Category Archives: Solar Energy Education

In rural Colorado, the kids of coal miners learn to install solar panels

By Nick Bowlin, High Country News

This story is a part of the ongoing Back 40 series, where High Country News reporters look at national trends and their impacts close to home.

At a picnic table in a dry grass field, a group of elementary school students watched as high school senior Xavier Baty, a broad-shouldered 18-year-old in a camouflage ball cap and scuffed work boots, attached a hand-sized solar panel cell to a small motor connected to a fan. He held the panel to face the setting Colorado sun, adjusting its angle to vary the fan speed.

“Want to hear a secret?” he asked the kids around him. “This is the only science class I ever got an A in.” Continue reading here.

Nick Bowlin is an editorial fellow at High Country News.

Masonic Home gets solar energy grant, plans open house Thursday

By Tammy Real-McKeighan, Fremont Tribune

Nebraskans for Solar and the Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children are partnering on a solar energy endeavor. This venture will allow the children’s home to join the City of Fremont’s Community Solar Program.

Nebraskans for Solar’s Green Watts for Good Program has provided a $5,000 grant to the Masonic Home. The Masonic Home has provided an equal match of $5,000 to purchase 50 solar panels in Fremont’s Community Solar Program. The panels will be purchased from the City of Fremont Department of Utilities. This purchase will provide enough solar energy to cover 50% of the electricity consumed in the Leonard A. Johnson 4-H Barn.

A presentation and open house will start at 1 p.m. Thursday in the main office of the Masonic Home at 2415 N. Main St. – the second building on the right. Read more here.

More About The Project

Nebraskans for Solar Board Member Leo Arens is the Lead Coordinator for the Fremont project in partnership with the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children and the City of Fremont Department of Utilities. This is our seventh Green Watts for Good project. Leo will represent Nebraskans for Solar at tomorrow’s presentation and open house.

5 Ways You Can Get Involved in Local Green Watts for Good Projects

To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Fremont solar project and find more ways to join in on our Green Watts for Good Program, click here.

Virtual Tour

Take a virtual tour of the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children, including the 4-H Barn and the Technology Center. The Center’s 4-H technology projects consist of welding, electrical, robotics, wind generation, aquaponics, carpentry, wood working, and mechanics. Nebraskans for Solar board members have gifted a NEED Solar Energy Kit for Grades 9-12, “Exploring Photovoltaics,” for the Technology Center, and so 4-H’ers will have the additional choice of solar technology projects.

Above Right Photo: The Technology Center’s Robotics Classroom
Top Photos: Aerial View of the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children
At the Leonard A. Johnson 4-H Barn – From left: Ron Giesselmann, Executive Director of the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children, Nebraskans for Solar Board Members Helen Deffenbacher, Ken Deffenbacher, and Leo Arens. Photographer: Lottie Michell, City of Fremont Department of Utilities.

Tomorrow Night’s Nebraskans for Solar & OPPD Presentation: The Potential For Combined Renewable Energy & Battery Installations

December 11, 2019 from 7 to 8:30 pm
UNO Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center
OPPD Dialogue Rooms 230 & 231

Moderator: Courtney Kennedy, OPPD Alternative Energy Program Manager, will moderate the panel discussion and facilitate a Q&A.


Josh Moenning, Norfolk Mayor and founder of New Power Nebraska
Mr. Moenning will provide an overview of the City of Norfolk’s planned 8.5-MW community solar project and accompanying battery energy storage system, made possible by a grant award from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

David RichNebraska Public Power District Sustainable Energy Manager
Mr. Rich will discuss NPPD’s application to the Nebraska Environmental Trust for a
1 MW/2 MWH battery energy storage system in partnership with the City of Norfolk, NPPD’s Request for Proposals, the evaluation of the proposals and current status. Additionally, he will discuss issues raised by the developers regarding potential utilization of the U.S. Investment Tax Credits.

Michal Lisowyj, OPPD Alternative Energy Specialist
The title of Mr. Lisowyj’s discussion is “The Future of Energy Storage.” His presentation is designed to give the audience a brief overview of why energy storage is becoming popular, the technologies being deployed, as well as some that may be used in the future (cryo, pumped, flow, etc.). He will also provide a brief overview of OPPD’s grant application for energy storage. Included, too, will be slides showing how people are using energy storage in their homes.

This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments provided. Reserved parking is available in the lot in front of the Community Engagement Center.

Please join us! To share this announcement with friends and colleagues, use this link:

Education Dive Awards 2019 – Partnership of the Year: Grid Alternatives

By Linda Jacobsen, Education Dive

Kanyon Martinez, a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, was about to graduate from Bishop Union High School in Bishop, California, last year when he heard about an internship possibility with Grid Alternatives — a nonprofit organization that brings solar installations to low-income communities, including tribes.

Martinez was glad for the chance to gain some work experience, but now that opportunity has grown into much more. First, he participated in Solar Futures, Grid Alternatives’ five-hour educational program, which teaches K-12 and community college students about the solar industry and gives them some basic skills related to installation. Continue reading here.

The K-12 Education Dive Awards for 2019

Photo Credit: Grid Alternatives

Thank you to everyone who participated in last evening’s Nebraskans for Solar event!

First of all, thank you to our guest speaker, John Hay, Extension Educator for Bioenergy at UNL, who provided an excellent discussion on the steps for completing a good economic analysis for a Solar PV system. His presentation included the common mistakes that lead to poor or misleading analysis; the best economic metric for describing economics of a system; and beyond economics, how individual goals, values, and motivations impact solar PV decisions.

John is a do-it-yourselfer who designed and installed a photovoltaic system for his own home. He also has given presentations and taught hands-on workshops in communities throughout Nebraska, solely or in partnership with Jon Dixon, owner of Dixon Power Systems based in Lincoln.

We also extend our appreciation to our attendees, who came from as far away as Allen, Nebraska. Audience members contributed many insightful questions and comments to the discussion that followed Mr. Hay’s presentation.

Photo Credit: David Corbin, Nebraskans for Solar Board Member and Facebook Coordinator

If you missed last night’s event, check out the following resources:

Web Seminar Series

Recent Publication

Solar Electric Investment Analysis Series, by Eric Romich and F. John Hay, Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE)

How-To Guide For Do-It-Yourselfers


Install Your Own Solar Panels: Designing and Installing a Photovoltaic System to Power Your Home is a fully-illustrated step-by-step guide written by veteran solar installer Joseph Burdick and long-time builder Philip Schmidt.


Military experience provides natural transition to clean energy careers, veterans say

By David Thill and Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network

Kevin Johnson served as a captain in the U.S. Army and spent a year stationed in Baiji, Iraq, home to a major oil refinery. The war made clear to him the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Johnson was stationed “at the heart of the oil infrastructure in Iraq,” he said, “watching the infrastructure being attacked on a daily basis and having my soldiers ask me, ‘When are we going home?’” That was the genesis of Johnson’s career in clean energy. “I knew that when I got out that I wanted to be on the other side of that fight,” he told the Energy News Network.
Continue reading here.

Photo by Ken Oltmann / U.S. Department of Energy

Among other resources, the authors reference the 2019 Clean Jobs Midwest survey, which provides information on 12 states, including veteran representation.

Our State’s Executive Summary: Nebraska: Home to 19,004 Clean Energy Jobs

In Nebraska, 9.6 percent of the state’s clean energy workers are veterans. By comparison, veterans make up 6 percent of the national labor force. The large ratio of veterans transitioning to clean energy jobs is partially the result of the U.S. Department of Defense’s long-standing commitment to investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and training programs that prepare veterans for private-sector employment in industries like solar. Small businesses drive the state’s clean energy sector – 70.9 percent of Nebraska’s clean energy businesses employ fewer than 20 individuals.

SUMMARY: With 19,000 jobs and counting, the clean energy industry is a significant employer in Nebraska. Even as jobs in the state overall are decreasing, jobs in Nebraska’s clean energy industry are growing at a relatively healthy 3.5 percent clip. Clean energy employers in Nebraska are bullish when it comes to ongoing hiring: they predict a 7.7 percent increase in clean energy jobs in 2019, higher than the regional average.

Additional Recommended Reading 

Local Events Part of National Solar Tour – The Largest Annual Grassroots Renewable Energy Event in the U.S.

This annual nationwide tour provides numerous opportunities for you to visit with Nebraskans who have invested in solar energy and with Hastings Utilities representatives at the city’s new solar farm, to gain information about how solar works, its benefits, and what local resources are available.

These open houses and tours are free, and people of all ages are invited to attend. Whether you are a solar owner, completely new to solar, or somewhere in between – these events are for you. Click links to learn more about each one and to RSVP:

National Solar Tour Event – Hastings Utilities Hosting Open House at Recently-Completed Community Solar Farm

This event is part of the National Solar Tour, the largest annual
grassroots renewable energy event in the nation.


Hastings Utilities is hosting a tour and ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, October 3, 2019 from 3 pm – 6 pm at the recently-completed Community Solar Farm. The project was installed by GenPro Energy Solutions. See solar panels up close, ask questions about how solar works, learn why people in a growing number of our communities are making the choice to go solar, and connect with others who support solar energy. This event is free and open to the public. More information is available about Hastings’ Community Solar Farm here.


The following solar open house and tours are also free and  open to the public. Everyone is welcome to attend. Whether you are a solar owner, completely new to solar, or somewhere in between – these events are for you.

  • Bennington, Nebraska Solar Open House: October 5, 2019, 11 am to 6 pm
    20210 High Country Circle, Bennington, Nebraska 68007. “Our solar system was installed by Great Plains Renewables in 2018.” RSVP HERE.
  • Omaha, Nebraska Solar Tour: October 5, 2019, 11 am to 2 pm. RSVP HERE.
  • Bellevue/Sarpy County Solar Tour: October 6, 2019, 11 am to 2 pm. RSVP HEREOmaha and Bellevue/Sarpy County Solar Tours’ Sponsors: Green Bellevue, Nebraska Sierra Club, Nebraskans for Solar

Green Bellevue celebrates 10 years

By Brody Hilgencamp, Bellevue Leader / Omaha World-Herald

Sharon Rea has been president of Green Bellevue for eight months, and she uses an apt metaphor to describe the organization she has been tapped to lead and the people who founded it. “The seeds that they planted — literally — everything is carrying forward,” she said.

The rain gardens and recycling are big deals, leaders said, but the pièce de résistance would be the group’s next grand plan: a solar farm in the Bellevue area. The group hopes to work with Omaha Public Power District to make it happen. “I see us putting a lot of effort to that initiative in the next few months,” Rea said. “We’re determined.” Read more here.

Photo by Brody Hilgenkamp: Ruth Richter, left, Sharon Rea and Don Preister

Bellevue’s Proposed Landfill Solar Project – Previously Posted 

Given solar energy’s substantial price declines over the past several years since Bellevue’s landfill solar project was first proposed, it would be good to see an up-to-date analysis of the project’s levelized costs over a twenty-year power purchase agreement.

Bellevue/Sarpy County & Omaha Participating in The National Solar Tour

The National Solar Tour is the largest annual grassroots
renewable energy event in the nation.

The following local, second-annual solar tours are free and  open to the public – everyone is welcome to attend. Whether you are a solar owner, completely new to solar, or somewhere in between – these events are for you.

  • National Solar Tour Event – Omaha, October 5, 2019, 11 am to 2 pm. RSVP HERE.
  • National Solar Tour Event – Bellevue/Sarpy County, October 6, 2019, 11 am to 2 pm. RSVP HERE.

Local Solar Tour Sponsors: Green Bellevue, Nebraska Sierra Club, Nebraskans for Solar

Trinity to showcase STEM lab at event

By Tammy Real-McKeighan, Fremont Tribune

Could Reese Barton be a budding engineer? Only time will tell for the fourth-grader at Trinity Lutheran School in Fremont. But on Wednesday morning, Reese spoke enthusiastically while participating in the school’s new STEM lab, where renovations are underway.

Continue reading here.

Photo by Tammy Real-McKeighan


Nebraska Solar Schools’ NEED Solar Energy Kits Project (PDF)
Trinity Lutheran School in Fremont is one of many statewide K-12 schools now participating in Nebraska Solar Schools’ National Energy Education Development (NEED) project in which teachers and principals are provided free solar energy kits upon request and for as long as quantities last for their classrooms and after-school STEM programs, through a generous grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. Solar beads, or UV Beads, mentioned in the article, is just one of many activities among the curriculum materials included in two of the NEED kits: The Sun and Its Energy for Grades K-2 and Wonders of the Sun for Grades 3-5.