Category Archives: Green Building

UNO Magazine: Big Future for Tiny Homes

University of Nebraska Omaha News Center

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.

Over the past two years, Chen, along with students from Metropolitan Community College, have taken the first steps to making his vision a reality. Earlier this year, this multidisciplinary team completed construction of a 400-square-foot prototype of a sustainable, ADA-compliant home that one day could be mass produced and easily transported almost anywhere in the country.

The construction students framed the home, created the floor, erected side walls, wired the home for electricity and installed heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The finished 20-foot x 20-foot home, which was built on MCC’s campus, will be moved on a flatbed trailer to a location near UNO’s Baxter Arena this coming spring. Learn more here.

Read the UNO Magazine online as a Flipbook or download a PDF.

Previously Posted

City of Greensburg offers advice, assistance to Mayfield, Ky. following deadly tornado

By Shawn Loging, KWCH, Greensburg, Kansas

After the Greensburg tornado, the small Kansas town committed to the goal of sustainability in the build-back process, and the municipal utility became 100 percent renewable. Bob Dixon is the former mayor of Greensburg. He saw and directed this city’s return, but he says in these early days, after a disaster, you have to remember those who lost their lives.

“You need to make sure you honor the lives lost, but at the time, realize that there’s some success being made,” said Dixon.

Bob’s daughter and current city administrator Stacy Barnes and current mayor Matt Christenson both grew up in Greensburg but had moved away when the tornado hit. Both moved back to watch the town come back from its defining moment. Read more or watch the video here.

Related 

Photo: Aerial view of Mayfield, Kentucky on December 12, 2021. Credit: State Farm via Wiki Commons

UNITED POWER & TRI-STATE G&T

United Power Files Notice Of Intent To Leave Tri-State Generation and Transmission, United Power News Release, December 14, 2021

Brighton, Colorado/Washington D.C. — United Power, a rural electric cooperative based in Brighton, Colorado, today filed its Notice of Intent to withdraw from the membership of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, D.C., effective January 1, 2024. The two-year notice period was accepted by FERC in an October 29, 2021 ruling. United Power is the largest member of Tri-State and accounts for nearly 20% of the G&T’s annual revenue.

Additional Recommended Reading: Will Tri-State’s exit fee dispute at FERC shake up the cooperative utility model?, by Ethan Howland, Utility Dive

Nebraska Tri-State members seeking exit fees: Wheat Belt Public Power District and the Northwest Rural Public Power District.

FEATURED NEBRASKA WIND & SOLAR CONFERENCE VIDEO

Tri-State G&T – Responsible Energy Plan
Duane Highley, CEO, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association
Moderator: Ken Curry, Vice President, Nebraska Public Power District

NEBRASKA DED PROGRAM

Village of Hemingford Fosters Entrepreneurial Growth to Launch Solar, Social Development, Nebraska Department of Economic Development News Release, EIN Presswire

Ongoing business development and efforts to expand renewable energy opportunities in the village of Hemingford (pop. 806) have earned continued recognition from the State of Nebraska. This week, the Department of Economic Development (DED) announced Hemingford’s recertification in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community (LCC) program. Gov. Pete Ricketts’ West Central Director and Western Nebraska Development Consultant for DED, Brittany Hardin, honored local leaders during a special presentation on December 14. Hemingford is one of 31 Nebraska LCC’s, and was western Nebraska’s first community to qualify for the program, which was created in 2011 to help villages and municipalities adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development.

NATIONAL EV CHARGING ACTION PLAN

FACT SHEET: The Biden-⁠Harris Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan, December 13, 2021
Today, the Biden-Harris-Administration is releasing an EV Charging Action Plan to outline steps federal agencies are taking to support developing and deploying chargers in American communities across the country. As a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Transportation (DOT) will establish a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation focused on deploying EV infrastructure, working hand-in-hand to collect input and guidance from industry leaders, manufacturers, workers, and other stakeholders that will ensure the national network provides convenient charging for all. The initial focus will be building a convenient, reliable public charging network that can build public confidence, with a focus on filling gaps in rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach locations.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Careers in Green Building & Other STEM Rising Resources

The U.S. Department of Energy’s newsletter, STEM Rising, includes DOE and partnering agencies and organizations’ Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) news and resources. Visit the STEM Rising website to learn more about this initiative and subscribe to the newsletter.

The following resources on careers in green building are among those in the latest issue:

Also Included in the STEM Rising Newsletter:

Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Pushes For Diversity In STEM

“The data makes it clear that we need diversity in science, technology, engineering and math,” Secretary Granholm said at a roundtable discussion on racial disparities in STEM fields held at Howard University May 3. “We really want to see a diverse pipeline of our future workforce and our problem-solvers and scientists.” The Secretary’s remarks came with an announcement of a $17.3 million investment in research and internship opportunities, with a focus on increasing diversity in STEM. Read more about it here, and watch the roundtable discussion here.

Free Virtual Event for High School Girls Interested in Technology

GirlCon is an event for high school girls organized entirely by students for the fourth year running. At this virtual event June 27-30, panelists from the National Nuclear Security Association, DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, and DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory will share their role in government, and how they’re working to apply artificial intelligence to energy, climate, and nuclear weapons, as well as sustainable energy and national security. Tune in and register for this free event at GirlCon.org. Registration closes June 25 at 11:59 p.m.

MORE DOE RESOURCES

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) Initiatives and Projects

All EERE Offices

From The White House Briefing Room: FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Accelerates Efforts to Create Jobs Making American Buildings More Affordable, Cleaner, and Resilient

FACT SHEET: The American Jobs Plan Supercharges the Future of Transportation and Manufacturing

The White House Briefing Room

Increasingly, the global market is shifting to electric vehicles (EVs) – tapping into EVs’ potential to save families thousands of dollars, lower carbon pollution, and make the air we breathe cleaner. Yet, despite pioneering the technology, the United States is behind in the race to manufacture these vehicles and the batteries that go in them.

Today, the U.S. market share of plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales is only one-third that of the Chinese EV market. And in 2020, China had approximately 800,000 public charging points compared to just 100,000 in the U.S. President Biden believes it is time for this to change and for the U.S. to lead in EV manufacturing, infrastructure, deployment, and innovation. Continue reading here.

Additional Recommended Reading

Photo Credit: Autoweek

Secretary Granholm Unveils National Actions To Increase Energy Efficiency For Homes And Buildings And Save Costs For Consumers

Department of Energy News Release 
Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

As part of a White House roundtable on building efficiency, Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm today announced sweeping actions to power more American homes and buildings with cleaner, smarter, and more affordable energy services that sharply reduce the buildings sector’s contributions to the climate crisis. 

“America’s path to a net-zero carbon economy runs straight through our buildings, which means we need to help households and commercial buildings across the nation reduce their emissions and convert to cheaper, cleaner energy,” said Secretary Granholm. Continue reading here.

Referenced in the News Release: The 2021 Better Buildings Progress Report released today outlines the progress and collaboration of Better Buildings partners, which represent more than 30 of the country’s Fortune 100 companies, 12 of the top 25 U.S. employers, 12% of the U.S. manufacturing energy footprint, and 13% of total commercial building space, as well as 17 federal agencies, eight national laboratories, and more than 80 states and local governments. Visit DOE’s Building Technologies Office and the Better Buildings Initiative for more information.

NEW CESA REPORT

Solar for Manufactured Homes: An Assessment of the Opportunities and Challenges in 14 States, Clean Energy States Alliance

Manufactured homes, formerly referred to as mobile homes, comprise over six percent of America’s housing stock and represent an even larger share of housing for low- and moderate-income (LMI) households. This market should receive targeted attention if solar is to be developed equitably and if all segments of society are to realize economic benefits from solar.

This two-volume report describes the nature of the manufactured housing stock and shows how those homes are distributed across the country. It explains the general obstacles to LMI solar, as well as additional challenges related specifically to manufactured housing. It identifies the types of solar technologies that can work with manufactured housing and includes nine case studies that highlight ways in which solar can be deployed to benefit manufactured housing residents.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Quest for ‘common ground’ continues as clock ticks, E&E News
The effort to strike a bipartisan deal on infrastructure will continue this week, as Republicans are readying a counteroffer, two congressional committees will hash out how to pay for it all and lawmakers are jockeying to get their wish lists inserted into a final package. Following last week’s White House summit between President Biden and top GOP senators, Republicans say they could have an infrastructure counteroffer soon. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who is leading talks for Republicans, described the meeting as “very positive.” 

Additional Recommended Reading

The Institute On Taxation And Economic Policy (ITEP) Analyses

The Institute On Taxation And Economic Policy (ITEP) is a non-profit, non-partisan tax policy organization that conducts rigorous analyses of tax and economic proposals and provides data-driven recommendations on how to shape equitable and sustainable tax systems. ITEP’s expertise and data uniquely enhance federal, state, and local policy debates by revealing how taxes affect both public revenues and people of various levels of income and wealth.

Sustainable ‘tiny house’ project making progress

By Jason Kuiper, The Wire, OPPD Blog

Despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus, the area’s first sustainable small house is moving closer to completion. What is a sustainable house? The way project coordinator Bing Chen describes it, it is a small, ADA-compliant house about the size of a studio apartment that is self-sufficient.

That means it incorporates passive solar heating, solar electrical generation, and a roof-collected rain water system, among other enhancements. Chen is partnering with OPPD and other local organizations on the Small Sustainable House (SSH).

Continue reading here.

Top Image: Architectural visualization of the Sustainable Small House by Steve Eggerling
Right Photo Credit: The Wire 

Additional Links / Resources

Passive Solar Research Group, UNL
Director: Dr. Bing Chen
The Passive Solar Research Group’s “Sustainable Small House” Research Project

Book 

 

Path to Passive: Nebraska’s Passive Solar Primer, 1982 – available for download from the Nebraska Energy Office

 

 

Presentation 


Dr. Bing Chen’s presentation to Nebraskans for Solar at UNO’s Community Engagement Center: Small House on the Prairie: A Sustainable Assisted Living Unit (ALU) Demonstration Project Utilizing Renewable Energy (PDF)

Environment America Launches a 10-state campaign calling for all new homes to be built with solar panels

Environment America News Release

BOSTON — In January 2020, California became the first state to require all new houses to be built with solar panels. Today, Environment America is launching a first-of-its-kind campaign calling on additional states across the country to set similar standards for solar power on new homes. The coordinated national campaign will advocate for a solar homes requirement in at least ten states: Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. While each state may have slightly different goals, the campaign’s intention is to introduce bills in 10 states in the next two years. Continue reading here.

ACCELERATING ADOPTION OF COMMUNITY SOLAR

New US Solar Power Scheme Aims At Invisible Middle, by Tina Casey, CleanTechnica
A vast middle ground of opportunity for solar power development is ripe for the picking if only somebody could see where it is. Well, the US Department of Energy sees it, and is determined to pick it. The agency is moving forward with a plan to kickstart activity in the area of mid-sized arrays ranging from 50 kilowatts to 3 megawatts. That may sound like peanuts, but it includes the important community solar sector, so — wait, what is community solar anyways?

ENERGY STORAGE

The magnificent seven: US states with energy storage mandates, targets and goals, Energy Storage News. The US national Energy Storage Association’s policy director, Jason Burwen, spoke with Andy Colthorpe about the seven early adopter states and whether this is likely to be a spreading pattern across the country.

OPPD IN THE NEWS

TRADE ASSOCIATIONS’ STATEMENTS ON HOUSE $1.5 TRILLION INFRASTRUCTURE BILL 

GREEN BIZ’S “30 UNDER 30” AWARDS

The 2020 GreenBiz 30 Under 30, GreenBiz Editors
We are proud to introduce our fifth annual cohort of twentysomethings who are sustainability leaders within — and without — their companies, nonprofits and communities. The Class of 2020 hails from seven countries, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brazil and Taiwan, and they are tackling diverse challenges — from cultivating a more sustainable food system to advocating for climate justice on behalf of disadvantaged communities to testing best practices for circular cities to negotiating impactful renewable energy contracts. The list of their accomplishments is long and growing longer by the day, and they’re just getting started.

AGRIVOLTAICS

Pollinator-Saving Solar Panels: Good for Farmers, Good for Business, by Tina Casey, Triple Pundit. Conventional solar arrays typically force farmers to choose between raising crops and generating electricity in order to survive financially. However, a new body of research called agrivoltaics is demonstrating that farmers can have the best of both worlds. A recent report the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for example, indicates that properly designed, low-impact solar arrays can be compatible with agricultural use.

MORE ON AMERICA’S RENEWABLES INVESTMENT ATTRACTIVENESS

ALSO IN THE NEWS

TRANSITION IN COAL COUNTRY: PART ONE

EV NEWS

Is this electric plane the future of flying?, GreenBiz article contributed by David Elliott, Senior Writer, World Economic Forum. The world’s largest all-electric plane has completed its maiden voyage, flying for 30 minutes in the skies above Washington state. Its safe landing in Moses Lake, about 186.5 miles southeast of Seattle, is a milestone in a dream that’s been floating about since the late 1800s — air travel powered by electricity.

Midlands Voices: Acting on key goals can give cities a needed boost, Norfolk mayor says

By Josh Moenning, Omaha World-Herald

“The best way out is through.” As Robert Frost penned these words many years ago, he likely couldn’t have envisioned an environment quite like the one we find ourselves in now.

Nevertheless, the lesson applies today just as it did then. As we navigate periods of hardship and uncertainty, the most effective approach to coping is not paralysis or dithering, it’s perseverance and unrelenting focus on pushing forward.

Continue reading here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED OP-ED

Republicans must lead on clean energy jobs, by John Ruckelshaus, Republican State Senator from Indianapolis, The Indianapolis Star

Job creation is a bipartisan concern. Conservatives at all levels of government increasingly recognize that commonsense, market-based clean energy policies can put Americans to work while reducing carbon emissions. This was certainly the belief of my uncle, William Ruckelshaus, who was the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Nixon and later returned under President Reagan. The trend among conservative voters, especially the next generation, has never been more clearly in favor of clean energy. A Pew Research Center study showed that 78% of young Republicans say the U.S. should prioritize advanced energy sources over expanding fossil fuels.

 MORE ON ACORE’S NEW MACRO GRID INITIATIVE

A national US power grid would make electricity cheaper and cleaner, Vox
The areas of the US with the most renewable energy potential are not necessarily the ones that need the most energy. A report from the Wind Energy Association found that the 15 states between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River — Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana — account for 87 of the nation’s total wind energy potential and 56 percent of its utility-scale solar potential, but are only projected to account for 30 percent of the nation’s energy demand in 2050.

Macro Grid Initiative

MACRO VERSUS MICRO GRIDS

Macrogrids Or Microgrids: Which Is The Key To The Renewable Energy Revolution?, CleanTechnica. Arguing about macro versus micro is like arguing whether battery storage is better than pumped hydro. The truth is that both have a role to play in the renewable energy future. There are instances where gravity storage may be the best answer. The factor that is driving all these debates is that renewable energy facilities cost less to construct and can become operational in far less time than coal, gas, or nuclear generating installations. As costs continue to fall, there will be more money available to provide the resiliency we need to complete the renewable energy revolution while lowering the cost of electricity consumers pay.

SOLAR SCHOOLS

Salt Lake school board vows to create ‘more environmentally sustainable schools’, Deseret News
With the objective of establishing “healthier, more environmentally sustainable schools,” the Salt Lake City Board of Education has adopted a resolution that calls on the school district to meet all of its energy needs with carbon-neutral energy no later than 2040. The resolution includes incremental goals that build on ongoing efforts by district staff to reduce energy consumption and lessen the school distribution footprint.

GROUP SOLAR INSTALLATION PROGRAM

Virginia solar program on track to maintain momentum despite pandemic, Energy News Network. Every spring since 2015, the Local Energy Alliance Program has helped dozens of northern Virginians navigate the intricacies of powering their homes with solar panels. Contractors have installed more than 3 megawatts of capacity on 372 houses and businesses.

RENEWABLE ENERGY OUTLEASING

Federal courthouses might be prime spots for new solar panels, Federal News Network
The Green Building Advisory Committee drafted a recommendation letter to the General Services Administration for piloting renewable energy outleasing on federal properties. Outleasing is the practice of renting vacant or unused space on agency buildings, such as rooftops and parking lots, to utility companies which then install their equipment. According to the committee, GSA uses outleasing for renting roof space for antenna placement by telecommunications companies. And members suggested more could be done in a public-private partnership model.

CORPORATE RENEWABLES BUYERS

Wind deals are becoming even more popular with corporate renewables buyers, GreenBiz
According to “Wind Powers American Business,” a report from the wind advocacy group American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the private sector has been a significant demand driver for wind energy, purchasing more 20 percent of all new wind installations in the United States for five years running. Of course, corporations’ appetite for renewables is increasing across the board. Corporations are a similar driver behind solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). They collectively accounted for 22 percent of 2018 power purchase agreements (PPAs) for solar and wind in the United States. Still, the increase in wind projects, I wondered: What trends are driving corporations to pick more wind deals?

TESLA HOME SOLAR SYSTEMS

The Lowest Price for Home Solar, Tesla News Release
Today we are introducing the lowest-ever cost to go solar in the United States. Our average system size is now one-third less expensive than the industry average and we have recently introduced a lowest-price guarantee. If you change your mind after purchasing or are unhappy with the system, we will uninstall it and issue a full refund within seven days from system turn on.

GEOTHERMAL INNOVATION

In Minnesota, a geothermal innovation revives interest in systems’ potential, by Frank Jossi, Energy News Network. A heat exchange technology developed at the University of Minnesota could help shrink the cost and footprint of geothermal heating and cooling systems. Unlike conventional geothermal, which circulates ground heat found far below the surface, the approach taps into aquifers using fewer, shallower wells. A startup company, Darcy Solutions, has begun pitching the product to commercial and industrial businesses in the Twin Cities.

ORPHANED OIL & GAS WELLS

Special Report: Millions of abandoned oil wells are leaking methane, a climate menace, Reuters
The U.S. figures are sobering: More than 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells together emitted 281 kilotons of methane in 2018, according to the data, which was included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent report on April 14 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. That’s the climate-damage equivalent of consuming about 16 million barrels of crude oil, according to an EPA calculation, or about as much as the United States, the world’s biggest oil consumer, uses in a typical day.

Related news from Canada: Collapsed Alberta energy company leaves behind 401 ‘orphan’ wells in B.C., more than doubling total, CBC News

CLIMATE STATEMENTS FROM WORLD RELIGIOUS LEADERS

40 Newly Selected Ventures Reimagine the “ABCs” of Building Construction to Enhance the Affordability and Effectiveness of Energy-Saving Measures

Department of Energy News Release

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Building Technologies Office (BTO) awarded $26.3 million to 40 competitively selected projects, led by 29 organizations, to pursue innovations that can advance the goals of BTO’s Advanced Building Construction with Energy-Efficient Technologies & Practices (ABC) Funding Opportunity. The funding opportunity underpins the Advanced Building Construction Initiative, one of BTO’s principal efforts to unlock deeper energy savings in the U.S. building sector, which still consumes 40% of the nation’s energy and 75% of its electricity.

Through this funding opportunity, BTO is investing in new technologies that can enable superior building energy performance, without disrupting occupant comfort, and can be deployed quickly, affordably, with minimal onsite construction in the existing building stock as well as new construction.

19 projects were selected under the topic: Advanced Technology Integration, including the following:

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Lincoln, Nebraska) will conduct a field assessment of commercial and multifamily modular buildings compared to traditional construction methods.
  • Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (Chicago, Illinois) will develop an advanced training for Nebraska, supporting trends in building energy efficiency and building science, including grid-integrated efficient building practices.

Read more here.