levels, solar deployment will need to grow by an average of 30 GW each year between now and 2025 and then double that between 2025 and 2030—four times its current deployment rate—to total 1,000 GW of solar deployed by 2035. That’s a lot of solar panels that would start being retired from service even before 2050. Needless to say, a lot of people–including 7-year old Neil— are concerned about what will happen to solar modules at the end of their life. That concern is real and growing, and is the subject of much study around the world. Continue reading here.

Referenced PV Magazine Article: Neil – a second grader from Minnesota – is concerned about solar panel recycling

Above Photo: Local Reuse Project
The Meristem Aronia Berry Farm And Nursery In Papillion provides an excellent example of reusing solar panels that still have life left in them. The solar panels heat a 700-gallon water tank that powers a propagating bench for the farm’s aronia berry plants. The owner, Tom Lundahl, received a grant to purchase the used solar panels, and Michael Shonka, owner of Solar Heat and Electric, installed them. Photo by Tom Lundahl
News Story: Papillion farmer installing solar panels says renewable energy is future of farming, KETV

Solar Schools
Additional examples include schools throughout the country that are reusing still-working solar panels and other PV system components for onsite STEM learning opportunities. The National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project has written a companion curriculum guide:
Schools Going Solar: Data driven lessons and activities to support and incorporate installed photovoltaic systems into the classroom learning environment.

State Policies & Laws
Nebraska does not yet have end-of-life policies for reusing and recycling solar panels and other PV system components. States that have enacted laws, regulations, and policies include: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, North Carolina and Washington. Source: State Solar Panel End-of-Life Policies, EPA

Related PV Magazine Articles

Department of Energy 

End-of-Life Management for Solar Photovoltaics, DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office

Most PV systems are young—approximately 70% of solar energy systems have been deployed in the past five years. The estimated operational lifespan of a PV module is about 30-35 years, although some may produce power much longer. So, while there are not many systems entering the waste stream right now, more systems will come to the end of their useful life in the next few decades.

Read about SETO’s PV End-of-Life Action Plan,
March 2022.

Cass County officials seek outside counsel on solar project

By Ethan Hewett, KMA News

During its latest regular meeting, the county’s board of commissioners approved seeking outside counsel on a proposed solar farm through Boulevard Associates–which would be one of the largest in the state. While saying the board has not selected specific counsel yet, County Zoning Administrator Mike Jensen tells KMA News the outside perspective was sought to assist with reviewing a large amount of information soon to be placed in front of the county. In August 2021, the commissioners approved an updated set of solar regulations. While saying he and the board are confident in their regulations, Jensen says a big focus has been on the decommissioning process. Read more here.

NextEra Energy Resources is the parent company for Boulevard Associates, LLC.

Previously Posted: Cass County solar farm plans unveiled, by Ethan Hewett, KMA News

Nebraskans for Solar Note: We commend Cass County officials for their plan to thoroughly study Boulevard Associates’ proposal for a 350MW solar project near Murray and for consulting with other jurisdictions. This sets an excellent example for all Nebraska communities that are considering or are in the process of planning community- or utility-scale solar projects.

One large (81MW) project under development by Community Energy is “Platteview Solar” in eastern Saunders County, near Yutan:

Resources On Decommissioning / PV Recycling

NextEra Energy Resources

Lincoln officials announce new electric vehicle infrastructure plan

By Nolan Dorn, KLKN TV

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Lincoln officials announced a new initiative on Thursday that is aimed at helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Lancaster County. The main goal of the Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan is to help the city become more electric-car friendly.  It will create the infrastructure needed for those electric vehicles. Leaders across the county hope that this plan will help people use renewable resources and move away from fossil fuels. Continue reading here.

OMAHA

Saving Planet Omaha: City Takes First Steps toward A Greener Future, But Challenges Remain, by Regan Thomas, The Reader

To date, 417 cities, including 35 of the 50 largest, have some form of plan to address adverse weather effects. Today, about one in three Americans live in a place that has a Climate Action Plan.

For Omaha to catch up to other cities like Des Moines, Lincoln and even Crete, which all have or have started a Climate Action Plan, city officials need to work effectively, said Craig Moody, managing principal at Verdis Group, a sustainability and climate planning consultancy in Omaha. Moody’s organization has long helped cities like Lincoln build their own plans, and one week after last August’s flash foods, Moody published a blog giving cities a how-to guide for “one of the most important things a community can do to accelerate climate action,” saying these documents are meant to be used, not sit on a shelf.

Additional Recommended Reading: For Earth Day, key facts about Americans’ views of climate change and renewable energy, Pew Research Center

NEW ENVIRONMENT AMERICA REPORT

Shining Cities 2022: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy,
Environment America Research & Policy Center

Solar power continues to expand rapidly. The United States now has 121.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, producing enough solar energy to power more than 23 million homes. Millions of Americans have invested in solar energy and millions more are ready to join them.

America’s major cities have played a key role in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap tremendous benefits from solar energy. As population centers, they are major sources of electricity demand and, with millions of solar rooftops, they can be major sources of clean energy production as well.

Additional Recommended Reading: From Earth Day 1970 to 2022: A story of progress 
The rise of solar power since the first Earth Day is just one example of how far we’ve come.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

On Earth Day, USDA Invests Nearly $800 Million in Critical Infrastructure to Combat Climate Change Across Rural America

U.S. Department of Agriculture News Release

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2022 – Today, in honor of Earth Day 2022, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing nearly $800 million in climate-smart infrastructure (PDF) in 40 states, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. These investments will strengthen the health and livelihoods of people across rural America. They include funding for 165 projects to expand access to safe water and/or clean energy for people living in disadvantaged communities.

Today’s announcement is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Building a Better America Rural Infrastructure Tour, during which Biden Administration officials are traveling to dozens of rural communities to talk about the impact of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments, as well as President Biden’s broader commitment to ensure federal resources reach all communities in rural America. This announcement also furthers the President’s Justice40 Initiative, which commits to delivering at least 40 percent of the benefits from federal climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities. Continue reading here.

Additional Recommended Reading

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Releases Statement on President Biden’s Executive Order to Strengthen America’s Forests, Boost Wildfire Resilience, and Combat Global Deforestation

Statement by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Earth Day, Department of Energy News Release 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm today issued the following statement in honor of Earth Day: 

“In the more than 50 years since the first Earth Day, climate change has escalated into a crisis no one can ignore. That’s why this Earth Day, and every day, the Department of Energy is accelerating our nation’s progress toward a clean energy future by investing in workers, communities, businesses, and the planet.   

Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, America is investing $62 billion through the Department of Energy to lay the foundation for a clean energy economy. With the rest of the President’s agenda to Build a Better America, we’ll finally get on a path to 100% clean power by 2035 and net zero emissions by 2050—while increasing American clean energy independence and creating millions of good-paying jobs.” 

Watch an Earth Day message from Secretary Granholm and other Cabinet members here.

Conservation officials blast Gov. Ricketts’ opposition to ‘America the Beautiful’ initiative,

By Paul Hammel, Nebraska Examiner

LINCOLN — Conservation groups on Thursday lambasted claims by Gov. Pete Ricketts and a property rights group that a presidential proposal to restore forests and river banks, enhance federal conservation efforts and protect endangered species is a “land grab.” Officials with the Nebraska Farmers Union, Nebraska Wildlife Federation and other conservation groups said President Joe Biden’s “America the Beautiful Initiative,” initially called the “30-by-30” plan, is a voluntary program to enlist farmers and ranchers in conserving more land to benefit wildlife and combat climate change. Continue reading here.

Poll Discussed In The Article 

New Polling Data Shows Nebraska Voters Overwhelmingly Support Voluntary Conservation Programs and America the Beautiful Goals, Nebraska Farmers Union, April 21, 2022 

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – Nebraska Farmers Union was joined today by leaders from three conservation organizations to release the findings of a new public opinion poll that shows overwhelming support from Nebraska voters for conservation programs, including the national goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. Majorities across all parties support the national 30×30 targets, including 64 percent support among Nebraska Republicans, 90 percent support among Democrats, and 88 percent support among Independents.

MORE NEBRASKA NEWS 

Small actions can lead to bigger actions in climate change fight

By Brent Weber, WOWT

It can seem daunting, the idea of maintaining sustainability in Nebraska in the face of unprecedented global warming. But many of those we talked to for the 6 News Earth Week series, agreed, we all need to just take a deep breath and do something.

Don Preister is the guiding force behind Green Bellevue and he fights climate change by doing things he’s always done. He hangs his clothes on a line to dry, grows a healthy garden, plants hardy, drought-resistant grass, and captures more energy through his solar cells than he uses. Continue reading here.

From Solar Examples, Nebraskans for Solar
Don Priester’s Home In Bellevue
Project: 8.4-kilowatt, grid-tied, OPPD net-metered system, ground mounted on south-facing slope with 28 optimizers. Installation was completed in December 2016, with enough capacity for all electrical needs in an all-electric residence of 2000 sq. ft. with a geothermal heat pump. There is extra capacity to charge his electric vehicle.
Photo Credit: The Reader 
Installer: Solar Heat & Electric with help from the Preister brothers

More Earth Month News Stories by Brent Weber