Category Archives: Solar Energy Education

Sugar Powers Solar Technology Research

Creighton University News

When Max Markuson DiPrince embarked on an accelerated master’s degree in physics and sustainable energy sciences, Creighton University’s most prominent solar technology researcher found his man.

Andrew Baruth, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, had been kicking around an idea that cooking sugar down into carbon nanodots about one billionth of a meter in size might improve the efficiency of solar panels.

Such is the imaginative world of research, but Baruth needed someone to pursue the idea. When he handed the ball to Markuson DiPrince, a junior from Denver, Colorado, who is a Dean’s Fellow in the Creighton College of Arts and Sciences, Markuson DiPrince carried it all the way to a presentation at the annual conference of the American Physical Society, held virtually in March.

As he perused the participants who would soon hear his PowerPoint presentation, Markuson DiPrince saw representatives of numerous graduate institutions and national laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, as well as representatives of Princeton and Harvard universities.

“It was pretty terrifying, I won’t lie,” Markuson DiPrince said. “But it definitely built up my ability to present in an academic environment, which is very important as I build the skills necessary to present and defend a master’s thesis.”

The innovation Markuson DiPrince laid out that day concerned the ability of glucose-based carbon nanodots to transform the ultraviolet light spectrum into green light, which is the ideal form of light for solar cells.

“This is a relatively new direction for our research team, and Max ran the project in its entirety,” Baruth said. “It is quite an achievement for an undergraduate. It is certainly graduate-level work, which is why I’m glad he’s sticking around for his master’s degree.”

Markuson DiPrince is no stranger to solar cell research. He was named a 2019-2020 recipient of a NASA Nebraska Space Grant for similar work investigating the use of glucose-derived carbon to boost the ability of solar cells to generate electrical energy from sunlight.

Max Markuson DiPrince is a member of Nebraskans for Solar’s Board of Directors. 

Upcoming Event Hosted by Conservation Nebraska

Virtual Solar Farm Tour: Creighton University
May 20, 2021 at 6 pm

Register Here.


Join Conservation Nebraska for a virtual tour of Creighton University’s solar farm!

Andrew Baruth with Creighton University’s Physics Department will take us on a virtual tour and show us just how bright our future can be. Join us in learning about how the solar farm works, the benefits it provides, and how Creighton uses the solar farm to help generate electricity for their campus.

Learning about renewable energy: New curriculum brings solar to the classroom

By Theresa Bourke, Brainerd Dispatch

About 60 school districts in Minnesota use solar energy, and they now have access to a complementary curriculum to go along with their arrays. The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, along with other community partners, recently developed a kindergarten through eighth grade curriculum aimed at teaching students about solar energy as a clean, renewable option for the future.

Based in Backus, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance is a nonprofit aimed at bringing solar and other renewable energy sources to Minnesota communities. The organization’s new curriculum is a natural extension of its Solar Schools project, a partnership with the Region Five Development Commission to install solar panels with 1.5 megawatts of solar capacity at schools in Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes, along with both the Brainerd and Staples campuses of Central Lakes College. Continue reading here. 

For more information about the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance’s solar energy curriculum, visit


100% green energy and 6 other changes Sedgwick County Zoo has for its 50th birthday, The Wichita Eagle

The Sedgwick County Zoo will ring in its 50th birthday on May 27 with an unveiling of its new entry building and zoo store, both of which will run on 100% renewable energy. The zoo also plans to announce six additional environmental initiatives to reduce the zoo’s carbon footprint. “I think the role of the modern zoo and aquarium is more important today than it’s ever been,” said Dr. Jeff Ettling, the zoo’s executive director. “We all need to take action now because we’re seeing the dramatic impact that climate change is having here at home. We really need to walk the talk. It’s one thing to talk about conservation, it’s another to actually put it into action.”



Apple commits $430 billion in US investments over five years
Apple today announced an acceleration of its US investments, with plans to make new contributions of more than $430 billion and add 20,000 new jobs across the country over the next five years. To date, nearly 60 of Apple’s US sites are LEED certified. Apple is carbon neutral for all of its operations in the US and around the world, and last year committed to be 100 percent carbon neutral for its entire supply chain and products by 2030. Apple’s $430 billion US investments include working with more than 9,000 suppliers and companies large and small in all 50 states, supporting American job creation across dozens of sectors, including silicon engineering, 5G, and manufacturing.


Statement: Biden moves toward allowing states to return to setting stricter vehicle emission standards
Vehicle tailpipes are a major source of health-harming air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. After seven years of decline, air pollution started rising in 2016. By 2018, 108 million Americans lived in areas that experienced more than 100 days of degraded air quality. U.S. PIRG and Environment America had called on Biden to strengthen federal fuel economy and vehicle emission standards, and restore state authority, in theFirst Things to Fixreport, which outlined 20 environmental protections the president should enact when beginning his time in office.

Environment America Initiatives include: Mayors for Solar Energy
Environment America’s Mayors for Solar Energy project is helping city leaders take concrete steps toward this brighter, healthier future by building a broad, bipartisan community of mayors and giving them the tools they need to tap into the power of the sun.

Environment America Priorities

Nebraskans for Solar Presentation: “Solar Power for Farms, Homes, and Businesses”

A Nebraska Earth Day Passport Event
April 20, 2021 – 7:00 to 8:30 pm

Please join us on Zoom for our special Earth Month event to learn about solar options for your farm, home, or business. Our guest speakers will be Jeff Berggren and Michael Shonka. All Nebraska solar installers are also invited to attend this event and contribute to the Q&A and discussion following their presentations.

Jeff Berggren manages GenPro Energy Solutions projects in Nebraska from the company’s office in Central City. He has worked in the renewable energy field since 2008 when he founded Husker Wind Power. With his construction and agricultural background, Jeff has managed multi-million-dollar energy efficiency projects for counties, school districts, and municipalities across Nebraska. Community projects to date include Lexington, Gothenburg, Aurora, Central City, and Fremont.

Michael Shonka, owner of Solar Heat and Electric based in Omaha, has over 30 years of experience in the solar industry. Recent projects include design and installation of multiple 25-kilowatt and 50-kilowatt systems for grid-tie applications. Specific examples of Michael’s work include: Nebraska’s first community solar project at Central City; Nebraska’s first Solar Lab at Metro Community College; an Army Corps of Engineers 50-kilowatt water pumping system; Nebraska’s first center pivot irrigation system, a 25-kilowatt project. 

Moderator & Q&A Facilitator: Leo Arens, Nebraskans for Solar President. Please send your questions to: Leo Arens

Note to Nebraska Earth Day Passport Participants: Leo will provide the code for our event following the Q&A.

Use this link to Join the Zoom meeting:
Meeting ID: 891 9319 6410
Passcode: 015253

Alton couple power home with solar energy

By Lydia Hansen, The N’West Iowa Review

“Ric has helped install more than 200,000 panels in five years, and none
have needed to be replaced because of hail damage.”

ALTON—It’s not always easy being green, but Ric Hansen is making a second career out of it. Ric, who is 64 and lives with his wife, Janet, on a small farm north of Alton, has been installing solar panels for businesses and residential customers since 2016. One of his first customers was himself.

He got his introduction to solar five years ago when longtime friend Wayne Williams hired him to do engineering, installation and quality control for his solar company in Central City, NE. The business, called Interconnection Systems Inc., does large solar installations in nine states. Ric started his own business, Solar and Automation Controls Solutions, shortly afterward. Read more here.


The Duchesne Academy

Ric installed this 10-kilowatt solar array at the Duchesne Academy in 2019 for Interconnection Systems Inc. Established in 1881, Duchesne is located at 3601 Burt Street.

The energy generated by the solar system powers multiple classrooms, including the school’s science, technology, engineering, arts and math lab. where students can integrate data from the solar system into coursework.

The solar array is part of the school’s overall sustainability initiative. Duchesne Academy has the inspiring goal to be a net positive energy school by 2030. The school’s other sustainability program goals include zero waste by 2030, having a sustainable food system, and sustainability curriculum integration.

Heartland Hope Mission – A Green Watts for Good Project

As the winning bidder of our joint Request for Proposals (RFP), Ric Hansen worked with Nebraskans for Solar and Heartland Hope Mission on this 5-kilowatt Interconnection System Inc project, installed on the nonprofit’s building at 2021 U Street last year. 

Heartland Hope Mission leaders had planned to meet with their board and request a matching 5-kilowatt PV system, but the pandemic put that objective on hold. This initial 5-kilowatt solar project was funded through direct contributions to Nebraskans for Solar’s Green Watts for Good program and donations to our December, 2019 Giving Tuesday campaign sponsored by SHARE Omaha. 

Top Photo Credit: Lydia Hansen

DOE Secretary to Discuss Solar’s Role in a Clean Energy Future

Join DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Kelly Speakes-Backman, and SETO Director Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus for a webinar, 100% Clean: How DOE’s Solar Investments Will Help Achieve Ambitious Decarbonization Goals,” on Thursday, March 25, at 1:30 pm Central Time. The presenters will take you on a virtual technology tour and discuss solar’s role in creating a reliable, resilient, and carbon-free electricity grid and then answer some questions at the end. Register for the webinar here.

Department of Energy’s Photovoltaics Research

Through the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), the Department of Energy has funded hundreds of photovoltaics (PV) research and development projects to bring low-cost solar energy to rooftops across the country, support the U.S. electric grid, and combat climate change.

Now you can learn more about the areas of research SETO focuses on, whether it’s cell, module, or system design; energy yield; industry standards; or lengthening the lifespan of PV systemsVisit SETO’s PV research area webpage to find all PV-related resources and subscribe to the newsletter.

Please join us tonight for a ZOOM meeting with Kirk Estee from OPPD.

Overview of OPPD Customer-Owned Generation Program

Nebraskans for Solar Event
March 18, 2021 – 7 to 8 pm

Kirk Estee is the Customer Alternative Energy Solutions Manager at OPPD. His discussion will include the following topics: the overall process; website resources; residential and business solar calculators; online solar interconnection platform.

Moderator: Leo Arens, Nebraskans for Solar President

Use this link to join the Zoom Meeting.
Meeting ID: 821 7986 9176
Passcode: 631014

Central Community College-Hastings program trains for high-demand careers

Letter to the Editor by Taylor Schneider
The Grand Island Independent

In 2019, Central Community College-Hastings officially started its Energy Technology (ETEC) program. The program is unique by offering certificates in wind and solar energy technology and classes in battery storage technology. Over the next five years, clean energy is expected to grow by 56% while general industry will only grow by approximately 5%. Continue reading here.

Taylor Schneider is an Energy Technology Instructor at CCC-Hastings.
Previously Posted: CCC introduces unique renewable energy program, Hastings Tribune


Central Community College at Hastings


Northeast Community College in Norfolk


How much do Biden’s clean-energy jobs pay, and which U.S. states have the most?, MarketWatch

At the start of 2020, clean energy employment could still count about 3.3 million workers nationwide. By comparison, Energy Department data shows that a fewer 1.12 million people had jobs in the traditional fuels sector in 2018, its latest year for complete data, and that number was expected to have risen 3% in 2019, although the site didn’t have final numbers.

“Pipe fitters, welders, steel workers are needed on solar farms, so are sheet-metal workers and construction workers. Many of those positions are entry-level and go up from there as skills help workers differentiate. In fact, there’s often a shortage of skilled clean energy workers,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of E2. “Education is going to be key. We need community colleges to ramp up; we need guidance counselors nudging kids in this direction.”



U.S. Bureau of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook


First Congregational United Church of Christ in Hastings is hosting an online Lenten Justice Speaker Series on Climate. The public is invited.

On March 14, starting at 12:30 pm: Taylor Schneider, an instructor at Central Community College-Hastings, will discuss the college’s wind and solar energy programs. The guest preacher for morning worship will be Dan Deffenbaugh, associate dean of instruction-academic education at CCC-Hastings and author of the 2007 book, Learning the Language of the Fields: Tilling and Keeping as Christian Vocation.

Save the Date! Overview Of OPPD Customer-Owned Generation Program Presented by Kirk Estee

Nebraskans for Solar Event
March 18, 2021 – 7 to 8 pm

Kirk Estee is the Customer Alternative Energy Solutions Manager at OPPD. His discussion will include the following topics: the overall process; website resources; residential and business solar calculators; online solar interconnection platform.

Save this link to join the Zoom Meeting.
Meeting ID: 821 7986 9176

A Q&A will follow the discussion.

Please send your questions to event organizer Helen Deffenbacher:

NFS board members Leo Arens and Louis Lester are currently putting together virtual events, as well. Watch our calendar for their announcements.

First Congregational launches Lenten speaker series on climate

By Andy Raun, Hastings Tribune

First Congregational United Church of Christ [in Hastings] is inviting the community to an online Lenten Justice Speaker Series on Climate.

Feb. 28, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Ken Winston, policy director for the advocacy group Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light, on Nebraska legislative initiatives. (Guest preacher at morning worship will be UCC Pastor Penny Greer, a board member for Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light).

Anyone interested in the presentations and discussion may participate through Zoom or the church’s Facebook page, To participate by Zoom, email The morning worship service also is streamed live on the Facebook page.

Read more and see a list of all upcoming virtual presentations and discussions here.

Religious Statements on Climate Change, National Interfaith Power & Light
Most religious communities have released statements on Climate Change and the need to care for Creation. The following list (organized alphabetically first by religion, then by denomination) demonstrates the unity within the religious community on these important issues.

Additional Statements & Books

Installing Your Own Solar Panels? First, Check This Checklist

By Joseph Burdick and Phillip Schmidt, Storey Publishing

If you can drive lag bolts and assemble prefabricated parts, and if you’re willing to spend a day or two on your roof (or not, if you’re mounting your panels on the ground), you can install your own solar system. You don’t have to know how to hook up the solar panels to your household electricity or the utility grid. You’ll hire an electrician for the house hookup, and the utility company will take care of the rest, usually for free. For a completely off-grid system, the utility company isn’t involved at all. Perhaps disappointingly, this job isn’t even a good excuse to buy new power tools, since the only one you need is a good drill. Read more here.

Photo from Burdick and Schmidt’s book, Install Your Own Solar Panels: Designing And Installing A Photovoltaic System to Power Your Home



Homeowners can save thousands of dollars with this user-friendly manual, which follows the same process professional contractors use. This comprehensive DIY guide covers everything from assembling rooftop racking or building a ground-mount structure to setting up the electrical connections and making a battery bank for off-grid systems. – Storey Publishing


More About The Authors

Joseph Burdick
has more than 30 years of experience in the photovoltaics industry — from R&D, measurement, and testing to system design, installation, and project management. He is president and CEO of Burdick Technologies Unlimited, LLC, one of Colorado’s top renewable energy companies, and is also a professor at Ecotech Institute, where he trains students for careers in solar installation.


Philip Schmidt has been teaching readers how to do things for almost two decades. A former carpenter and longtime writer and editor, he is the author of 18 books, including PlyDesign, Decorating with Architectural Details, and The Complete Guide to Treehouses. He lives in Colorado with his wife, two daughters, and too many leftover building materials.


Links to Incentives, Depreciation and Net Metering Information, Nebraskans for Solar Resource