Author Archives: Ken Deffenbacher

LES Should Use Nebraska Wind

by Senator Ken Haar, Local View, Lincoln Journal Star 

First, the good news.  The Lincoln Electric System (LES) is to be congratulated on its announcement Friday that it will add 173 megawatts of wind and five megawatts of solar energy to its portfolio.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s number for “the current national average,” this is enough electricity to power 29,000 homes.  It is good news on three fronts:

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LES announces new wind, solar

Media Release Posted: 12/19/2014 – Lincoln Electric System’s website

LINCOLN – Lincoln Electric System has finalized power purchase agreements to add 173 megawatts of wind energy and 5 megawatts of solar photovoltaic energy to its power supply resource portfolio by 2016. These projects will increase the utility’s equivalent renewable generation portfolio to 48 percent of LES’ retail energy.

Mayor Chris Beutler and Kevin Wailes, administrator & CEO of Lincoln Electric System, today announced this as one of the most aggressive renewable energy portfolios.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, the projects will also save customers money. “When viewed as a package, our wind and solar contracts are expected to save LES customer-owners approximately $429 million over the next 25 years,” said Wailes.

The wind additions are spread across two wind contracts secured with the same developer, Invenergy, and involve the 73 megawatt Prairie Breeze II Wind Energy Center, located in northeastern Nebraska, and 100 megawatt Buckeye Wind Energy Center, located in north-central Kansas. In August, LES issued a Request for Proposal for up to 200 megawatts of wind energy. LES received 15 responses encompassing a total of 105 distinct proposals. The selected projects will bring LES’ total wind portfolio to 304 MW.

“This is a very opportune time for LES to invest in more wind energy due to future uncertainties of federal Production Tax Credits for wind developers, potential additional regulations on power plant emissions, and the volatility of fossil fuel prices.” said Wailes.

The solar contract was in response to an LES survey which indicated customers were willing to support more local solar energy. LES implemented SunShares, a new program in partnership with customers to bring a community solar project to the Lincoln area.

The 5 megawatt solar array will be located about 75th and W. Holdrege Street, visible from Interstate 80. LES will leverage savings achieved through its wind agreements to help supplement customer participation in the LES SunShares program, which allowed LES to obtain optimal pricing for the solar project.

This project will provide LES with valuable solar operating experience and will be the largest solar installation in the state.

Central City plans to build state’s first community solar farm

by Algis J. Laukaitis, Lincoln Journal Star

Central City officials announced Thursday that they plan to build Nebraska’s first community solar energy project.

The 100-panel system will be constructed alongside an existing system that is owned by Mesner Development Co. of Central City in an industrial park next to Nebraska 14, north of the city.

“We are always looking for ways to save our citizens money, and developing this solar system is one way to do that,” Central City administrator Chris Anderson said in a news release. “It will allow us to lock in a stable price for electricity for the foreseeable future.”

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Nebraska Energy Office’s Low-Interest Loans Available for Solar Installations

Who: Nebraskans are now able to secure low-interest bank financing for solar installations. These loans are backed by the Energy Office of the State of Nebraska and are available to legal residents of the state, a Nebraska taxpayer, a Nebraska partnership, a Nebraska-chartered corporation, a subdivision of Nebraska government, or a person who has maintained a permanent residence and lived in the state for more than six months.

Loan limits: For solar hot water installations, $14,000; for photovoltaic (solar electric) installations the limit is $14,000 for the first kilowatt (kW) of electric-generating capacity and $4,000 for each additional kW of capacity, on systems that are 10 kW or smaller in total capacity, a limit sufficient to cover all residential and many small business installations. So for a 4-kW residential installation, the loan limit would be $26,000 ($14,000 for the first kW + $12,000 for the next 3 kW). The loan limit in this example is way more than would be needed for a 4-kW installation in Nebraska currently; current costs would approximate $3.50 per installed watt or $14,000 total for a 4-kW installation (4000 watts x $3.50). This cost is before a 30% federal tax credit is applied. These credits expire December 31, 2016 and may or may not be renewed. At least one Nebraska public utility, Lincoln Electric Systems, has further financial incentives for photovoltaic installations.

How: You would need to get bids or quotes first, so that you would have them available for your lender, a Nebraska bank or credit union. Make sure the solar contractor/installer providing the bid or quote breaks down all costs as specified on the application you submit to the Nebraska Energy Office. These itemized costs must include all equipment, labor, and other costs necessary to install solar electric or solar hot water systems per the manufacturer’s instructions for optimum operability and output. All installations must meet local, state, and federal codes and regulations—cost may include obtaining a city permit and inspection, for example. Although you are only required to get one bid under the Energy Office program, it is generally a good idea to seek more than one quote in a making your purchasing decision.   It is also the case that the bank or credit union you approach may well require more than one bid or quote,so be sure to check with them.

For more information, contact the Nebraska Energy Office by mail, P.O. Box 95085, Lincoln, NE 68509-5085, by phone: (402) 471-2867, or by e-mail: .   An application may be downloaded at:   .

UNL Report – Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska

Globally, we face significant economic, social, and environmental risks as we confront the challenges associated with climate change. The magnitude and rapidity of the projected changes in climate are unprecedented, and their implications for the health of our planet and the legacy we will leave to our children, our grandchildren, and future generations are of vital concern. We need to develop strategies now to adapt to the changes, and this process must begin at the local level.

Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska documents many of the key challenges that Nebraska will face as a result of climate change. Commentaries from experts on Nebraska’s water resources, energy supply and use, agriculture, forests, health, ecosystems, urban systems and rural communities, and infrastructure and vulnerabilities raise serious concerns about the impacts of projected changes in climate, but they also provide a starting point for discussions about the actions that we can take to overcome these challenges.

Download the report here:

In Wisconsin: Tim O’Brien now builds all homes with solar ready features

By Erica Breunlin, Biz

At Tim O’Brien Homes Inc.’s corporate office, located in Pewaukee, about 35 percent of the building’s energy consumption is offset by 50 solar panels atop the building, according to Tim O’Brien, president of the company.

Tim O’Brien Homes, which operates in both metro Milwaukee and Madison, aims to give owners of its new homes an opportunity to achieve the same kind of energy efficiency. At the beginning of September, the semi-custom, single-family homebuilder announced that in coordination with Pewaukee-based SunVest Solar, Inc., it will ensure each one of its newly constructed homes is solar ready.

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Upcoming ENERGY STAR Webinar: Zero Energy Ready Home Program
October 29, 1 to 2 p.m.

Study: Small towns can save big with efficiency, renewables

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

A pair of Iowa studies found that both utilities and their customers in small towns can substantially cut costs if they invest in deep efficiencies and, to a lesser extent, in renewable sources of generation.

The analyses, done by energy consultant Tom Wind and the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities with some funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, explored whether the communities of Bloomfield and Algona could become energy independent.

The conclusion: in about 15 years, Bloomfield could get to net-zero — generating as much energy as it consumes over a year — but not necessarily always at the times needed.

Algona could get about half that far, cutting current electricity use by about 50 percent.

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The Board of Directors of Nebraskans for Solar are pleased to welcome Jared Friesen to our Advisory Board

Jared Friesen is a project manager at Morrissey Engineering Inc (MEI), who specializes in small commercial to utility-scale renewable energy projects. He provides consulting services in photovoltaic (PV) performance and economic analysis exercises, designs and specifies systems, and leads the construction of solar projects throughout the region and beyond. Additionally, he provides an American Institute of Architects (AIA) accredited presentation to the architectural community on how to best incorporate photovoltaic that appropriately optimizes power production, reliability, economics, and aesthetics.

Jared is a licensed Professional Engineer with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL). He is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional and has received advanced training through Solar Energy International’s industry-recognized training program. In 2010 he was instrumental in bringing solar energy to Morrissey Engineering’s LEED Platinum certified office building at 4940 North 118th Street. A major expansion of that system was made in 2014, resulting in its current production of 20-25% of the building’s total energy needs.

About Morrissey Engineering Inc
Morrissey Engineering was the first building in Nebraska to be awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the highest certification level achievable. 

27 kW Photovoltaic System Expansion, by Jared Friesen

View the 4940 Building’s Live Solar Output here:

Risky Business in Nebraska: The Economics of Climate Change

by DANIEL LAWSE | AUG 26TH, 2014 |

Nebraska’s businesses and economy face a great risk due to climate change, according to a new risk management study that assesses the impacts of climate change on jobs, crop yields, infrastructure, and energy production.

A bi-partisan group including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Wall Street titan and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and other prominent businesspeople and public officials launched the Risky Business Project that developed this study called “Risky Business.”

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Indiegogo Crowdfunding Campaign Update

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our Indiegogo campaign, “Solar Power for Habitat for Humanity Families:”

With your donations and a major contribution from Bank of the West, we are currently close to having sufficient funds to solar power the first two houses:

1st House: Benson Neighborhood (Rehab) started in March
2nd House: South Omaha (Rehab) started in May
3rd House: South Omaha (Rehab) started in May
4th House: North Omaha (New) started in April
5th House: North Omaha (New) July start

These local families will be able to reduce their monthly energy costs by harnessing power from the sun for the next 20 to 25 years!

The money they save can be spent on food, healthcare, education, and other needs, benefiting their families and communities for a very long time.

Each solar hot water system is compact but powerful, generating about the same amount of energy per day as a 3-kilowatt solar electric system, or twelve 250-watt solar panels.

If you haven’t contributed yet, there are two ways you can help: by making a contribution of $10 or more and by spreading the word about our project to your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

All Indiegogo funds will go directly to Habitat for Humanity of Omaha for these five demonstration solar-powered low-income houses, and all donations are tax deductible.

Your gift will pay you back, greening your community and raising awareness about solar energy and how it benefits people and the environment!

Thank you for supporting renewable energy!

Nebraskans for Solar & Habitat for Humanity of Omaha