Category Archives: Research

New Environment America Report – Blocking Rooftop Solar: The Companies, Lobbyists And Front Groups Undermining Local Clean Energy

Released by the Environment Florida Research & Policy Center

Recent corruption scandals in Ohio and Illinois, in which utilities and other special interests allegedly used their clout to twist public policy in their favor, highlight how far anti-solar efforts have gone. Policymakers must resist pressure from utilities and the fossil fuel industry and implement pro-solar policies that will continue America’s momentum toward clean energy

In 2021, a national network of utility interest groups and fossil fuel-linked think tanks continues to offer funding, advice and support to utilities across the country seeking to undermine rooftop solar power. These include . . .  Continue reading here.

Download Report (PDF)

Nebraska’s Overall Solar Development & Potential

Previously Posted Net Metering Legislative Bills

Net metering changes considered – Legislative Update, Senator John Cavanaugh
The Natural Resources Committee heard testimony Feb. 10, 2021 on two bills that would modify Nebraska’s net metering laws.

Additional Recommended Reading

Energy News Network Articles & Related Reading 

Nebraska utility could slash emissions at little or no added cost, studies show , Energy News Network, March 29, 2021. The Nebraska utility’s board of directors will use the reports to develop a sustainability goal, and then to devise an integrated resource plan starting later this year.

Nebraska does not have an up-to-date state energy plan or a state climate action plan:: State energy plans show how process can match final product in impact, Energy News Network, February 10, 2021

LB483 – Provide for a climate change study and action plan

Related Reading

    • Nebraska needs overall plan for energy policies, Lincoln Journal Star, November 4, 2015. Nebraska’s Energy Office director says the state needs a comprehensive approach to its energy policies as it faces what could be a “seismic” change in federal regulations governing emissions. David Bracht, Gov. Pete Ricketts’ chief adviser on energy issues, talked about state energy policies Wednesday at the eighth annual Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference in Omaha. . . . [The] Nebraska Legislature has instructed the state Energy Office to create a comprehensive energy plan and budgeted more than $630,000 to see it done.
    • LB469: Provide procedures and reporting requirements relating to a state plan on carbon dioxide emissions, require a strategic state energy plan, and provide requirements for meteorological evaluation towers.
    • 2011 Nebraska Energy Plan, National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO)

Nebraska solar farm highlights tension between cities, electricity wholesaler, Energy News Network, August 19, 2020

South Sioux City’s City Council decided four years ago not to renew its contract with NPPD. It has gradually reduced its purchases from the utility down to 10% of its load this year, and will stop buying power from the wholesaler altogether on Jan. 1, 2022. “We’ve been very happy with the decision the [city] council made to get more into renewables,” said Lance Hedquist, the city administrator of the community of about 13,000 also located in northeast Nebraska. The city has added solar and wind energy to its portfolio, and now obtains about half of its power from renewables, he said.

Related Reading

  • NPPD’s Wholesale Power Contracts
    Wholesale energy sales are made to 60 entities under wholesale power contracts that terminate on Jan. 1, 2036 and to 10 other entities with wholesale power contracts that terminate on Dec. 31, 2021. The 10 wholesale customers that did not sign the 2016 contract provided the notice required under their existing 2002 contracts, and began in 2017 to reduce their purchases to 0% over a five-year period.  Source: Fitch Rates Nebraska Public Power District’s General Revs ‘A+’; Outlook Stable

Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska News 

MEAN Issues RFP For Participant Community Solar PV Installation Project, July 15, 2021
The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) is issuing a Request for Proposals on behalf of 11 MEAN participant communities interested in obtaining energy from solar PV installations to be built in their respective communities. The project is an effort by MEAN to bring economically priced solar energy to interested MEAN participant communities. Participating communities hope to obtain lower solar costs through economies of scale through this joint effort. RFP proposals are due Aug. 31, 2021 with a bid award date set for Oct. 27, 2021.

Click here to download the RFP.
Additional MEAN News

Previously Posted

About MEAN
The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) 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

About NMPP Energy
NMPP Energy is a member-driven coalition of four organizations based in Lincoln, Neb., serving nearly 200 member communities in six Midwest and Rocky Mountain states. NMPP Energy’s organizations fulfill separate needs to their respective member communities. Collectively, they subscribe to the core philosophies of local control and working together to provide reliable, cost-based energy and energy-related services. NMPP Energy Members 

Recommended Resources On Leasing Land For Solar 

Considerations for Leasing Land for Solar Development, by F. John Hay – Extension Educator for Bioenergy

Utility scale solar development is here — in the eight months since the solar leasing article was published in August 2020, Nebraskans have seen continued land lease activity, county zoning rule adoption, an extension of the federal tax credit, and projects approved by county commissioners/supervisors. Additionally, one project (Saunders County [OPPD electrical purchase]) has reached the important step of electricity sales, which is the most common tipping point between a proposed project and a project that will get built. Many smaller solar projects have been built in the years prior to 2021, with the largest at about 8 MW, or about 50 acres. The utility scale projects being proposed and approved are many times larger, with 500 or more acres.

Senate advances bipartisan infrastructure bill in procedural vote

By Jacob Pramuk, CNBC

The Senate voted Friday to move forward with a bipartisan infrastructure bill, as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushes to pass it as soon as next week. The vote was delayed briefly as senators reportedly worked out an issue related to broadband. The final text of the legislation has yet to be released. The procedural measure needed only a simple majority to pass. The final tally was 66 votes in favor, and 28 against. Continue reading here.

Related Reading

AMERICAN CLEAN POWER ASSOCIATION REPORT

First Clean Power Annual report shows record U.S. renewables growth and investment
WASHINGTON DC, July 29, 2021 – The American Clean Power Association today released its first Clean Power Annual report, which showed wind, utility solar, and battery storage power capacity in the U.S. topped 170 gigawatts (GW), following a record 26 GW of clean energy projects coming online in 2020.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

USDA REAP FUNDING NOTICES

  • Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audit & Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants (July 26, 2021) Federal Register Notice
  • Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants (July 26, 2021) Federal Register Notice

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY 

Lower Battery Costs, High Value of Backup Power Drive Distributed Storage Deployment
Fourth Report in NREL’s Storage Futures Study Uses Distributed Generation Market Demand Model To Estimate Behind-the-Meter Storage Capacity, Identify Drivers of Customer Adoption. Several findings in the study demonstrate that PV and batteries make an economical pairing. Because an average PV-plus-battery storage system is larger than PV-only configurations, battery storage increases the PV capacity and the system’s economic value.

Read the Report: Distributed Solar and Storage Outlook: Methodology and Scenarios.

Upcoming Webinar: NREL’s Storage Futures Study team will host a free public webinar on Tuesday, August 10, 2021, from 10 to 11 am CT. Register here.

BATTERY MATERIALS RECYCLING

Former Tesla CTO’s battery materials recycling company announces US$700 million+ investment, Energy Storage News

Former Tesla battery guru JB Straubel’s materials recycling company Redwood Materials has attracted more than US$700 million in investment. Redwood, which is currently developing processes to produce battery materials that can be resold into the supply chain, has partnerships in place with the likes of Panasonic, Envision AESC and Amazon. The company pledges to recycle any device with a lithium-ion battery including phones, laptops and power tools, although a major focus is being placed on electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

Ricketts’ order on 30-by-30 conservation effort is short on actual roadblocks

By Martha Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald

LINCOLN — In his battle against the federal government, Gov. Pete Ricketts has directed state agencies to take “any necessary step” to resist a federal initiative to conserve 30% of American land and waters by 2030. He signed the executive order last month, in the leafy shade of the garden at the Governor’s Mansion, flanked by allies from rural county governments and agricultural organizations.

Ricketts said his order is aimed at stopping implementation of what he calls “the 30×30 land grab.” But a closer look at the order shows it to be long on education and information-gathering and short on steps that would block the expansion of conservation efforts. Read more here.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Working with Individual Landowners on Conservation

The USDA provides voluntary, incentive-based conservation to landowners through local field offices in nearly every county of the nation. USDA helped landowners develop conservation plans and enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, conserve and clean the water we drink, prevent soil erosion and create and protect wildlife habitat. USDA support – leveraged with historic outside investments – helped support producer incomes and reward them for their good work.

Learn more about USDA’s conservation programs.

CENTER FOR AGRICULTURAL PROFITABILITY AT UNL

The interdisciplinary Center for Agricultural Profitability, which was approved March 11, 2021, facilitates faculty research, conducts outreach related to agricultural profitability and trains undergraduate and graduate students — all to support informed decision-making in agriculture through applied research and education.

Center for Agricultural Profitability Webinars – Archived & Upcoming

Analyzing the Proposed 30×30 Conservation Plan, July 22, 2021
With: Dave Aiken, Professor and Agricultural Law & Water Specialist, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

On Jan. 27, President Biden signed his climate action executive order, pledging, among other things, to conserve at least 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030. On May 6, an interagency report to the president provided some detail for implementing the 30×30 plan. The report pledges to honor private property rights and to honor existing voluntary stewardship efforts of private landowners as well as building on existing land and water conservation programs. Aiken describes the proposed 30×30 program and discusses how the U.S. may be closer to reaching 30% land protection than most realize.

Conservation Program Opportunities for Producers and Landowners, July 8, 2021
With Brad Lubben, Extension Associate Professor and Policy Specialist, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Agricultural Economics; Doug Klein, Conservation and Price Support Programs Chief, USDA FSA Nebraska State Office; and Brad Soncksen, Assistant State Conservationist, USDA NRCS State Office.

Rural electric co-ops get shocking estimates of the cost to break up with Tri-State Generation

By Mark Jaffe, The Colorado Sun

Some of Tri-State’s 43 member co-ops have voiced a desire to develop more homegrown and cleaner electric generation – they are required to buy 95% of their electricity from the association, which still has substantial coal-fired generation.

“This does not move the ball,” United Power CEO Mark Gabriel said. “I think they are off by three zeros,” he said of his co-op’s exit fee. The association’s filing was in response to a ruling in June by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that Tri-State’s exit policies were “unjust and unreasonable or unduly discriminatory.”  Read more here.

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

ACP NEWS RELEASE

The American Clean Power Association and the U.S. Energy Storage Association announce intent to merge

WASHINGTON DC, July 22, 2021 – The boards of directors of the American Clean Power Association (ACP) and the U.S. Energy Storage Association (ESA) have voted to pursue a merger of the two trade associations to combine their staff, programs, and members. The merger will bring together the diverse membership and talented team members of ESA with the resources and reach of ACP. Additionally, it will enhance the American Clean Power Association’s efforts to advocate for the economic and environmental advantages of the clean power economy and further position the renewable energy and storage industries for success as they move into a decade of transformative growth.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Supply Chain Woes Call Attention to Solar Manufacturing Possibilities

SEIA Blog

Recently, Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) introduced the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act alongside Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). This commonsense legislation will provide tax credits for American manufacturers at every stage of the solar manufacturing supply chain, from polysilicon to solar cells to fully assembled solar modules.

In support of Senator Ossoff’s proposal and the effort to reach 100 GW of annual renewable energy manufacturing capacity, SEIA announced a new target of 50 GW of annual domestic production capacity by 2030, a ten-fold increase from where we are today.This ambitious goal aims to dramatically ramp up American solar manufacturing capacity which would cover all key elements of a solar energy system, including polysilicon, ingots and wafers, cells and modules, racking and trackers and inverters. Read more here.

Related Reading

ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE ACT

INFRASTRUCTURE BILL

Climate change is no longer other worldly, and inaction is no longer an option, USA Today Editorial Our View: Heat dome killed hundreds in the Pacific Northwest as global temperatures rise. Biden infrastructure bill is a good start to protect America.

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

BACKLOGGED TRANSMISSION QUEUES 

Gridlock in transmission queues spotlights need for FERC action on planning, Utility Dive
Generation interconnects to transmission through queues managed by the seven regional transmission and independent system operators (RTO/ISOs) and utility transmission owners. And capacity in those queues “is growing year-over-year,” according to an analysis by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) of an estimated 85% of U.S. electricity load at the end of 2020.

Related Reading

Clean electricity standard lands spot in $3.5 trillion Democratic-backed infrastructure deal

By Scott Voorhis, Utility Dive

The Biden administration wants Congress to pass a clean electricity standard but is also prepared to pursue efforts to push utilities to ratchet down their emissions through the federal regulatory process should a national standard fail to make the final bill, according to Gina McCarthy, the White House’s national climate adviser. McCarthy said the administration believes a national clean energy standard would be more effective in prompting action on part of the utility industry to reduce emissions. Read more here.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

SOLAR TOOL FOR INSTALLERS & LOCAL GOVERNMENTS

U.S. Department of Energy Kicks Off ‘Summer of Solar 2021’ With Tool That Fast-Tracks Solar Power For Communities Nationwide, Department of Energy News Release

Washington, D.C.— The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today kicked off the ‘Summer of Solar 2021’ with the nationwide launch of the Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus (SolarAPP+) tool – a free web-based platform that gives local governments the ability to expedite their review and approval of residential solar installation permits. Developed by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), SolarAPP+ will drastically reduce barriers to solar deployment, spur community economic development, and advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s clean energy goals.  

Related Reading

FEATURED REPORTS

The Clean Economy Revolution Will Be Unionized, Center for American Progress
While no state or city government has taken every necessary step to achieve good jobs, climate action and environmental justice, many of them have made important progress—and from this progress, federal lawmakers and lawmakers in other states can derive policy lessons and political momentum. This report offers a recap of some informative state and local actions designed to support good jobs, ensure high-road labor standards, and confront the climate crisis.

Clean Energy Labor Supply Report, American Clean Power Association
Based on two scenarios of renewables deployment — 50% and 70% of electricity generated from renewables by 2030 — the study projects the number of workers that will be needed to meet these goals and highlights those occupations where high demand for workers could result in labor gaps.

Download the executive summary
Download the infographic

Yellen: US regulators to assess risk posed by climate change

By Martin Krutsinger, AP Economic Writer, NTV

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says she will lead an effort by top U.S. regulators to assess the potential risk that climate change poses to America’s financial system, part of a wide-ranging initiative launched by the Biden administration.

Yellen says the regulatory review, which will be done by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, will examine whether banks and other lending institutions are properly assessing the risks to financial stability. She chairs the committee, which includes Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other financial regulators. Read more here.

MIDWEST ENERGY NEWS SERIES

Faulty equipment, poor training are main factors in Illinois coal mining death
When people die in Illinois coal mines, faulty equipment and lack of safety protocols are most often cited by federal investigators, and experts say economic challenges will create pressure to cut corners.

A small price to pay: Illinois mines routinely appeal safety penalties
Federal mine safety inspections are the main safeguard to prevent accidents and deaths in an inherently dangerous industry, but critics say the fines for safety violations are low, and companies regularly get them reduced. 

For generations of Illinois coal mining families, risk is part of everyday life
In parts of downstate Illinois, coal mining is deeply ingrained in families and communities. But it has taken a deep toll on some.

About the Author
Kari Lydersen has written for Midwest Energy News since January 2011. She is an author and journalist who worked for the Washington Post’s Midwest bureau from 1997 through 2009. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, Chicago News Cooperative, Chicago Reader and other publications. Kari covers Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana as well as environmental justice topics.

NEBRASKA NEWS

Nebraska Public Power Utilities Make Progress In Restoring Power In Wake Of Storms, by Paul Ciampoli, American Public Power Association

Public power utilities in Nebraska continued to make progress over the weekend in restoring power to customers in the wake of outages caused by severe storms that hit the state. A storm that hit on the night of Friday, July 9, damaged transmission structures as well as local distribution structures in several communities and crews from across the state were called to help restore power as quickly and safely as possible, Nebraska Public Power District (NPDD) reported. 

OPPD Selects Wärtsilä To Provide Reciprocating Internal Combustion Technology For Standing Bear Lake Station

OPPD News Release

Omaha Public Power District has taken another important step in its Power with Purpose project to add 400 to 600 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale solar generation and up to 600 MW of backup, modern natural gas to the utility’s generation portfolio.

The utility has selected nine Wärtsilä 18V50DF internal combustion engines (RICE) to power OPPD’s new Standing Bear Lake Station in Douglas County, one of two gas plants that will serve as backup to the coming solar generation. Like OPPD’s Turtle Creek Station going up in Sarpy County, Standing Bear Lake Station will be used as a peaking station, which means that the plant will run only as needed, per market conditions (estimated at less than 15% of the time). Continue reading here.

Wärtsilä Corporation News Release: Wärtsilä to provide 156 MW of thermal balancing power for Omaha Public Power District, enabling fast increase in renewables in Nebraska
Wärtsilä engines can later be converted to carbon neutral fuels to further enhance decarbonization. Wärtsilä has researched hydrogen as a fuel for 20 years and can currently use 15%-25% hydrogen blended with natural gas. Going forward Wärtsilä is developing the combustion process in its gas engines to enable their use with up to 100% hydrogen.

Additional Wärtsilä Resources of Potential Interest

NON-WIRES SOLUTIONS

Growth spurs additions to OPPD’s system, by Jason Kuiper
While OPPD does bring on a few new circuits each year, OPPD planners are beginning to look at alternatives to adding new circuits. Non-traditional fixes such as batteries and solar power might be closer than people realize, [Mike Herzog, manager of Distribution Planning] said. “We are taking a closer look at what we call ‘non-wire’ solutions,” he said. “And those technologies could be fixes for adding more circuits. There are areas in our city that it would be very difficult and disruptive to put in a new circuit, like some of the main arteries in the city. So we are always looking ahead.”

Featured Resource: Non-Wires Alternatives: Case Studies From Leading U.S. Projects, Smart Electric Power Alliance

ALSO PUBLISHED BY THE WIRE

AMERICAN PUBLIC POWER ASSOCIATION SERIES

Celebrating public power in America series – Part 2: Celebrating the Modern Public Power Utility
The American Public Power Association is pleased to present the second in-depth, three-part Public Power Current newsletter series to celebrate public power’s past, present, and future. Yesterday we described how local leaders began what would become the nation’s oldest continuously operated public power utility, in Butler, Missouri. Today, the Butler Electric Department is a modern utility: it owns Missouri’s first utility-scale solar farm, has emergency-only generators, a fully remodeled and upgraded power plant, and is studying the addition of wind power to help meet the needs of a growing town. Today we share how three public power utilities have adapted to changing times and local needs.

In Midst of Record Heat Wave, Oregon Passes Clean Energy Bill with Microgrid Provisions

By Lisa Cohn, Microgrid Knowledge

In the midst of a record-breaking heat wave, wildfires and power outages, the Oregon Legislature Sunday passed a billHB 2021 C, that calls for 100% clean energy by 2040 as well as the inclusion of microgrids as part of community-based renewable energy projects. Oregon Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill. Temperatures hit 108 degrees on Saturday, 112 degrees on Sunday and 116 degrees on Monday in Portland. In addition, on Wednesday Brown called for a state of emergency in response to the wildfire threats across the state. Continue reading here.

Also Published by Microgrid Knowledge 

As Extreme Heat Overwhelms the Northwest, Congressional Briefing Looks to Microgrids
Microgrids give communities and people independence and the ability to take control of their power reliability, according to [Representative Jimmy] Panetta, sponsor of a bill that would provide a 30% tax credit for microgrids.

Community Microgrids: A Guide For City Leaders Seeking Clean, Reliable and Locally Controlled Energy

Community microgrids are central pillars of today’s local energy revolution. Being developed in municipalities large and small, they are a key feature of the new clean and efficient electrical infrastructure that is beginning to transform America’s energy grid into a less centralized and more democratized entity.

Mayors and city leaders are especially tuned into this transformation because of the severe stress that extended power outages create in their communities . . . Click link to read more. 

Previously Posted: A Ready-Made Microgrid at Zero Cost? Yep. A Nebraska Utility Did It

Fortenberry scores additional federal funding for USDA center at UNL

By Don Walton, Lincoln Journal Star

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday gave its approval to an additional $20 million appropriation for construction of a new U.S. Department of Agriculture research center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The new recommended funding follows on the heels of an earlier allocation of $11.2 million for planning and design of the multi-year project. If full funding for a new federal ag research center ultimately is acquired, that would signal the end of a long quest for a USDA presence at Nebraska Innovation Campus that began more than a decade ago.  Continue reading here

MORE UNL NEWS & UPCOMING WEBINARS

IANR launches Center for Agricultural Profitabilityby Ryan Evans | Center for Agricultural Profitability, Nebraska Today

The new Center for Agricultural Profitability in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources began operating June 28 with the unveiling of a new website and slate of informational events. For more on the Center for Agricultural Profitability, including registration for its free webinar series and access to its decision tools, articles and other resources, click here.

Center for Agricultural Profitability Webinars
July 8: 
Conservation Program Opportunities for Producers and Landowners
July 15: Business & Financial IQ – The Difference Maker