Category Archives: Research

DOE Awards Nearly $40 Million for Grid Decarbonizing Solar Technologies

Department of Energy News Release
October 19, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today awarded nearly $40 million to 40 projects that are advancing the next generation of solar, storage, and industrial technologies necessary for achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s climate goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. Specifically, the projects will reduce the cost of solar technologies by increasing the lifespan of photovoltaic (PV) systems from 30 to 50 years, developing technologies that will enable solar to be used in fuel and chemicals production, and advancing novel storage technologies.

“We are laser focused on deploying more solar power and developing more cost-effective technologies to decarbonize our electricity system,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Research to develop stronger and longer-lasting solar panels is critical to addressing the climate crisis. The 40 projects announced today – led by universities and private industry across the country – is an investment in the next generation of innovations that will strengthen the nation’s solar capacity and enhance our grid resilience. Continue reading here.

PV PROJECTS

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Is among the 2021 Photovoltaics Funding Program selectees.

This program will help achieve the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) goal of lowering solar energy costs 50% by 2030. Some of the projects will help extend PV system life. The rest will lay the foundation for continued research that leads to new PV technologies to help achieve a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035 and a net-zero-emissions energy sector by 2050.

UNL’s Project Name: A Hot-Swappable, Fault-Tolerant, Modular Power Converter System for Solar Photovoltaic Plants
DOE Award Amount: $300,000
Cost Share: $75,000
Project Summary: This project will work to prove the concept of a fault-tolerant, modular power converter system for PV plants that does not require disconnection from the solar array to replace components. The system will contain innovations that enable 50% system cost reduction, 90% operation and maintenance (O&M) cost reduction, uninterrupted operation with 50 years of service life, improved manufacturability, and higher power density over the state of the art. The team will design, fabricate and test a 50 kilowatt (kW) prototype with over 99.5% inverter peak efficiency, less than $0.03 per watt system cost, and less than $0.5 kW-year O&M cost.

Read about the individual PV projects and the individual CSP projects.

Learn more about DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and its research priorities in PV and CSP

West Virginia’s reliance on coal is getting more expensive, and Joe Manchin’s constituents are footing the bill

By Ella Nilsen, CNN

[A report] from West Virginia University’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development [shows] that investing in renewables would cost the state $855 million less through 2040 than continuing to invest in coal.

During the winter months in West Virginia, Felisha Chase pays more for her electricity than she does for her home. “It does feel wrong when your electric bill is more than your mortgage,” Chase told CNN. “Around here the old adage is ‘coal keeps the lights on.’ Anyone struggling to keep their electric on knows it’s more than the lights

Her electricity bill spikes every January, when Chase estimates her electricity usage increases five- or six-fold. In September, she was still paying down a remaining balance of $600 from the winter before — twice the cost of her monthly mortgage payment. Her cumulative bill has gone as high as $1,400. Continue reading here.

Image Credit: Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

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

Panhandle wildfires cause long-term effects

By Grace Pagone, North Platte Bulletin

Farmers and ranchers struggle to recover financially from recent panhandle wildfires that damaged their crops and infrastructure, along with forcing a relocation of cows and calves. Two wildfires burned more than 8,200 acres of pasture and cropland near Scottsbluff and Gering in the Panhandle. Continue reading here.

FEATURED OPINION

Small businesses and family farms would benefit from boost to USDA rural energy grant programGuest Commentary for The Baltimore Sun by Lloyd Ritter, managing partner of Green Capital LLC

As legislators calculate the right balance on how much to spend on infrastructure and clean energy, they should take stock of both the environmental and the economic gains that everyday Americans earn through the transformation to an efficient, clean energy economy. And make no mistake: That the transition is underway, built up from many small projects and successes. Congress can maintain momentum by funding smart policy choices, such as USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.

Rural Energy for America Program

RENEWABLE ENERGY ON AMERICA’S FARMS & RANCHES

  • According to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture (2017), a total of 133,176 farms and ranches had renewable energy systems, more than double the 57,299 in 2012. Those include solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and methane digesters.
  • 2017 Census by State
  • USDA’s 2022 Census of Agriculture Content Test is underway, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). NASS has been preparing for the 2022 Census of Agriculture since 2018 when they began evaluating the content and design of the previous Census questionnaire and soliciting public input into the 2022 Census.

DOE’S LOAN PROGRAMS OFFICE

There’s $44 Billion in Clean Energy Funds Up For Grabs, by Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg Green

The Energy Department has a little-known investment operation, the Loan Programs Office, with a focus on backing innovative clean technologies in early commercial development. It has more than $40 billion to lend, and during an episode of the podcast he co-hosted, the Energy Gang, [Jigar] Shah was skeptical whether the LPO could accelerate low-carbon technologies quickly. The office was “fundamentally broken,” Shah said. About four months later, the Energy Department hired Shah to run LPO.

ENERGY STORAGE NEWS

Over 60 Percent of Battery Storage Coming Online Will Be Co-located, EIA Says, American Public Power Association

Of the 14.5 gigawatts (GW) of battery storage planned to begin to come online between 2021 and 2024, 9.4 GW, or 63 percent, will be co-located with solar power, the EIA said. Another 1.3 GW of battery storage will be co-located at sites with wind turbines or fossil fuel-fired generators, such as natural gas-fired plants. The remaining 4 GW of planned battery storage will be located at standalone sites.

WHAT IS A GIGAWATT?

Gigawatt: The solar energy term you need to know about, by AJ Dellinger, CNET
According to a recent study published by the United States Department of Energy, it hopes to produce 45% of all electricity via solar power. That will require generating 1,600 gigawatts of power. This raises an important question: What is a gigawatt, exactly?

Additional Recommended Reading: DOE Releases Solar Futures Study Providing the Blueprint for a Zero-Carbon Grid

REMEDIATING FOSSIL FUEL SITES

A century later, utilities still face billions in potential liabilities from obsolete manufactured gas plants, by Kavya Balaraman, Senior Reporter, Utility Dive

Thousands of manufactured gas plants dotted the American landscape in the 19th and early 20th century. Today, PG&E, ConEd and other utilities are still dealing with the contamination they left behind.

FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Releases Agency Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plans from Across Federal Government

October 7, 2021 – Today, the Biden-Harris Administration released plans developed by more than 20 federal agencies that outline the steps each agency will take to ensure their facilities and operations adapt to and are increasingly resilient to climate change impacts. The plans reflect President Biden’s whole-of-government approach to confronting the climate crisis as agencies integrate climate-readiness across their missions and programs and strengthen the resilience of federal assets from the accelerating impacts of climate change. The climate adaptation and resilience plans were previously submitted to and reviewed by the National Climate Task Force, White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) Federal Chief Sustainability Officer, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

Agencies face a multitude of risks caused by climate change, including rising costs to maintain and repair damaged infrastructure from more frequent and extreme weather events, challenges to program effectiveness and readiness, and health and safety risks to federal employees who work outside. By taking action now to better manage and mitigate climate risks, we will minimize disruptions to federal operations, assets and programs while creating safer working conditions for employees. Continue reading here.

All 20 Federal Agency Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plans are available here:
www.sustainability.gov/adaptation

SELECT AGENCIES’ NEWS RELEASES 

DOE Sets 2025 Community Solar Target to Power 5 Million Homes

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced a new National Community Solar Partnership target: to enable community solar systems to power the equivalent of five million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy bill savings. Reaching these milestones will help achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035 and ensure that all Americans can reap the benefits of renewable energy while building community wealth and resiliency.

“Community solar is one of the most powerful tools we have to provide affordable solar energy to all American households, regardless of whether they own a home or have a roof suitable for solar panels,” said Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm. “Achieving these ambitious targets will lead to meaningful energy cost savings, create jobs in these communities, and make our clean energy transition more equitable.” Read more here.

NREL WEBINAR

Save the Date! October 26, 2021, 1 to 2 pm Central Time: 3 GW and Growing: Trends in the Community Solar Market

Join the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to hear the latest on community solar deployment trends across the United States. The webinar will cover topics such as the financial value that residential community solar subscribers receive, the potential for community solar to be used to reduce consumers’ energy burden, and the policy and deployment status of programs targeting low- and moderate-income subscribers.

LOCAL SOLAR FOR ALL COALITION REPORT

New Report Shows Rapidly Increasing Distributed Solar and Storage is Critical to Achieving President Biden’s Climate and Equity Goals at the Lowest Cost, Local Solar for All News Release, Business Wire

The key findings include:

  • At least 103 GW of distributed solar and 137 GW of distributed storage must be deployed by 2030 to achieve President Biden’s goals at the lowest cost.
  • Scaling up distributed solar and storage reduces stress on utility-scale resources and enables access to 579 GW of utility-scale solar and 442 GW of wind.
  • Scaling up distributed solar and storage saves all ratepayers over $109 billion by 2030 compared to deploying utility-scale renewables only.
  • Increasing local solar and storage would lead to the creation of more than 1.2 million new American jobs by 2030.

Not included in the report, but key to achieving President Biden’s Justice40 goals, is the ability for 50% of local rooftop and community solar capacity to be directed to low- to moderate-income (LMI) households, which could lower the energy burden for between 8-15 million LMI households.

Click the following link to learn more about the coalition:
www.localsolarforall.org.

Your utility: 5 facts about public power

By Laura King-Homan, The Wire

Public power utilities represent 60 percent of the electric utilities in the United States, serving 1 in 7 Americans. Nebraska has 166 public power utilities and cooperatives.

Public power is a unique part of living in Nebraska. The state is the only one in the country where all residents get electricity from public power utilities or cooperatives. This week, Oct. 3-9, is Public Power Week. In recognition, here are a few facts you may not know about your public power utilities.

Public power customers enjoy electricity rates averaging 11.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to investor-owned utility customers, who pay an average of 13.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. Nebraska enjoys rates that are even lower, an average of 10.6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Learn more here.

Infographic by the American Public Power Association (APPA)

Also Written by Laura King-Homan
Resolve to be more energy efficient: October tips, The Wire

Additional Recommended Reading

The [annual Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report] comes as lawmakers consider infrastructure and budget reconciliation measures that include billions in funding for efficiency, which experts say could boost the sector’s employment and reduce U.S. carbon emissions. “What I’m seeing in Congress is a growing acceptance … that we have to act,” Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said at an event introducing the efficiency employment report.

Energy Efficiency Jobs in America  by nonpartisan business group E2 and clean energy nonprofit E4TheFuture

A bipartisan Ohio bill would be a first step to recouping savings, say advocates. But huge losses from House Bill 6 would remain. For Ohio, the MEEA report estimates that Ohioans missed out on roughly $980 million in net benefits for one program year. That figure includes savings on energy bills, as well as things like reduced capacity costs and avoided costs for transmission and distribution. When avoided health impacts and the social costs of carbon are factored in, Ohioans would have saved more than $2 billion for a single program year, according to the analysis.

Since he joined FERC four years ago, Glick has argued the agency isn’t taking a sharp enough look at how gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities affect the climate as well as environmental justice communities, or whether the proposed facilities are even needed. Glick’s letter comes as FERC is considering changing how it reviews natural gas infrastructure under a policy statement set in 1999. The agency launched a review of its natural gas policy in April 2018. After Glick was elevated to chairman last January, he asked for another round of comments from stakeholders on issues like how to evaluate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Statement: Massive oil spill off Southern California coast harming wildlife

Environment America News Release

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — A broken pipeline has spewed more than one hundred thousand gallons of oil into the ocean near Huntington Beach, California, closing the beach and forcing the cancellation of the final day of the Pacific Air Show. The spill, discovered Saturday morning, is coming from an oil drilling operation eight miles off the coast, operated by Houston-based Amplify Energy. The pipeline, formerly operated by Shell oil, has been in place since the 1980s. The Coast Guard has been called in for emergency clean-up, since the oil has rendered the coastline too dangerous for humans and marine wildlife. Read more here.

Related

NEW STUDY SHOWS AIR POLLUTION’S HARM TO HUMAN HEALTH

New report: More than one in six Americans experienced greater than 100 days of polluted air in 2020, Environment America

‘Trouble in the Air’ study shows where particulate matter and ozone pollution are harming human health in the U.S. “Air pollution can be just as dangerous for our health as smoking,” said Wendy Wendlandt, President of Environment America Research & Policy Center. “We learned in the 1960s that cigarettes were bad for us and we started to do something about it. Today, air pollution causes hundreds of thousands of people who never took up smoking to die too early each year. It’s past time to do something about that.” 

Download Trouble In The Air 

CARBON POLLUTION & LOCAL DECARBONIZATION LIMITS / LONGTERM INITIATIVES

South Sioux City’s Solar Park

Previously posted article discusses specific decarbonization limits for Nebraska communities and South Sioux City’s independent path to 100% renewable energy:

  • Nebraska solar farm highlights tension between cities, electricity wholesaler, Energy News Network. The city of Norfolk, Nebraska, soon will celebrate its first solar farm — and the last one allowed under a contract with its electricity wholesaler.The 8.5-megawatt community solar project is being developed in partnership with the Nebraska Public Power District, which supplies power to most of the state outside of Omaha and Lincoln. The hitch for Norfolk is that the public utility’s contracts prevent municipal customers from generating more than 10% of their peak load from alternative sources, a threshold the city expects to reach with this project. “Northeast Nebraska is the renewable energy hotbed of the state,” said Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning. “I’d much rather use clean energy that’s made in our backyard than haul it in on a coal train from Wyoming, which is the status quo in Nebraska.
  • 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

Additional Resources

Happy New (Fiscal) Year! Recapping a Year of Accomplishments at the Wind Energy Technologies Office

DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office 

As Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 comes to a close, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) is celebrating a range of research and funding achievements—from an offshore wind supply chain roadmap to new resources to help communities plan wind energy developments.

Learn more about how WETO’s FY21 accomplishments have helped set the stage for U.S. wind energy to continue to grow.

Visit the Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) for the latest news, events, and updates.

 ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

GREEN CAMPUSES

 Six Months of Solar: DU Pushes Toward Carbon Neutrality Goals, University of Denver News
The project aims to reduce DU’s carbon footprint in line with its 25 sustainability goals to achieve by 2025, and to further carbon neutrality efforts.

OF POTENTIAL INTEREST TO K-12 TEACHERS

NEED Curriculum Samplers

Available for FREE PDF download, these curriculum samplers recombine NEED favorites into a smaller and simpler format, allowing the NEED Project to showcase new curriculum activities before they go into full format. Click here to check them out and share with your colleagues.

Commentary: Electric vehicles are finally ready for rural drivers

Contributed by Joyce Bodoh, director of energy solutions and clean energy
at Rappahannock Electric Cooperative
, Energy News Network

EVs available today can go as far as 400 miles on a single charge — welcome news to drivers with longer than average commute of 30 miles a day. New all-electric models hitting the market include pick-up trucks, EVs that seat up to seven passengers, and plug-in hybrid minivans. EVs are not just available in the new car market, either. The used car EV market that is expanding as well and available at a variety of price points.

As the director of energy solutions and clean energy at Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (“REC”), I support electric transportation efforts for the cooperative and promote the benefits of EVs to our member-owners. REC is an electric cooperative that provides electricity to 170,000 member-owners across Virginia. Read more here.

Image Credit: Inside EVs

NATIONAL DRIVE ELECTRIC WEEK 2021

September 25 – October 3

National Drive Electric Week is a nationwide celebration to raise awareness of the many benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more. Learn more here.

LINKS TO RESOURCES

FACT SHEET: The American Jobs Plan Supercharges the Future of Transportation and Manufacturing, The White House Briefing Room

MORE ON U.S. INFRASTRUCTURE 

While far from the panacea that would be required to address increasingly critical infrastructure challenges, the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] — in its latest form — allocates over $70 billion for modernizing the nation’s electricity grid so that it can carry more renewable energy, marking the single largest federal investment in power transmission in history. With grid resiliency in the spotlight after events like this year’s power crisis, the spotlight remains on utilities and energy providers to prudently invest the federal injection to ensure that an event of this caliber (or worse) never happens again.

GRAIN BELT EXPRESS

New Illinois law could move Grain Belt Express forward, Missouri Times
The project would bring $1 billion in infrastructure investment to Illinois and create 1,200 jobs across three years of construction, according to Invenergy. It would develop an overhead and direct transmission line of approximately 780 miles delivering wind energy from western Kansas to utilities and consumers in Missouri and other states, according to its website.

NPPD’S R-PROJECT 

Click “Project Status” at the link, below, then scroll down to watch a brief video.

Project Status

MINNESOTA VIRTUAL POWER PLANT PILOT PROJECT

Minneapolis battery pilot will test vision for sharing solar power with neighbors, Energy News Network. Four batteries are being installed at a North Minneapolis green jobs training center in one of the country’s first “virtual power plant” pilot projects. Each battery will simulate a household buying and selling power with neighbors.

GLOBAL ROOFTOP SOLAR MARKET

Rooftop solar remains untapped yet crucial for energy transition – BNEF