Category Archives: Community-Scale / Utility-Scale Solar

Solar array keeping Hemingford powered

By Mark McCarthy, Scottsbluff Star Herald

While other municipalities in the region and across the Midwest experienced rolling blackouts during the most recent cold snap, Hemingford was able to maintain electrical service due at least in part to the village’s solar energy production. City Clerk Barb Straub said Hemingford likely avoided the blackouts due to the production.

“Our solar is scheduled to produce about 10% of the village usage,” she said. “I can’t say for certain, but that probably helped our situation so that we didn’t have to (have a disruption in power).” Read more here.

Photo Credit: GenPro Energy Solutions

FROM NEBRASKA’S LARGEST UTILITIES

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Texas must increase ties to the national grid and DER to avoid another power catastrophe, analysts say, Utility Dive. Planning for inter-regional transmission and distributed resources could do what ERCOT’s competitive, energy-only market didn’t – keep the heat and lights on, energy advisors say.

COMMUNITY MICROGRIDS

Community Microgrids — “Cornerstone Of Future Energy Operations”, CleanTechnica
A modest description of microgrids would mention their role in energy resilience. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) description might go further and describe microgrids as the cornerstone of future energy operations. In either case, integration comes first, which is why the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced in 2020 that it would award $34 million to energy systems integration projects, with a portion committed to developing community microgrids.

‘The Grid’ Author On How Texas Crisis Highlights A Fragile U.S. Infrastructure

NPR’s Michel Martin Interviews Professor Gretchen Bakke.


The storm in Texas highlights just how fragile U.S. infrastructure can be, and so you might wonder if this problem extends beyond Texas. It does. In their most recent report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. energy infrastructure a D-plus, stating, quote, “without greater attention to aging equipment, capacity bottlenecks and increased demand, as well as increasing storm and climate impacts, Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions,” unquote.

We wanted to learn more about this, so we called Gretchen Bakke. She is the author of “The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans And Our Energy Future,” which examines the history of electrical power and its current challenges. When we spoke earlier today, she explained the problems in Texas are partly due to its independence from the U.S. power grid.

Read the text of this “All Things Considered” interview or listen to it here.

 


The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future

 

 

Additional Recommended Reading 

About Americans for a Clean Energy Grid
Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG) is the only non-profit broad-based public interest advocacy coalition focused on the need to expand, integrate, and modernize the North American high-voltage grid. Sponsors and supporters of the Americans for a Clean Energy Grid coalition are broadly supportive of ACEG’s mission and vision. 

Included in The Biden Plan: Rebuild Our Infrastructure for a Sustainable Economy
The order catalyzes the creation of jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and the skilled-trades by directing steps to ensure that every federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution and that steps are taken to accelerate clean energy and transmission projects under federal siting and permitting processes in an environmentally sustainable manner.

GEOTHERMAL NEWS

Dandelion Raises $30M to Scale Up Home Geothermal Energy, Greentech Media
There’s a lot of energy underneath homes — if reasonably priced technology can be scaled up to tap its potential. A U.S. Department of Energy study indicates that geothermal heat pumps, which capture the steady temperatures of underground air to heat homes in winter and cool them in summer, could cost-effectively replace fossil-fuel- and electric-powered heating and air conditioning in up to 28 million homes.

Geothermal Technologies Office, U.S. Department of Energy

ENVIRONMENTAL ENTREPRENEURS REGENERATIVE AG REPORT

Healthy Soils and the Climate Connection: A Path to Economic Recovery on America’s Farms
 provides a roadmap for how climate-smart agriculture policies could provide profit boosts for farmers and climate wins for advocates.

Most initiatives to fight climate change today focus on reducing fossil fuel emissions from electricity generation, transportation, and buildings. But to avoid the worst impacts of climate change we must also significantly reduce the atmospheric carbon that has already been emitted. While efforts are underway to develop new and high tech mechanisms to accomplish this, there is an immediately available and economically viable pathway for atmospheric carbon removal—one that provides a compelling new value proposition for farmers to revitalize their soils and get paid for doing it.


E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. Our members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital.

Environment America redoubles “100% Renewable” campaign in 13 states

Environment America News Release

“States are America’s trailblazers when it comes to clean energy,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director of Environment America’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy. “State leaders who have the courage and ambition to re-power their state with renewable energy are carving out the path that everyone else will soon walk with familiarity. The most effective of those trailblazers act with clarity and urgency to realize the potential of renewable energy that abounds in every corner of our great land. Continue reading here.

About Environment America
Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups. Our staff work together for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the United States put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment America is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.

MORE ABOUT THE GREEN ACT

What’s in the Green Act?, The National Law Review
The US House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means has reintroduced the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act, which aims to extend tax credits for renewable energy and carbon capture projects. If passed, the GREEN Act would build upon and boost the extended tax benefits to renewables that Congress passed in the stimulus package at the end of 2020.

Previously Posted: Building on National Climate Momentum, Lawmakers Re-Introduce GREEN Act With Key Solar Provisions, Solar Energy Industries Association News Release

CORPORATE RENEWABLE ENERGY BUYERS

Amazon tops list of large renewable energy buyers in 2020, Solar Builder

The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), announced the release of its second annual Deal Tracker Top 10, which highlights 2020’s leading large energy buyers, topped by Amazon with the procurement of 3.163 gigawatts (GW).

Previously Posted: America’s Largest Energy Buyers Call on Federal Government to Transition to Zero-Carbon Energy, REBA News Release

Why oil giants are swapping oil rigs for offshore wind farms, The Guardian
The fossil fuel giants need to find new ways to reduce emissions, generate growth and maintain their share price

CLIMATE-ALIGNED INVESTMENT 

Investing In 2021: The Full Realization Of The Energy Transition
Forbes article contributed by CEO of FFI Advisors, a performance- and mission-driven investment manager focused on developing pragmatic climate-aligned strategies.

At FFI Advisors, we focus on developing and managing climate-aligned investment strategies. A variety of institutions, from foundations and university endowments to faith-based institutions, have joined the fossil-free fight, using the power of their $14.5 trillion in assets to effect change. However, two recent events highlight this significant paradigm shift and may be a barometer of more change to come.

REGENERATIVE FARMING

5 cool measurement tools attempting to quantify regenerative agriculture, GreenBiz
Following is a list of five emerging options, focused on two primary concerns, measuring biodiversity on agricultural land and gauging soil health and carbon levels. 

FEATURED QUOTE

“Community solar can help address the inequitable way in which climate justice impacts communities.” – Erica Mackie, Co-founder and CEO of GRID Alternatives

See Community Scale / Utility Scale Solar for local and national news stories and resources. A few of the articles are about programs in which electricity customers have the opportunity to contribute to a solar project, but most are about typical community solar programs and projects. 

Community solar program marks one year

 By Jason Kuiper, The Wire, OPPD Blog

OPPD’s community solar facility in rural Washington County passed its first-year milestone in December. With that first year complete, the project has proved to be something customers want – there continues to be a waiting list. And the utility has learned valuable lessons they can apply to future projects. The solar array is a 5-megawatt (MW) solar energy facility that sits outside Fort Calhoun, tucked among rolling hills and trees. OPPD and NextEra Energy Resources have a 20-year power purchase agreement for the energy generated at the facility, which has more than 17,500 panels. Read more here.

Also Posted On The Wire

Resolve to be more energy efficient: February tips

Verizon adds six PPAs for 845MW solar capacity

By Edith Hancock, PV Tech

Major telecoms provider Verizon has secured power purchase agreements (PPAs) for 845MW of solar electricity with four energy giants in the US. The PPAs with Lightsource BP, Invenergy, EDF Renewables and NextEra Energy Resources will be used to finance six solar projects which are due to be completed over the next two years. Read more here.

MORE CORPORATE RENEWABLE ENERGY PROCUREMENT NEWS 

Largest Solar Project in US Underway in Texas, Earth911
Who will purchase the energy? Corporations have already signed virtual Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for Samson’s solar electricity. “The Samson Solar Energy Center is the latest example of what can be achieved when companies and utilities seek an innovative partner to meet their sustainability goals and invest in a clean energy future,” said Ted Romaine, senior vice president of origination at Invenergy.

Leading U.S. Energy Buyers Support National Unity – On Clean Power, That Is, Triple Pundit
Despite a decades-long disinformation campaign by fossil stakeholders and their allies,  the latest data from Yale University’s program on
Climate Change Communication reveal a strong majority consensus on climate change and climate science, highlighted by 86 percent support for funding that supports clean power research. There is no question that business leaders are on firm ground in the area of clean power.

ENERGY STORAGE

Beyond Declining Battery Prices: Six Ways to Evaluate Energy Storage in 2021, Greentech Media
Contributed article by Aaroh Kharaya, “product manager for energy storage at Clean Energy Associates (CEA). He is a licensed Professional Engineer with nine years of experience in electrical power systems and is also a subject matter expert in battery energy storage systems.”

GREEN HYDROGEN


Nel to slash cost of electrolysers by 75%, with green hydrogen at same price as fossil H2 by 2025, Recharge

Manufacturer is building a new fully automated electrolyser factory in Norway, which will be expanded to 2GW, resulting in huge economies of scale.

Green hydrogen cost reduction, International Renewable Energy Agency
This report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) outlines strategies to reduce electrolyser costs through continuous innovation, performance improvements and upscaling from megawatt (MW) to multi-gigawatt (GW) levels.

Canada is set to have one of the world’s biggest green hydrogen plants, CNBC
A major green hydrogen project in Canada took another step forward with an engineering contract awarded to a subsidiary of German industrial giant Thyssenkrupp. Canada could eventually be home to a number of green hydrogen facilities. Macquarie’s Green Investment Group, for example, is part of a consortium looking to develop another major plant that would be located in British Columbia, in the west of the country. Over the last few years, major firms including RepsolSiemens EnergyOrsted and BP have gotten involved in projects connected to green hydrogen production.

BUILDING A GREEN ECONOMY & CLIMATE RESILIENCE


Carbon Markets for Farmers

Previously Posted 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. 

GTM’S ENERGY GANG PODCAST

 

This week on The Energy Gang: What to make of Biden’s historic, sweeping actions on climate and clean energy?

 

Solar Picks Up a Big Win on the Heels of a Consequential Year

By Abigail Ross Hopper, President & CEO,
Solar Energy Industries Association

Over the next several years, we have an opportunity to advance bold clean energy and climate policies, including many of the priorities in SEIA’s 100-day agenda. That starts with immediately removing tariffs on solar cells and modules, making ITC benefits available as a direct payment, investing in infrastructure and clean energy manufacturing, and ensuring there is adequate funding to support programs like SolarAPP.

I would be remiss if I didn’t underscore the importance of prioritizing equity and justice throughout all of these efforts. If we reach our goals for the Solar+ Decade, the industry will need to grow nearly seven times its size over the next 9 years, and it’s imperative that the jobs and economic benefits of that growth reach communities that have traditionally been left behind. Thanks to the wins we secured in 2020, I’m more optimistic than ever for the future of our industry. Read more here.

WIND ENERGY NEWS

DISTRIBUTED WIND

Poking The Wind Power Dragon In Ohio, One Factory At A Time — CleanTechnica Interview

Obstacles aside, it looks like the US distributed wind sector is ready for its closeup. Let’s pause for a second, though, to clarify that distributed wind refers to wind turbines of any size, not to smaller turbines per se. The key factor, according to the Energy Department, is the use of wind power for on-site energy, or to contribute directly to a local distribution grid.

On its part, the Energy Department is a keen fan of distributed wind. On-site wind power dovetails with the Energy Department’s vision for decentralizing the US grid and building more security and resiliency into the nation’s energy supply, over and above the decarbonization benefits.

Department of Energy Resource: Distributed Wind
Distributed wind energy systems are commonly installed on, but are not limited to, residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, and community sites, and can range in size from a 5-kilowatt turbine at a home to multi-megawatt turbines at a manufacturing facility or connected to a local distribution system.

U.S. TRANSMISSION GRID

  • Coalition Calls on FERC to Strengthen Regional and Interregional Transmission Planning, Americans for a Clean Energy Grid. A bipartisan group of nine former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairs joined with transmission and renewable industry leaders earlier today to discuss and comment on a proposal to significantly expand the nation’s transmission capacity to properly support a reliable, affordable, and clean power system. The report, “Planning for the Future: FERC’s Opportunity to Spur More Cost-Effective Transmission Infrastructure,” produced by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG), recommends FERC undertake a comprehensive transmission planning rulemaking.
  • Report Calls for a Ground-Up Overhaul of Federal Transmission Grid Policy, Greentech Media
    Richard Glick, the newly named Democratic FERC chairman, has highlighted transmission policy as a key focus for the agency this year. That could set the stage for reforming a transmission paradigm, evolved over two decades of FERC policy, that is failing to keep up with existing renewable growth, let alone that anticipated under the Biden-Harris administration’s goals to decarbonize the electricity sector by 2035

AGRIVOLTAICS

  • OSU research farm: Where agriculture, solar energy intersect, Capital Press

    AURORA, Ore. — An Oregon State University researcher is zeroing in on plans to build what he describes as “the Disneyland of sustainable agriculture.” Chad Higgins, an associate professor of biology and ecological engineering, envisions a research farm where growers can learn about co-developing land for both solar energy and crop production — a concept known as agrivoltaics.
  • Previously Posted: Installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency, new study shows, Oregon State University. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, finds that if less than 1% of agricultural land was converted to solar panels, it would be sufficient to fulfill global electric energy demand.

GENERAL MOTORS

GM to go all-electric by 2035, phase out gas and diesel engines, NBC News

General Motors plans to completely phase out vehicles using internal combustion engines by 2035, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra announced Thursday. The automaker will go completely carbon neutral at all facilities worldwide by 2035.

Barra has frequently touted GM’s plan for “an all-electric future,” recently increasing to 30 the number of pure battery-electric vehicles it will launch by the middle of this decade, but this marks the first time the largest Detroit automaker has set a hard target for completely phasing out gas and diesel engines for all light-duty vehicles, including pickups and SUVs.

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.

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.

Midlands Voices: Clean-energy plan can help Nebraska

Written by Janece Mollhoff, Omaha World-Herald

In January of 2018 I, along with a group of Nebraska organizations, announced the Husker Energy Plan. “Husker Power Plan” aims to cut greenhouse emissions while keeping electric costs low, creating jobs. The aim was to: 1) reduce air pollution from power plants that sickens and kills Nebraskans, 2) ensure a sustainable, affordable system for generating our electricity for future generations, 3) reduce Nebraska’s use of out-of-state coal, keeping money and jobs in Nebraska and 4) reduce pollution produced by Nebraska’s utility sector that has been linked to climate change. These goals were seen as aspirational with a five-year timeline, and were backed by polling that showed a majority of Nebraskans favor cleaner energy. As we approach the third anniversary of this work, here is how Nebraska is doing: Continue reading here. Requires digital subscription.

Download the Husker Energy Plan here. 

OWH Editor: Janece Molhoff, of Ashland, is a member of the board of directors of the Omaha Public Power District, though this essay expresses only her personal opinion.

Additional Resources Of Potential Interest 

Solar Energy Generation in Nebraska, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy 
In addition to OPPD’s planned 400 to 600 megawatts of solar, the following 1,152 megawatts of utility-scale projects are “committed” or “under development” in Nebraska, altogether totaling approximately 1.5 to 1.7 gigawatts.

Committed Projects

  • Bellwood: A 174.5–megawatt solar facility is planned.

Projects Under Development

  • Clay County: APEX Clean Energy is seeking permission to construct a 305–megawatt solar project in Clay County.
  • Lincoln: The 230–megawatt Salt Creek Solar project would be located on the east side of Lancaster County. This project could create enough energy to power 30,000 homes.
  • Pierce County: A 443–megawatt solar array, named the Goldenrod Solar Energy Center, has been proposed to be operational by 2023. It is estimated that the solar project will power about 80,000 households.

Related Reading

Energy News Network

Growing numbers of students are calling on Nebraska colleges to divest from fossil fuel firms

By Omaha World-Herald Staff Writer Rick Ruggles, Kearney Hub

Creighton University announced late last week that it would divest from its investments in fossil fuels within 10 years and pursue solid investments in renewable energy. Creighton University students marched early last year for divestment. Doane University pledged in 2019 to cease new investments in fossil fuels. The NU system, with campuses in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney, has heard calls for divestment from students at Board of Regents meetings and elsewhere. Read more here.

Nebraska-Based Bluestem Energy Solutions In The News  

Jo-Carroll Energy completed solar project, Freeport Journal-Standard
Jo-Carroll Energy, in partnership with Bluestem Energy Solutions, has completed a 2.3 megawatt solar project in Jo Daviess and Carroll counties. The now-operational solar farm consists of two solar array sites located near Apple Canyon Lake and Mount Carroll. It will provide a tax boost to both counties along with additional benefits to Jo-Carroll and its member-consumers. 

Photo Credit: Fresh Energy