Author Archives: Helen Deffenbacher

Department of Energy Update

Sent by Email, May 18, 2022

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a series of announcements involving its Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) offices. In case you missed them, read on for a short summary of an exciting day for clean energy.

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From The White House Briefing Room: White House Releases Technical Assistance Guide to Help Communities Unlock Resources From Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Today, the White House released a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law technical assistance guide to help state, local, Tribal and territorial governments navigate, access, and deploy infrastructure resources that will build a better America. The Biden Administration has identified over $700 million in dedicated funding across more than 65 technical assistance programs. In addition to highlighting federal government technical assistance, the White House Infrastructure Implementation Team has engaged with a range of external stakeholders including, philanthropic, labor and nonprofit organizations, to highlight available nongovernmental resources and create a pipeline to assist communities in quickly and equitably accessing and deploying federal infrastructure funding.

Over 90% of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s historic funding will be deployed by non-federal partners. In the past, too many communities have lacked the resources to apply for and deploy transformative infrastructure opportunities. This guide, building on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Guidebook and Rural Playbook, highlights programs that help communities navigate programs and resources that can help them deliver infrastructure projects.  While some of these programs offer hands-on and intensive planning and delivery support for communities, others are more self-directed resources and tools such as webinars and websites, or funding that can support project planning.

Hundreds of environmental, consumer groups request investigation of electric utility industry

Contributed by Solar United Neighbors, Solar Power World

More than 230 consumer, environmental and public interest groups urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the electric utility industry for widespread abuses. These include bribery, fake dark-money campaigns and denying customers access to renewable energy.

Some of the abuses described in the petition include:

  • An Ohio utility, FirstEnergy, paid $60 million in bribes to the Ohio House speaker’s political machine. In return, the utility secured a $1 billion ratepayer-funded bailout for several of its unprofitable nuclear and coal plants.
  • Florida Power and Light spent millions of dollars on political consultants who engineered a scheme to siphon votes to third-party “ghost candidates” from candidates committed to holding utilities accountable, according to reporting by the Orlando Sentinel. The ghost candidate won in all three races. One utility opponent lost by just 32 votes.
  • A recent national survey found that nearly three-quarters of solar developers experience delays in interconnecting projects to the electric grid. Eighty-five percent of respondents specifically named utility noncompliance with interconnection procedures as a problem. These delays can increase the cost of distributed solar projects and cause customers to back out of long-delayed projects. Minnesota regulators fined Xcel Energy $1 million for failing to keep pace with a backlog of projects. Two years later the backlog remains a barrier to solar growth.

Read more here.

Photo: Federal Trade Commission building. Credit: Wikipedia

MORE U.S. NEWS

Summary: The U.S. economy has been deeply impacted by supply chain constraints. These constraints are due to shortages of labor and multiple classes of materials, causing disruptions on a global level. For public power utilities, the ability to provide reliable and affordable power to homes, businesses, and critical facilities is foundational to both their business model and the recovery and expansion of the U.S. economy. Prioritization of critical electric infrastructure and the electric industry’s critical functions during this period of material shortages and delays is necessary to prevent further economic slowdown and ensure electric reliability.

GLOBAL NEWS

Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rises, ocean heat levels and acidification, all set new records during 2021, while some glaciers reached the point of no return, according to the latest flagship report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), published on Wednesday. The State of the Climate 2021 indicates that extreme weather – the day-to-day face of climate change – wreaked a heavy toll of human lives, triggered shocks for food and water security, and led to hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses last year.

INNOVATIVE COOPERATIVE VENTURE

Democratizing clean energy: cooperative allows regular folks to profit from solar development, Wisconsin State Journal

A new venture is offering Wisconsin residents and businesses an opportunity to profit from solar energy development. A joint venture of Renew Wisconsin and a group of solar developers and installers, SolarShare Wisconsin co-op allows regular people — regardless of wealth — to invest in small-scale solar farms by pooling their money . . . Unlike large-scale solar farms, which require hundreds or thousands of acres and can generate local opposition, projects of that size can typically be built on less than 40 acres and connected directly to the local distribution grid rather than long-distance transmission lines.

Nebraskans for Solar Note: Nebraska has many very small towns and villages with fewer than 1000 residents where small-scale solar projects could provide a significant percentage of their electricity needs.

DeSantis net-metering veto highlights path for solar in red states, advocates say

By Dan Haugen, Energy News Network

Gov. DeSantis’ veto “definitely turned some heads,” said Tyler Duvelius, external affairs director for Conservatives for Clean Energy, but it maybe shouldn’t have been a complete shock given his previous actions on clean energy and climate. “In a sense, he was listening to his constituents in Florida, but I also think that clean energy is something Gov. DeSantis cares about as an economic driver for Florida,” Duvelius said. And in that sense, he sees DeSantis as part of a growing movement of conservatives who are starting to cut red tape and promote clean energy industries in their states. He cited Texas Gov. Greg AbbottIowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt as examples of conservatives who are promoting clean energy in their states.  Read more here.

Net Metering in Nebraska

If your local utility is not one of these, search its website for resources on net metering.

Previously Posted: Utilities push back against growth of rooftop solar panels, NBC News

Photo: Jerry Buechler, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, cleans the 28 solar panels on his roof in 2019. He is a retired firefighter and the founder of the Treasure Coast Solar Co-op. Credit: Leah Voss, TCPalm via Imagn Content Services, LLC 

Also Of Potential Interest

DOE Funding Opportunity For Agrivoltaics Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced the Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale (FARMS) funding opportunity, which will award $8 million in funding for projects that examine how agrivoltaics can scale up to provide new economic opportunities to farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry. Agrivoltaics is defined as agricultural production, such as crop production, livestock grazing, and pollinator habitat that exist underneath solar panels and/or in between rows of solar panels.

Projects will conduct a range of activities, including integrated agriculture-energy impact studies examining how agrivoltaic designs impact both agriculture production and energy production. Some projects will study how agrivoltaics can fit into existing agricultural communities and economies or enable new ones, while others will develop resources that will lower the barriers of entry to agrivoltaics, making it easier for agricultural producers and solar developers to benefit from these opportunities.

SETO’s goal is to reduce barriers to the deployment of utility- and community-scale solar energy necessary to meet the Biden administration’s goals for equitably decarbonizing the electricity sector by 2035. Scaling up the co-location of solar energy and agriculture has the potential to and provide additional benefits to farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry.

DOE expects to make between 4 and 6 awards under FARMS, each ranging from $1-2 million. SETO is interested in projects that partner with farmers who are pursuing climate-smart and sustainable agriculture and are considering agrivoltaics to enhance the economic efficiency and sustainability of small- and medium-size farms. Additionally, SETO is interested in projects that offer economic benefits to underserved communities in agricultural regions.

To facilitate the formation of teams, SETO is providing a Teaming Partner List where interested parties who would like to apply to the FOA, but not as the prime applicant, may express interest to potential partners.

Prior to submitting a full application for this opportunity, a mandatory letter of intent is due on June 1, 2022 at 5 p.m. ET.

SETO will host an informational webinar on May 12, 2022 at 3 p.m. ET to discuss the funding program and the areas of focus. Register for the webinar.

Learn more about this funding opportunity and other open funding opportunities within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

UNL CENTER FOR AGRICULTURAL PROFITIBILITY WEBINAR

Managing Through Drought with USDA Conservation and Assistance Programs
May 12 at Noon CT

Drought conditions persist across much of the country and both livestock and crop producers face losses and continuing challenges for their operations. This webinar will cover USDA emergency assistance programs to help producers cope with losses as well as on-going conservation programs to help producers prepare for and manage through drought.

MORE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY NEWS OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

SEI SOLAR TRAINING PROGRAMS

Rundown of Solar Energy International’s upcoming 2022 solar training programs, Solar Builder Magazine

For 30 years, Solar Energy International (SEI) has been dedicated to training the global solar energy workforce. SEI delivers hands-on experience, safety, and technical skills solar training to scale the global workforce at a pace to that significantly impacts climate change — whether that’s equipping utilities with the skills to operate large-scale solar farms, or helping people access clean, reliable energy for the first time. SEI offers online training as well as in-person workshops at its facilities in Paonia, Colorado.

SEI’s Solar Professional Certificate Program (SPCP) is the industry’s most comprehensive training program. With custom program tracks, SPCP prepares professionals with foundational solar skills and technical theory in the solar industry segment of their choice. All SPCP tracks are a combination of hands-on, safety, and technical skills training.

FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY JOB SEEKERS

  • Solar Workforce Development, Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO)
  • Google Search
    Solar Energy Jobs
    Wind Energy Jobs
    An additional search strategy is to check for jobs listings on the websites of solar and wind energy companies that have installed renewable energy projects in Nebraska.

FAST COMPANY’S 2022 WORLD-CHANGING IDEAS AWARDS

Every year, Fast Company’s World-Changing Ideas Awards honor the innovative ways businesses and organizations are tackling the biggest challenges of our time. Amid the seemingly endless stream of disastrous news, these awards provide more than 1,000 reasons to feel some hope. One thousand fifty-three, to be exact. That’s the total number of honorees that our judges chose to recognize from the nearly 3,000 applications we received.

Ducheneaux hopes for 27 million CRP acres, praises White House initiative

The Hagstrom Report, The Fence Post

Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency, told The Hagstrom Report today, May 3, that he still hopes the Conservation Reserve Program will grow to 27 million acres by 2023, the maximum allowed by Congress under the 2018 farm bill, even though the current statistics on the program make that goal look difficult. The issue is important because the Biden administration has said that land in the CRP sequesters carbon, helping American agriculture contribute to efforts to mitigate climate change.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA has accepted 2 million acres into the CRP program, but he also noted that producers submitted re-enrollment offers for just over half of the 3.4 million acres expiring this year and offered only 400,000 acres of new land, compared with 700,000 new acres last year. Read more here.

The Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup deadline is May 13, 2022.

Questions? Email Zach Ducheneaux: zachducheneaux@usda.gov or call (202) 941-4675.

USDA News Release, May 3, 2022: USDA Accepts 2 Million Acres in Offers Through Conservation Reserve Program General Signup

Solar Industry Launches Nonprofit to Alleviate Clean Energy Roadblocks

SEIA News Release

While the organization will focus on a variety of issues, one emerging challenge in the solar industry is land use. Siting clean energy projects requires community engagement and long-term planning that minimizes impact to the environment and surrounding community. These projects must also account for access to transmission lines, upgrades to grid infrastructure, and several other factors that can affect the outcome of a large-scale solar project. SI2’s first research project will create best practices for solar companies looking to create large-scale solar projects and other resources that will help the industry navigate these challenges. Read more here. 

To learn more about the new nonprofit, visit Solar and Storage Industries Institute (SI2): www.ssii.org 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING  

NFS Note: As the Energy Information Association (EIA) data show, Nebraska and Iowa continue to lag behind most states on Solar as a Percentage of Total Generation (SPG): Nebraska 0.17% / Iowa 0.47%. Both states, however, are national leaders on Solar + Wind as a percentage of Total Generation (SWPG): Nebraska – 31.22% / Iowa – 67% (currently #1).

FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

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.