Author Archives: Helen Deffenbacher

Wind Energy Tops Coal, Natural Gas in Southwest Power Pool

By Michael Bates, North American Windpower

In 2020, Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a regional transmission organization, became the first grid operator to have wind as its number-one fuel source – outpacing the integration of coal and natural gas. “Maintaining reliability with this large amount of wind is extraordinary,” says Barbara Sugg, president and CEO of SPP. Read more here.

Image Credit: Nebraska Public Power District

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

AI & MORE EFFICIENT SOLAR POWER PLANTS 

Making solar power more efficient, Case Western Reserve University News Release, Newswise
CLEVELAND–Case Western Reserve University computer scientists and energy technology experts are teaming up to leverage the diagnostic power of artificial intelligence (AI) to make solar-power plants more efficient. The work, funded by a three-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is part of a broad $130 million solar-technologies initiative announced by the DOE in 2020—including $7.3 million specifically for machine-learning solutions and other AI for solar applications. 

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Biden administration will replace the entire federal vehicle fleet with EVs, CNET

The current federal vehicle fleet is estimated at
around 645,000 vehicles, and President Biden plans to replace all of them with American-made electric vehicles. The American-made part of this is essential because the announcement was part of Biden’s “Made In America” executive order, which is set to redirect a sizable portion of the government’s spending to American businesses and on American-made products.

Nebraska’s Largest Utilities’ EV Programs & Incentives
Interested in purchasing an electric vehicle or charger? Click a link, below, if you are a customer of one of Nebraska’s largest utilities and want to learn more about their EV programs and incentives, or check your local utility’s website for any available resources.

Renewables Offer Rural America the Economic Development Opportunity of a Generation

By Katie Siegner, Rocky Mountain Institute

The prospect of a deeply decarbonized electricity system raises important considerations and questions. What does the industry’s growth mean for rural America, where most onshore wind and utility-scale solar projects will be sited? How will the US electric grid maintain reliability with high percentages of variable renewable generation? How can we plan new clean energy projects to minimize consumer costs? RMI’s newest report, Seeds of Opportunity, addresses the first question, with subsequent reports planned for those that follow.

As the endpoint of a zero-carbon America becomes more clearly defined, the intent of this report series is to provide a playbook for those who will lead the United States in that direction, from the Biden administration, to grid operators, to county commissioners making renewables siting decisions. Read more here.

Download Seeds of Opportunity: How Rural America Is Reaping Economic Development Benefits from the Growth of Renewables

At the same link, directly above, register for a webinar on February 10 from 11 am to 12 pm with the authors of the Seeds of Opportunity report and community leaders from its three case studies, who will discuss how to effectively foster wind and solar project developments locally. The event will take place via Zoom. An email confirmation will be sent containing the Zoom link to join. 

What the Biggest Corporate Energy Buyers Want from Federal Clean Energy Policy

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

On Monday, a notable subset of the largest U.S. corporations signed on to a statement from the Renewable Energy Buyers Association (REBA), laying out their top federal policy priorities to help them meet their own aggressive decarbonization goals. Among the 34 signatories are tech giants like Amazon, AppleFacebookGoogle and Microsoft, manufacturing heavyweights including Cargill, Clorox and General Motors, and global retail and consumer brands like Disney, Johnson & Johnson, McDonalds, Target and Walmart. Many of these companies have already pledged to zero out their carbon footprints in the next decade or two, whether internally or across their supply chains. Read more here.

ESG & SUSTAINABLE FINANCE

Welcome to a new era of ESG and sustainable finance, by Joel Makower, Chairman and Executive Editor, Green Biz Group

A vast ecosystem is in play. Investors have awakened to the notion that how companies manage environmental and social issues is nearly as key to their risk profile and profitability as are financial fundamentals. Banks and insurers are factoring climate risk and social issues into their products and portfolios, accelerating a shift that’s been gearing up for years.

Companies are warming to a world of deeper transparency and disclosure demands by investors, lenders, customers and others, and are trying to keep up with the dynamic world of standards and frameworks with which they’re being asked to comply. Oh, and it’s the dawn of a new U.S. presidential administration that sees virtue in assertive action on a range of social and environmental issues.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

KELLY SPEAKES-BACKMAN

Biden-Harris Administration picks Energy Storage Association CEO to join senior DoE leadership, Energy Storage News

A former utility commissioner in her home state of Maryland, Kelly Speakes-Backman has been leader of the ESA during a period of fast growth and rapid scale-up for energy storage in the US, with more than 2GW installed during that time.

In a recent interview for Energy-Storage.news, the now former ESA CEO said that the association expected to see at least 3.6GW of storage installed during 2021, and ESA published ‘Vision 2030’ a while ago, citing that the deployment of at least 100GW of energy storage on the grid is both desirable and achievable.

EV CHARGING 

EVgo Seeks $2.6B Public Market Valuation in SPAC Reverse Merger, Greentech Media
The LS Power subsidiary is the second major EV charger company in the U.S. seeking public capital to meet rocketing demand.

HOME HYDROGEN BATTERY

World-first home hydrogen battery stores 3x the energy of a Powerwall 2, New Atlas

To get off the grid with home solar, you need to be able to generate energy when the Sun’s out, and store it for when it’s not. Normally, people do this with lithium battery systems – Tesla’s Powerwall 2 is an example. But Australian company Lavo has built a rather spunky (if chunky) cabinet that can sit on the side of your house and store your excess energy as hydrogen.

SOLAR SCHOOLS

Solar Landscape to Provide Cost-Free Electricity to Asbury Park Schools, Renewable Energy Magazine
Entering into a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), Solar Landscape will provide electricity to the Asbury Park School District at no cost for the entire term of the agreement. This will result in a critical cost savings of more than $120,000 a year for Asbury Park schools.

  • What is a solar power purchase agreement?, Solar Energy Industries Association
  • Solar installers can take advantage of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC)  to significantly reduce the cost of a project whereas schools and other nonprofits cannot.

FEATURED WIND ENERGY RESOURCES

Wind Workforce Webinar Series Offers Insights, Information, and Solutions
To help industry recruit the best and brightest people and to provide students with the essential resources to set them on a path toward a rewarding career in the wind energy workforce, NREL, in partnership with the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), hosted a three-part Wind Workforce Webinar Series as part of American Wind Week 2020.

KidWind Launches the Power Grid Kit
The KidWind Project recently launched the Power Grid Kit—the first large-scale, functioning grid model that provides educators with a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore power grid systems and solutions with students of all ages. The kit models the flow of electricity from generation sources like nuclear, coal, natural gas, wind, hydropower, and solar power through substations before being distributed to industrial, commercial, and residential consumers. It also models distributed generation in the form of solar panels and residential wind turbines to demonstrate the broad range of energy options possible in the future.

Source: Department of Energy’s WINDExchange Newsletter

Nebraska’s better off without Keystone XL

Lincoln Journal Star Editorial Board

Increased investment in renewable energy — wind energy, solar power, electric vehicles, etc. — proves that America’s future will involve fewer fossil fuels going forward, a fact underscored by the growing number of financial institutions and other entities that now refuse to invest in the oil and gas industry . . . The grassroots coalition of environmentalists, farmers, ranchers and property-rights advocates who fought the pipeline tooth and nail can celebrate, knowing their efforts weren’t in vain. Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading

When TC Energy said the pipeline would create nearly 119,000 jobs, a State Department report instead concluded the project would require fewer than 2,000 two-year construction jobs and that the number of jobs would hover around 35 after construction.

The market case, even before the COVID-19 pandemic sent oil prices plummeting, has also deteriorated. Low oil prices and increasing public concern over the climate have led Shell, Exxon, Statoil, and Total to either sell their tar sands assets or write them down. Because of this growing market recognition, major new tar sands projects haven’t moved forward with construction for years, despite investments from the government of Alberta, Canada. For example, in 2020, Teck Resources withdrew its ten-year application to build the largest tar sands mine in history—citing growing concern surrounding climate change in global markets.

Alberta’s Renewable Energy Growth

OPPD Board welcomes new directors, selects new officers for 2021

Omaha Public Power District News Release

A new year brings two new directors, as well as new leadership roles for the Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors. Sara Howard joins the board after being elected to represent Subdivision 2. And Mary Spurgeon also joins the board, elected to represent Subdivision 3. At today’s monthly meeting, directors elected officer positions for the coming year.

  • Amanda Bogner who represents Subdivision 1, will serve as the board chair.
  • Eric Williams, who represents Subdivision 6, will serve as vice chair.
  • Rick Yoder, who represents Subdivision 4, will be the board’s treasurer.
  • Janece Molhoff, who represents Subdivision 7 will serve as secretary.

This week, the board and the public received an update on OPPD’s Power with Purpose (PwP) project. Continue reading here.

Lancaster County’s rules governing turbines still floating in the wind

By Matt Olberding, Lincoln Journal Star

If the Lancaster County Board wants to loosen rules regulating wind farms hoping to build turbines here, members will do so without support of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission. The six commissioners present Wednesday voted unanimously to recommend clarifying rules requiring a third party to perform any necessary noise studies but voted against changes recommended by the Planning Department. Continue reading here. Requires digital subscription.

Related Reading
Local View: Revisiting wind rules, by John Hansen and Ken Haar, Lincoln Journal Star
John Hansen is president of the Nebraska Farmers Union. Senator Ken Haar served in the Legislature from 2009 to 2016.

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

UNIQUE SOLAR CUSTOMER INCENTIVE

Con Edison Can ‘Connect’ Customers With Solar Energy And Savings, News Release, Consolidated Edison Company of New York

Con Edison is offering, free of charge, a device that can save upwards of $1,000 for a residential customer installing a new solar array. The Smart ConnectDER, built by ConnectDER, Con Edison’s partner on the project, allows the customer to avoid the cost of upgrading the circuit breaker panel. It also eliminates the need for excessive electrical boxes on the side of the home.

ConnectDER News Release

ConnectDER Granted U.S. Patent for Plug and Play Distributed Energy Resource Connection

GTM’S ENERGY GANG PODCAST

 

Why Local Solar + Storage Is a Pillar of the Net-Zero Grid

This week on The Energy Gang: we dig into an analysis showing how local distributed resources are a cheaper way to build out the future grid.

 

 

FEATURED SOLAR+STORAGE GUIDE

Understanding Solar+Storage: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Solar PV and Battery Storage, Clean Energy Group

This guide addresses commonly asked questions about solar PV and battery storage technologies. It is based on the results of a survey identifying the most common knowledge gaps around solar and energy storage. The information presented in the guide focuses primarily on customer-sited, behind-the-meter solar+storage installations, though much of the information is relevant to other types of projects as well, including storage-only projects and front-of-the-meter solar+storage projects. It is meant to serve as a starting point to establish a foundation of knowledge and understanding for individuals and organizations beginning to explore solar+storage options for their homes, businesses, or community facilities.

HYDROGEN

Shell Says Hydrogen Is Heavy Transport’s Future. What Now for Biofuels?, Greentech Media
A Deloitte report commissioned by Shell finds that the heavy-freight sector is increasingly planning for a switch to hydrogen. The study, carried out by global accountancy firm Deloitte on Shell’s behalf, questioned 158 executives in the road freight sector in 22 different countries. Of those asked, 70 percent ranked decarbonization as a top-three concern for their business. Many participants interviewed for the Getting into Gear report said they expect hydrogen to be commercially viable in just five to 10 years. 

CO Family Farm Taps Solar to Boost Revenues, Food Production

By Eric Galatas, Public News Service

As the nation moves to ramp up clean-energy productionJack’s Solar Garden, a locally owned farm just south of Longmont, could provide a model for family-scale operations across the U.S. The farm has boosted revenues after planting 3,200 solar panels, enough to power more than 300 homes, and uses the soil underneath to grow produce. Continue reading here.

Photo by the National Renewable Energy Lab: Jack’s Solar Garden in Boulder County offers tours to visiting farmers and local schools to help cultivate the next generation of agrivoltaic farmers.

Additional Recommended Reading & Viewing

  • YouTube Video: Agrivoltaics: Solar Panels Bring Life to Struggling Farms | NowThis

The Land Report

Bill Gates: America’s Top Farmland Owner, The Land Report

Land Report Infographic: Bill and Melinda Gates own farmland across 18 states,
including among their largest holdings 20,588 acres in Nebraska.

In January 2020, The Land Report announced the launch of a sustainability standard that was developed by US farmland owners and operators. Called Leading Harvest, the organization’s goal is to create a sustainability standard that can be implemented across the greatest swath of agricultural acreage. Currently, more than 2 million acres in 22 states and an additional 2 million acres in seven countries are represented. Among the participants in the 13-member Sustainable Agriculture Working Group are Ceres Partners, Hancock Natural Resources Group, The Rohaytn Group, and UBS Farmland Investors.

The Land Report Winter 2020. Posted on January 11, 2021 by the Land Report Editors 

America’s 100 Largest Landowners 2020, The Land Report

Land Report 100

Nebraska Agriculture Fact Card, February 2020, Nebraska Department of Agriculture

Nebraska’s Natural Resources

  • Nebraska’s farms and ranches utilize 45 million acres, 92% of the state’s total land area.
  • Nebraska is fortunate to have aquifers below it. If poured over the surface of the state, the water in those aquifers would have a depth of 37.9 feet.
  • Nearly 80,000 miles of rivers and streams add to Nebraska’s bountiful natural resources.
  • There are 22 million acres of rangeland and pastureland in Nebraska, half of which are in the Sandhills.

Biden Moves To Have U.S. Rejoin Climate Accord

By Nathan Rott, NET

In one of his first acts in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to have the United States rejoin the Paris climate agreement, the largest international effort to curb global warming. The U.S. officially withdrew from the accord to limit climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions late last year, after President Donald Trump began the process in 2017. It is the only country of the nearly 200 signatories that has withdrawn. Read more here.

President Biden halts Keystone XL pipeline project, by David Earl, KETV
In one of his first executive orders, President Biden called the Keystone XL project a “disservice to the national interest” and said that leaving the permit for it in place would not be consistent with his economic and climate imperatives. The Biden Administration said it wants good, union jobs, but wants those workers on the frontlines of the climate crisis, building wind and solar power instead of oil pipelines.

Additional Recommended Reading 

Biden Chooses Virginia Ag Commissioner For Deputy Secretary At USDA

By Chuck Abbott, Successful Farming

Two days before his inauguration, President-elect Biden selected Jewel Bronaugh, the Virginia state agriculture commissioner, as his nominee for deputy agriculture secretary, the No. 2 post at USDA. Bronaugh was among five women who were announced on Monday for deputy secretaries of federal departments and would be the first Black deputy secretary at USDA. The National Black Farmers Association said selection of Bronaugh was “an historic moment” for USDA. “We hope she will use her knowledge of the department to level the playing field for NBFA members as well as other minority and small-scale farmers and to end the culture of discrimination at the USDA,” said NBFA president John Boyd. Read more here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Biden’s Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Meets With Black Farmers, Black Enterprise

According to the Guardian, there are only about 45,000 Black farmers today. In 1920, there were more than one million. During the meeting, Vilsack affirmed his commitment to forging and establishing strong partnerships with organizations that provide assistance and support to Black farmers. Vilsack also wanted to ensure that Black farming organizations have a seat at the table while he is serving . . . If confirmed, Vilsack will take over the USDA at a time when Trump’s trade war with China has made things worse for U.S. farmers, especially small farmers. Bankruptcies have increased for small farmers, even with record levels of federal assistance.

Nebraska Chapter 12 Bankruptcies

Carbon Markets for Farmers

Indianapolis Star articles by Sarah Bowman and London Gibson

  • There is a lot of money on the table with carbon markets. But farmers are skeptical.
    As more greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere and more companies pledge to go carbon neutral, interest in creating a market for carbon capture through agriculture is growing. Agriculture is now being seen by many as an untapped resource, and carbon markets the way to tap it.  “I think the potential is boundless, really,” said Mobley of The Nature Conservancy. “If it can work in Indiana, it can work anywhere in the country — politically, programmatically, with on-the-ground implementation, all of it.”
  • 5 things you need to know about what Biden’s plan for a carbon market means for farmers
    The incoming administration is proposing to create a carbon bank at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would buy credits from farmers and then sell them to corporations for offsets. Several other private carbon market programs have popped up, both from companies and non-profit organizations that are developing their own platforms. 

RegeNErate Nebraska

RegeNErate Nebraska is a network of farmers and ranchers, tribes, urban farmers, supporting businesses, organizations, food consumers, and communities who are committed to a shift away from extractive industrial food production in favor of an ethical and regenerative food system. Lying in the middle of the nation, Nebraska is the heart of our nation, and the culture and principles found here serve as a lifeblood for a well-functioning country. RegeNErate Nebraska’s mission is to redevelop and strengthen our communities from the soil up. This starts with building strong communities. RegeNErate Nebraska Resource Guide

Rural Energy for America Program Grants & Loans

The USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) seeks applications for loan guarantees and grants for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvement projects. The grant terms for renewable energy systems are $2,500 minimum to $500,000 maximum and for energy efficiency grants, $1,500 to $250,000. The next deadline is March 31, 2021 for REAP grants. Guaranteed Loans are accepted on a continuous application cycle. Click the above link to see additional requirements. Program Fact Sheet

For more information contact Nebraska Energy Coordinator Jeff Carpenter at 402-437-5554 or jeff.carpenter@usda.gov.

Federal Investment Tax Credit 

The Solar Investment Tax Credit, Solar Energy Industries Association
Congress passed a multi-year extension of the ITC in 2020:


A Ready-Made Microgrid at Zero Cost? Yep. A Nebraska Utility Did It

By Ethan Howland, Microgrid Knowledge

Lincoln Electric System (LES), the public power utility serving greater Lincoln, Nebraska has set up a microgrid with 5 MW of load to serve critical facilities. The cost? Zero. The microgrid in downtown Lincoln is based around an existing duel-fuel, 29-MW generating unit and a substation and its infrastructure, according to Scott Benson, LES manager of resource and transmission planning. The project didn’t require any new equipment or a microgrid controller.

The US Department of Energy is preparing a publication that highlights the J Street microgrid project as an example of how to use existing infrastructure to provide new community benefits, [Scott Benson, LES manager of resource and transmission planning] said. Read more here.

More Articles About Utility Microgrids, Microgrid Knowledge

Previously Posted

New LES Media Release

NPPD Media Release

  • Mary Harding elected NPPD Board Chair for 2021
    Columbus, Neb. – Mary Harding of Plattsmouth was elected as Chair of Nebraska Public Power District’s Board of Directors for 2021 following that body’s annual election of officers Wednesday in Columbus. Also elected were Jerry Chlopek of Columbus as first vice chair, Melissa Freelend of Kearney as second vice chair, and Ed Schrock of Elm Creek as secretary. NPPD Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Traci Bender was elected treasurer.