Category Archives: Financing

ICYMI: Week of Climate Action from the Biden-⁠Harris Administration

The White House Briefing Room

President Biden’s economic plan is building a clean energy future in America that is creating good-paying jobs, lowering energy costs, and tackling the climate crisis. On Tuesday, President Biden welcomed thousands of guests to the White House to celebrate passage of the Inflation Reduction Act—the most aggressive action the United States has taken to combat climate change, while advancing environmental justice and saving families money. On Wednesday, he toured the Detroit Auto Show to celebrate the American electric vehicle manufacturing boom spurred by his economic plan. Throughout the week, the Biden-Harris Administration charged forward with major executive actions across sectors to tackle the climate crisis: Continue reading here to learn more about these initiatives and enjoy related news stories.

Referenced Resource: CleanEnergy.gov
Department of Energy Photo

‘We farm the sun’: For some Wisconsin dairy farmers, solar energy is a new source of income

By Jana Rose Schleis, Wisconsin Public Radio

Cows graze near a field of solar panels Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Two Rivers, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Farmers have what solar energy companies need: land. Across the state, partnerships between dairy farms and energy companies are increasing, changing the landscape and providing farmers extra revenue in a sometimes unpredictable market. That unpredictability can take the form of a years long dip in milk prices, or unfortunate weather. Wisconsin had record-setting rainfall in 2018 and 2019, increasing the challenges farmers faced. Read more here.

Nebraskans for Solar Note: In addition to earning extra income by leasing land for renewable energy development, farmers and ranchers in every state also can save significant amounts of money on their own energy bills by taking advantage of available incentives for solar, small wind, battery storage, energy efficiency upgrades and other clean energy projects.

These incentives include the following:

Two-turbine wind project completed in Franklin County

By Press Release, News Channel Nebraska

UPLAND, Neb. — Bluestem Energy Solutions, in partnership with Southern Public Power District, has completed a two-turbine wind project in central Nebraska. Constructed by Boyd Jones Construction, the wind project is located at the intersection of State Highways 4 and 10, west of Upland in northern Franklin County.

The two 2.82-megawatt GE wind turbines are interconnected to Southern Public Power District’s 69kV sub-transmission line. According to Bluestem officials, the wind facility will produce enough electricity to power approximately 2,000 homes annually, and 100% of the power will be used locally by the customers of Southern Public Power District. Read more here.

RELATED READING & RESOURCES

Nebraskans for Solar Note
Including Southern Public Power District, Nebraska has 166 publicly owned utilities governed by community-elected boards. These include public power districts, municipal utilities, and electric cooperatives. Visit the website of the Nebraska Power Association for a list of all of them.

In a big win for public power, cities, and states, the Inflation Reduction Act modifies the federal clean energy tax credit program to directly pay public and nonprofit entities, including those owned and managed by states and municipal governments. This will allow these entities to take advantage of tax treatment previously only available to investor-owned utilities and enables cities that own their own public utilities­­­—such as Cleveland, Columbia, and Tallahassee—to transfer tax credits for cash.

A key aspect of DOE’s funding announcement on Friday is the flexibility of the funds, which can be utilized for a wide range of clean energy programs, officials said. “These funds are quite flexible. They really do give states and territories the freedom to develop the kinds of energy programs and projects that are going to be right for every community in every state.”
– Jeremiah Baumann, DOE’s chief of staff for the undersecretary of infrastructure

MORE GOOD NEWS

Additional Recommended PV Magazine Article: To PTC or ITC, that is the financial question
CohnReznick Capital has released an analysis comparing the returns on investment of the newly available Production Tax Credit to the standard 30% Investment Tax Credit.

FROM SMART CITIES DIVE

Christmas In August: Electric Utilities Hit Renewable Pay Dirt With IRA Passage

By Llewellyn King, Forbes

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Image: Electric cooperatives 
cover more than half the nation’s land area. 

The great prizes are the extension to not-for-profit utilities of the investment tax credits and production tax credits normally associated with tax-paying entities. These will be recovered by the not-for-profit utilities through “direct pay,” which means just that: a check.

As not-for-profit utilities don’t have an income tax liability, they have had in the past to collaborate with for-profit companies to reap any of the tax credit benefits. Now they will get a direct payment from the Treasury Department. Continue reading here. 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING ROOM

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

Cass County officials seek outside counsel on solar project

By Ethan Hewett, KMA News

During its latest regular meeting, the county’s board of commissioners approved seeking outside counsel on a proposed solar farm through Boulevard Associates–which would be one of the largest in the state. While saying the board has not selected specific counsel yet, County Zoning Administrator Mike Jensen tells KMA News the outside perspective was sought to assist with reviewing a large amount of information soon to be placed in front of the county. In August 2021, the commissioners approved an updated set of solar regulations. While saying he and the board are confident in their regulations, Jensen says a big focus has been on the decommissioning process. Read more here.

NextEra Energy Resources is the parent company for Boulevard Associates, LLC.

Previously Posted: Cass County solar farm plans unveiled, by Ethan Hewett, KMA News

Nebraskans for Solar Note: We commend Cass County officials for their plan to thoroughly study Boulevard Associates’ proposal for a 350MW solar project near Murray and for consulting with other jurisdictions. This sets an excellent example for all Nebraska communities that are considering or are in the process of planning community- or utility-scale solar projects.

One large (81MW) project under development by Community Energy is “Platteview Solar” in eastern Saunders County, near Yutan:

Resources On Decommissioning / PV Recycling

NextEra Energy Resources

New Department of Energy Partnership Will Boost Low-Income Community Solar Subscriptions

Department of Energy News Release

Yesterday, the White House announced a new partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that will develop and pilot a digital platform to enable more low-income households to access community solar by connecting project developers with Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) recipients.

The LIHEAP program, run by HHS, assists eligible low-income households with home energy costs. Connecting NCSP with this existing program will reduce the cost of customer acquisition, lower low-income household electricity bills, and speed the deployment of community solar projects.

Community solar programs make solar more accessible to all Americans, particularly to those with low-to-moderate incomes because it allowed energy users to subscribe to a shared system of solar panels, often located within their community. At least 21 states and the District of Columbia have developed community solar-related programs that have direct carve-outs for low-and-moderate income customers.

A persistent problem identified by community solar developers is identifying subscribers that meet income eligibility requirements. Access to pre-qualified applicants through LIHEAP could fill a portion of subscriptions for community solar systems while delivering energy assistance and providing long-term energy burden reductions.

A collaborative team from NCSP, HHS, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will develop the platform. The team will coordinate with utilities, state and local governments, and industry, and plans to pilot the platform in 3-5 states as part of the NCSP States Collaborative. This partnership will support NCSP’s target to enable community solar systems to power the equivalent of 5 million households and create $1 billion in energy bill savings by 2025.

About National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP)
National Community Solar Partnership is an active group of community members, developers, utilities, financial institutions, and governments dedicated to increasing access to community solar for all U.S. households. Partners receive access to technical assistance, resources, training, events, and a platform for connecting with other collaborative partners. Join NCSP to receive program updates and announcements about future opportunities and how you can participate.

Helpful Links

Additional $25 Million DOE Solar Funding Opportunity 

EERE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office has announced a $25 million funding opportunity for projects that will enable communities to use solar energy and solar-plus storage to prevent power disruptions caused by extreme weather events. Learn more about this $25M Solar Energy Funding Opportunity.

Attend a webinar: Renewables Advancing Community Energy Resilience Funding Opportunity Announcement, April 27, 12 pm CT

More Department of Energy News & Resources

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces the Rural Partners Network to Empower Rural Communities to Access Federal Resources

With today’s launch of the Rural Partners Network, the Department of Energy is committed to ensuring federal resources that can benefit rural America actually reach rural America.

This new collaboration between federal agencies and rural communities will help create jobs, build infrastructure, and make the government work better for rural America.

Learn more here:

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Announces the Rural Partners Network to Empower Rural Communities to Access Federal Resources

FACT SHEET: President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Empowers the Department of Energy to Deliver for Rural America

Energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins: ‘It’s the largest, cheapest, safest, cleanest way to address the crisis’

By John Vidal, The Guardian

One of the leading advocates of energy conservation explains why this
could be a turning point for climate economics

Temperatures dropped far below freezing this week in Snowmass, Colorado. But Amory Lovins, who lives high up in the mountains at 7,200ft above sea level, did not even turn on the heating. That’s because he has no heating to turn on. His home, a great adobe and glass mountainside eyrie that he designed in the 1980s, collects solar energy and is so well insulated that he grows and harvests bananas and many other tropical fruits there without burning gas, oil or wood. Nicknamed the “Einstein of energy efficiency”, Lovins, an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, has been one of the world’s leading advocates and innovators of energy conservation for 50 years. Continue reading here.

Physicist Amory Lovins is Cofounder (1982) and Chairman Emeritus of Rocky Mountain Institute, which he served as Chief Scientist 2007–19 and now supports as a contractor and Trustee; energy advisor to major firms and governments in 70+ countries for 45+ years; author of 31 books and more than 700 papers; and an integrative designer of superefficient buildings, factories, and vehicles. Source: Rocky Mountain Institute

ENERGY EFFICIENCY RESOURCES 

  1. Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE)
    Nebraska Weatherization Assistance Program
    Dollar & Energy Savings Loans
    Nebraska Energy Quarterly 2022 – 1st Quarter Issue
  2. Nebraska Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  3. Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET)
  4. Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE)-Nebraska
  5. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE)
  6. Energy Saver, Department of Energy 
  7. Heat Pump Systems, Department of Energy 
  8. Advanced Water Heating initiative Fact Sheet, New Buildings Institute
  9. American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
  10. Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA)
    Nebraska Initiatives
    Policy

MEEA Webinar: The Value of Energy Efficiency in Buildings for Safety and Wellness
Tuesday, March 29, 2022 at 12 p.m.

Over the last two years the focus of building owners and operators has, rightfully so, been on health and safety concerns. Join us for a webinar to learn more about how energy efficiency can help with your health and safety goals while saving money and improving occupant comforts.

UNIQUE TINY HOUSE IN NEBRASKA

UNO Magazine: Big Future for Tiny HomesUniversity of Nebraska Omaha News Center

A living space that can be efficiently heated
by an energy output
equivalent to
16 birthday candles.

Focused on the future of tiny houses, Bing Chen, Ph.D., a UNL professor of electrical and computer engineering based out of Omaha’s Peter Kiewit Institute, envisions a future filled with tiny, environmentally friendly houses.

Neighbors express excitement, frustration over Cass County solar farm proposal

By Abbie Petersen KETV

CASS COUNTY, Neb. — As gas prices climb, there’s a new look toward solar energy in rural Nebraska. The zoning administrator for Cass County says the proposal for the solar farm near Murray would be one of the largest in the state. But some neighbors say they think the solar farm is a bad investment. Zoning administrator Mike Jensen says it’s a big decision. Continue reading or watch the video here.

FROM PV MAGAZINE & NDA

Solar+food in ethanol fields could fully power the United States
Converting the nation’s 40 million acres of ethanol corn farms into solar-plus-food facilities would generate 1.5 times our nation’s electricity needs, while also powering a 100% electrified passenger vehicle fleet.

Nebraska Agriculture Fact Card, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, February 2022

  • In 2021, Nebraska ranked second in ethanol production capacity, with 25 operating plants having production capacity of almost 2.6 billion gallons. Approximately 31% of Nebraska’s 2021 corn crop was utilized in ethanol production.
  • Nebraska’s farms and ranches utilize 44.8 million acres, 92% of the state’s total land area.
  • There are 22 million acres of rangeland and pastureland in Nebraska, half of which are in the Sandhills.

USDA RESOURCE

Farming and Farm Income, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Most farmers receive off-farm income, but small-scale operators depend on it.
Median total household income among all farm households ($80,060) exceeded the median total household income for all U.S. households ($67,521) in 2020. Median household income and income from farming increase with farm size and most households earn some income from off-farm employment. About 89 percent of U.S. farms are small, with gross cash farm income less than $350,000; the households operating these farms typically rely on off-farm sources for most of their household income. In contrast, the median household operating large-scale farms earned $402,780 in 2020, and most of that came from farming.

LAND LEASE RESOURCE FOR FARMERS & RANCHERS 

Considerations for Leasing Land for Solar Development, by F. John Hay, Extension Educator for Bioenergy, University of Nebraska Lincoln

Links to More Extension Resources