Category Archives: Financing

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

ConnectDER Partners with Nebraska Public Power and Omaha Public Power District to Provide Simple Solar Integration

ConnectDER News Release, PR Newswire

ConnectDER, the innovative company that enables utilities and homeowners to expand access to distributed energy resources (DERs), is launching availability of its Solar Collar for new residential solar installations in Nebraska. ConnectDER’s simple, affordable meter collar can now be used in solar installations throughout Nebraska Public Power and Omaha Public Power District areas. The ConnectDER Solar Collar is a UL-Listed meter collar that enables rapid interconnection of grid-ready residential PV systems. The device creates a safe, standardized, low-cost alternative to traditional wiring methods for home installations. Continue reading here.

SOLAR APP+ ALSO EXPEDITING SOLAR PROJECTS & SAVING MONEY

LINKS TO RESOURCES FOR POTENTIAL RENEWABLE ENERGY CUSTOMERS

OPPD, NPPD, LES: Customer-Owned Generation

American Solar Energy Society (ASES)

Department of Energy

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE)

  • Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit
    Eligible Technologies Include: Solar Water Heat, Solar Photovoltaics, Biomass, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Wind (Small)
  • Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
    Eligible Technologies Include: Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Geothermal Electric, Solar Thermal Electric, Solar Thermal Process Heat, Solar Photovoltaics, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Combined Heat & Power, Wind (Small), Geothermal Direct-Use, Microturbines

EnergySage

Nebraska Wind & Solar Conference Renewable Energy Series

Consumers Webinar for Residential / Small Business Solar
Speakers
David Rich: Sustainable Energy Manager, NPPD
John Hay: Extension Educator – Energy, UNL
Ron Rose: Renewable Energy Consultant, NPPD
Kirk Estee: Customer Alternative Energy Solutions Manager, OPPD
Marc Shkolnick: Manager, Energy Services, LES

Additional Resources

Council Debates Future Of Imperial Light Dam

By Jan Schultz, The Imperial Republican

[Imperial’s Public Works Superintendent Pat Davison] presented information on a program through the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) to partner with a private firm, Sandhills Energy, to install a solar farm in Imperial for electricity production . . . Twenty-two Nebraska communities have expressed interest in the program with the hope of eventual lower electrical costs. Read more here.


MEAN’S 2021 REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS & ADDENDUM

ABOUT MEAN

The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska is the not-for-profit wholesale electricity supply organization of NMPP Energy. Created in 1981, MEAN provides cost-based power supply, transmission and related services to 69 participating communities in four states: Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.

MEAN Members/Participants

In Nebraska
Alliance, Ansley, Arnold, Bayard, Beaver City, Benkelman, Blue Hill, Bridgeport, Broken Bow, Burwell, Callaway, Chappell, Crete, Curtis, Fairbury, Falls City, Gering, Grand Island, Grant, Hastings, Imperial, Kimball, Lyman, Mitchell, Morrill, Nebraska City, Neligh, Oxford, Paxton, Pender, Pierce, Plainview, Red Cloud, Scribner, Shickley, Sidney, Snyder, Spencer, Stuart, Trenton, West Point, Wisner

MEAN’s 2050 Carbon Neutral Vision

The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) Board of Directors in 2020 approved a resolution laying out a vision to a carbon neutral power resource portfolio by 2050. The resolution authorizes MEAN’s staff to collaboratively work with the MEAN Power Supply Committee to construct policies around resource planning, portfolio optimization and emissions reduction to support future actions to achieve the 2050 carbon neutral goal.

Click here to download a pdf version of MEAN’s Carbon Neutral 2050 Vision booklet published September 15, 2021.

NextEra Energy Partners, LP announces agreement to acquire a 50% interest in an approximately 2,520-megawatt portfolio of long-term contracted renewables projects and enters into new convertible equity portfolio financing

NextEra Energy Partners LP News Release, PR Newswire

NextEra Energy Partners, LP today announced that it has entered into an agreement with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC to acquire a 50% interest in an approximately 2,520-megawatt (MW) renewables portfolio. In conjunction with the acquisition, NextEra Energy Partners has also entered into an approximately $824 million convertible equity portfolio financing with Apollo Global Management (Apollo).

“The transactions announced today support NextEra Energy Partners’ continued ability to execute on its long-term growth plan and access attractive low-cost sources of capital,” said Jim Robo, chairman and chief executive officer. Continue reading here.

Photo: NextEra Energy’s Sholes Wind Farm in Wayne County, Nebraska

Nebraska’s Little Blue Wind project is included in today’s announced agreement:

  • The project is currently under construction and is scheduled to begin operations by the end of 2021.

NextEra Job Notice, October 13, 2021
Wind Site Manager – Little Blue Wind – Campbell, NE

Nebraska Wind Energy Projects Also Include: Gage Wind

  • Up to 50 GE wind turbines capable of generating up to 124 megawatts (MW).
  • Subject to local and state approvals, the project is scheduled to begin operations by the end of 2022.

Previously Posted News Stories

Additional Recommended Reading

Large-scale solar can help protect the special places we call home

Contributed by Chelsea Chandler, Director of Climate
Solutions for Clean Wisconsin, Wisconsin Examiner

The urgency of the climate crisis means that we need all hands on deck implementing all kinds of climate solutions. There’s no silver bullet; we need silver buckshot. That means we need a shift to electric vehicles and better public transit and pedestrian and bike infrastructure. We need energy efficiency and carbon-free electricity. And we need both smaller-scale, rooftop solar and large, utility-scale solar. Every kilowatt of clean energy adds up to make a difference, but given the urgency of climate change, a 465-megawatt project like the proposed Koshkonong Solar Energy Center would be a big step in matching the scale of the crisis with the scale of solutions.
Read more here.

IN NEBRASKA

Utility-Scale Projects Under Development, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy:
Solar Energy Generation in Nebraska 

  • Bellwood: 174.5 MW
  • Burt County: 250 MW
  • Clay County: Up-to 350 MW
  • Lincoln: 230 MW
  • Pierce County: 443 MW
  • Saunders County: 81 MW

FEATURED NEBRASKA PROJECT UNDER DEVELOPMENT

OPPD’s 81 MW solar farm, named “Platteview Solar”
In May the Saunders County Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 to approve the Conditional Use Permit for the 81 MW Platteview Solar Project. See: Saunders County approves solar farm construction near YutanAssociated Press

The above photo illustrates tree-screening surrounding a pollinator-friendly solar farm.

More About Platteview Solar, by Community Energy

In April 2021, Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) and Community Energy (CE) announced a Power Purchase Agreement for Platteview Solar, an 81 megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar photovoltaic installation with a proposed location just south of Hwy 92 near Yutan in eastern Saunders County.

The project site consists of approximately 500 total leased acres, spanning several clusters of land with a flat, gently rolling topography. This announcement supports OPPD’s Power with Purpose initiative. The official project announcement is on OPPD’s The Wire. OPPD is the lone customer for Platteview Solar’s energy, providing long-term stability and support.

Platteview Solar FAQS, Community Energy

Among the questions, the following is one that often comes up in discussions about utility-scale solar projects: Doesn’t solar take good agricultural ground out of production?

Community Energy: Not in a meaningful way. Saunders County is 486,400 acres of ground.  The Platteview Solar project impacts approximately 500 acres. 

Farm ground used for solar projects does not necessarily mean the end of agricultural use on the land. It will be different than traditional crops, but a robust pollinator program can benefit not only the project properties, but cropland, orchards, residential gardens, trees and other landscaping within 30 miles of the project site.

Additionally, the traditional agricultural nature of the property is not permanently lost. The benefits of restorative vegetation on nitrogen and CO2 depleted land improves agricultural land for the future. Solar projects are a long term, but temporary, use of agricultural land that allows landowners to diversify their assets, creating financial stability and allowing agricultural land to remain in families for future generations.

PREVIOUSLY POSTED NREL RESEARCH

Beneath Solar Panels, the Seeds of Opportunity SproutNational Renewable Energy Laboratory 

“It doesn’t have to be an either-or choice. For all our agriculturally productive land, let’s help PV developers and farmers plan out these solar projects so that farmers can get under the arrays and continue to work the land for the next 20 or 30 years.” —Gerry Palano, energy program coordinator, Massachusetts Department of Agriculture

ADDITIONAL SOLAR ENERGY DEVELOPMENT IN NEBRASKA

Community Solar Projects Map as of July 2021, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Resource