Category Archives: Research

DOE Funding Opportunity For Agrivoltaics Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced the Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale (FARMS) funding opportunity, which will award $8 million in funding for projects that examine how agrivoltaics can scale up to provide new economic opportunities to farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry. Agrivoltaics is defined as agricultural production, such as crop production, livestock grazing, and pollinator habitat that exist underneath solar panels and/or in between rows of solar panels.

Projects will conduct a range of activities, including integrated agriculture-energy impact studies examining how agrivoltaic designs impact both agriculture production and energy production. Some projects will study how agrivoltaics can fit into existing agricultural communities and economies or enable new ones, while others will develop resources that will lower the barriers of entry to agrivoltaics, making it easier for agricultural producers and solar developers to benefit from these opportunities.

SETO’s goal is to reduce barriers to the deployment of utility- and community-scale solar energy necessary to meet the Biden administration’s goals for equitably decarbonizing the electricity sector by 2035. Scaling up the co-location of solar energy and agriculture has the potential to and provide additional benefits to farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry.

DOE expects to make between 4 and 6 awards under FARMS, each ranging from $1-2 million. SETO is interested in projects that partner with farmers who are pursuing climate-smart and sustainable agriculture and are considering agrivoltaics to enhance the economic efficiency and sustainability of small- and medium-size farms. Additionally, SETO is interested in projects that offer economic benefits to underserved communities in agricultural regions.

To facilitate the formation of teams, SETO is providing a Teaming Partner List where interested parties who would like to apply to the FOA, but not as the prime applicant, may express interest to potential partners.

Prior to submitting a full application for this opportunity, a mandatory letter of intent is due on June 1, 2022 at 5 p.m. ET.

SETO will host an informational webinar on May 12, 2022 at 3 p.m. ET to discuss the funding program and the areas of focus. Register for the webinar.

Learn more about this funding opportunity and other open funding opportunities within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

UNL CENTER FOR AGRICULTURAL PROFITIBILITY WEBINAR

Managing Through Drought with USDA Conservation and Assistance Programs
May 12 at Noon CT

Drought conditions persist across much of the country and both livestock and crop producers face losses and continuing challenges for their operations. This webinar will cover USDA emergency assistance programs to help producers cope with losses as well as on-going conservation programs to help producers prepare for and manage through drought.

MORE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY NEWS OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

SEI SOLAR TRAINING PROGRAMS

Rundown of Solar Energy International’s upcoming 2022 solar training programs, Solar Builder Magazine

For 30 years, Solar Energy International (SEI) has been dedicated to training the global solar energy workforce. SEI delivers hands-on experience, safety, and technical skills solar training to scale the global workforce at a pace to that significantly impacts climate change — whether that’s equipping utilities with the skills to operate large-scale solar farms, or helping people access clean, reliable energy for the first time. SEI offers online training as well as in-person workshops at its facilities in Paonia, Colorado.

SEI’s Solar Professional Certificate Program (SPCP) is the industry’s most comprehensive training program. With custom program tracks, SPCP prepares professionals with foundational solar skills and technical theory in the solar industry segment of their choice. All SPCP tracks are a combination of hands-on, safety, and technical skills training.

FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY JOB SEEKERS

  • Solar Workforce Development, Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO)
  • Google Search
    Solar Energy Jobs
    Wind Energy Jobs
    An additional search strategy is to check for jobs listings on the websites of solar and wind energy companies that have installed renewable energy projects in Nebraska.

FAST COMPANY’S 2022 WORLD-CHANGING IDEAS AWARDS

Every year, Fast Company’s World-Changing Ideas Awards honor the innovative ways businesses and organizations are tackling the biggest challenges of our time. Amid the seemingly endless stream of disastrous news, these awards provide more than 1,000 reasons to feel some hope. One thousand fifty-three, to be exact. That’s the total number of honorees that our judges chose to recognize from the nearly 3,000 applications we received.

Creighton University 1st Place Winner in Department of Energy’s Solar District Cup Class of 2021-2022

On April 25, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the first-, second-, and third-place winners in each division. Following the announcement, the three first-place teams presented to a public audience, who voted for the Project Pitch Champions.

“The Solar District Cup convenes college competitors to accelerate the transition to the clean energy future and to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district energy system. The Creighton team designed a proposed distributed energy system for Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Their proposal included strong photovoltaics system design, tracker angular rotation schedule, distribution analysis, and financial analyses.”

The Solar District Cup is directed and administered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and is funded by the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office. Learn more here.

Conservation Nebraska Event This Saturday!


One of the students representing Creighton University in the competition was Max Markuson DiPrince, who will be Conservation Nebraska’s guest speaker this Saturday, April 30th at 10 a.m. for a virtual presentation that was recently announced in our: Special Earth Month Edition Newsletter.

Register to attend the event at the link provided.

PV in the Circular Economy: Modeling tool helps predict flow of solar materials

By Anne Fischer, Senior Editor, PV Magazine

Exponential growth of PV installations continues in the US and so will the growth in PV panel waste streams. According to the Solar Futures Study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), solar could account for as much as 40% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2035 and 45% by 2050.

To reach these levels, solar deployment will need to grow by an average of 30 GW each year between now and 2025 and then double that between 2025 and 2030—four times its current deployment rate—to total 1,000 GW of solar deployed by 2035. That’s a lot of solar panels that would start being retired from service even before 2050. Needless to say, a lot of people–including 7-year old Neil— are concerned about what will happen to solar modules at the end of their life. That concern is real and growing, and is the subject of much study around the world. Continue reading here.

Referenced PV Magazine Article: Neil – a second grader from Minnesota – is concerned about solar panel recycling

Above Photo: Local Reuse Project
The Meristem Aronia Berry Farm And Nursery In Papillion provides an excellent example of reusing solar panels that still have life left in them. The solar panels heat a 700-gallon water tank that powers a propagating bench for the farm’s aronia berry plants. The owner, Tom Lundahl, received a grant to purchase the used solar panels, and Michael Shonka, owner of Solar Heat and Electric, installed them. Photo by Tom Lundahl
News Story: Papillion farmer installing solar panels says renewable energy is future of farming, KETV

Solar Schools
Additional examples include schools throughout the country that are reusing still-working solar panels and other PV system components for onsite STEM learning opportunities. The National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project has written a companion curriculum guide:
Schools Going Solar: Data driven lessons and activities to support and incorporate installed photovoltaic systems into the classroom learning environment.

State Policies & Laws
Nebraska does not yet have end-of-life policies for reusing and recycling solar panels and other PV system components. States that have enacted laws, regulations, and policies include: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, North Carolina and Washington. Source: State Solar Panel End-of-Life Policies, EPA

Related PV Magazine Articles

Department of Energy 

End-of-Life Management for Solar Photovoltaics, DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office

Most PV systems are young—approximately 70% of solar energy systems have been deployed in the past five years. The estimated operational lifespan of a PV module is about 30-35 years, although some may produce power much longer. So, while there are not many systems entering the waste stream right now, more systems will come to the end of their useful life in the next few decades.

Read about SETO’s PV End-of-Life Action Plan,
March 2022.

Lincoln officials announce new electric vehicle infrastructure plan

By Nolan Dorn, KLKN TV

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Lincoln officials announced a new initiative on Thursday that is aimed at helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Lancaster County. The main goal of the Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan is to help the city become more electric-car friendly.  It will create the infrastructure needed for those electric vehicles. Leaders across the county hope that this plan will help people use renewable resources and move away from fossil fuels. Continue reading here.

OMAHA

Saving Planet Omaha: City Takes First Steps toward A Greener Future, But Challenges Remain, by Regan Thomas, The Reader

To date, 417 cities, including 35 of the 50 largest, have some form of plan to address adverse weather effects. Today, about one in three Americans live in a place that has a Climate Action Plan.

For Omaha to catch up to other cities like Des Moines, Lincoln and even Crete, which all have or have started a Climate Action Plan, city officials need to work effectively, said Craig Moody, managing principal at Verdis Group, a sustainability and climate planning consultancy in Omaha. Moody’s organization has long helped cities like Lincoln build their own plans, and one week after last August’s flash foods, Moody published a blog giving cities a how-to guide for “one of the most important things a community can do to accelerate climate action,” saying these documents are meant to be used, not sit on a shelf.

Additional Recommended Reading: For Earth Day, key facts about Americans’ views of climate change and renewable energy, Pew Research Center

NEW ENVIRONMENT AMERICA REPORT

Shining Cities 2022: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy,
Environment America Research & Policy Center

Solar power continues to expand rapidly. The United States now has 121.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, producing enough solar energy to power more than 23 million homes. Millions of Americans have invested in solar energy and millions more are ready to join them.

America’s major cities have played a key role in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap tremendous benefits from solar energy. As population centers, they are major sources of electricity demand and, with millions of solar rooftops, they can be major sources of clean energy production as well.

Additional Recommended Reading: From Earth Day 1970 to 2022: A story of progress 
The rise of solar power since the first Earth Day is just one example of how far we’ve come.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

A 100% Renewable Energy Future is Possible, and We Need It

By Paula Garcia, Senior Bilingual Energy Analyst,
Union of Concerned Scientists

Nebraskans for Solar Note: The writer provides a link to information about “a growing number of states that are already committing to 100 percent renewable or carbon-free energy.” As you undoubtedly already know, Nebraska is one of them.

A transition to renewable energy is not just one of the most consequential tools at our fingertips to act on climate, but also represents a great opportunity to increase control over our energy choices, improve the health of our communities and the planet, create jobs and wealth, and much more. But how feasible is this transition? And can this transition benefit us all? 

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)—together with environmental justice groups COPAL in Minnesota, GreenRoots in Massachusetts, and the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition—collaborated on an analysis to look into those questions. On the Road to 100 Percent Renewables examined how two dozen state members of the U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA) can meet all of their electricity needs with renewable energy—while decarbonizing other sectors of the economy and ensuring equitable benefits to all communities. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL/Flickr

Additional Recommended Reading

Biden invokes Defense Production Act to bolster domestic battery manufacturing for EVs, energy storage

By Ethan Howland, Senior Editor, Utility Dive

 

“We need to embrace all the tools and technologies that can help free us from our dependence on fossil fuels and move us toward more homegrown clean energy technologies made by American companies and American workers,” Biden said during a press briefing Thursday. “We need to end our long-term reliance on China and other countries for inputs that will power the future.” Read more here.

 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY NEWS 

DOE Releases New Study Confirming Strong Performance of Energy Efficiency Loans

 

“Energy efficiency is the lowest cost clean energy resource we have,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. “The findings in this study are a compelling invitation to financial institutions to invest with homeowners, states, and local governments to maximize clean energy deployment under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and beyond.

 

NEW GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION CARBON STANDARDS 

GSA to impose first national carbon standard for concrete, E&E News, Climatewire
The procurement arm of the federal government is imposing new limitations on high carbon-emitting building materials for all its major projects, a move that will affect billions of dollars of federal infrastructure investments. The new General Services Administration standards — to be released this morning — will require that federal contractors use climate-friendly concrete and asphalt in all the agency’s major projects. GSA oversees $75 billion in annual contracts, and the agency’s real estate portfolio comprises more than 370 million square feet.

VALMONT INDUSTRIES NEWS RELEASE

Valmont SM Secures Minimum USD $209.0 Million Multi-Year Order with Siemens Gamesa for Production of Rotor Houses for the European Offshore Wind Industry

OMAHA, Neb.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Valmont® Industries, Inc. (NYSE: VMI), a leading global provider of engineered products and services for infrastructure development and irrigation equipment and services for agriculture, today announced that Valmont® SM has entered into a supply agreement with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) to provide components for the next generation of rotor houses for the offshore wind market. The order is the largest single order in Valmont SM’s history.

‘There’s a red flag here’: how an ethanol plant is dangerously polluting a US village

The Guardian

For the residents of Mead, Nebraska, the first sign of something amiss was the stench, the smell of something rotting. People reported eye and throat irritation and nosebleeds. Then colonies of bees started dying, birds and butterflies appeared disoriented and pet dogs grew ill, staggering about with dilated pupils. There is no mystery as to the cause of the concerns in Mead, a farming community so small that its 500 residents refer to it as a village and not a town. Continue reading here.

Photo by Judy Wu-Smart: AltEn’s highly toxic piles of wet cake, an ethanol by-product typically dried and sold as animal feed. The piles were described in a recent Lincoln Journal Star article as “enough to spread over a football field 150 feet deep.”

Additional Recommended Reading

TRI-STATE EXIT FEE CALCULATIONS

United Power should be able to leave Tri-State for less than a tenth of a proposed $1.6B exit fee, federal report says, Colorado Sun

An energy economist for Tri-State’s federal regulator called the energy association’s exit-fee calculations flawed and unreasonable. Tri State has member cooperatives in Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Eight member cooperatives have formally asked for exit fee calculations.

‘I think we have a wake-up call right now’ — FERC’s Phillips touts transmission’s reliability benefit

By Larry Pearl, Senior Editor, Utility Dive


There is “a clear need for substantial transmission build-out to accommodate new generation,” [FERC Commissioner] Phillips said while highlighting the ambitious renewable energy goals around the country.

“In order to get these necessary transmission projects financed, we must address the continuing barriers to regional and interregional transmission investment,” he added. Read more here.


RELATED READING

Grid operators’ ‘seam’ study paves way for renewable expansion, E&E News

The study identified seven transmission projects along the MISO-SPP boundary that would cost $1.65 billion and enable 28 gigawatts of new generation capacity — and perhaps as much as 53 GW — across MISO and SPP combined. The latter estimate, based on modeling by SPP, would roughly double the combined wind and solar capacity that currently exists in the two regions.

NEW AMERICAN CLEAN POWER ASSOCIATION INITIATIVE

Clean Power Industry Commits to Initiative for Energy Transition that Benefits Workers, Communities, and Those Historically Left Behind

WASHINGTON DC, March 23, 2022 – The American Clean Power Association (ACP), on behalf of its over 700 member companies, today announced its Energy Transition for All initiative – an industry-wide framework to ensure that workers, communities, and those historically left behind stand to benefit from the rapid growth of the clean power sector in the United States. The initiative was launched today with the release of a report containing an outline of multi-year industry objectives to realize those goals.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

NEW AT OPPD & LES: TRADE ALLY PROGRAMS

Students ask Nebraska lawmakers to acknowledge climate crisis

By Erin Bamer, Omaha World-Herald

Lincoln student Alex Hamric pleaded with Nebraska lawmakers to, at a minimum, recognize the impacts of climate change, but the 14-year-old was doubtful that his words would hold any weight. 

Hamric was one of five individuals who, during a hearing Wednesday, advocated for the Natural Resources Committee to advance a resolution (LR102) for the Legislature to acknowledge that the world is in a “climate and ecological crisis” that was caused by humans and that lawmakers have a “moral obligation” to take steps to mitigate the crisis. Continue reading here.

Photo by Herschel Talley / Nebraska National Guard: Flooded Camp Ashland as seen in this aerial photo taken in Ashland, Nebraska on March 17, 2019.

Referenced in the Article

Nebraskans for Solar Note
Kudos to the Prairie Hill Learning Center students who drafted LR102; to their teacher, Jordan Hope, who fostered her students’ desire to go beyond a class project to write the draft resolution; to Senator Anna Wishart of Lincoln who introduced it in 2021; to everyone who advocated for it through written testimony and / or in-person at the recent Natural Resources Committee hearing, including Lincoln students Alex Hamric and his twin, Willa Hamric; and, finally, to Senator John Cavanaugh for your thoughtful acknowledgement of the students’ work expressed through your informed questions.

U.S. State Climate Action Plans, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
34 states have released a climate action plan or are in the process of revising or developing one. This includes 28 states that have released plans, four states that are updating their plans, and two states that are developing a plan. 

Solar power and batteries account for 60% of planned new U.S. electric generation capacity

U.S. Energy Information Administration

Power plant developers and operators expect to add 85 gigawatts (GW) of new generating capacity to the U.S. power grid from 2022 to 2023, 60% (51 GW) of which will be made up of solar power and battery storage projects, according to data reported in our Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory. In many cases, projects combine these technologies.

Battery storage capacity, as well as renewable capacity, significantly increased in the United States during 2021, partly because of tax credits and partly because of falling technology costs, especially for batteries. Depending on the configuration and charging sources, both solar power and battery storage units may be eligible for the solar investment tax credit (ITC), which is scheduled to phase down by 2024. Continue reading here.