Category Archives: Research

Sugar Powers Solar Technology Research

Creighton University News

When Max Markuson DiPrince embarked on an accelerated master’s degree in physics and sustainable energy sciences, Creighton University’s most prominent solar technology researcher found his man.

Andrew Baruth, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, had been kicking around an idea that cooking sugar down into carbon nanodots about one billionth of a meter in size might improve the efficiency of solar panels.

Such is the imaginative world of research, but Baruth needed someone to pursue the idea. When he handed the ball to Markuson DiPrince, a junior from Denver, Colorado, who is a Dean’s Fellow in the Creighton College of Arts and Sciences, Markuson DiPrince carried it all the way to a presentation at the annual conference of the American Physical Society, held virtually in March.

As he perused the participants who would soon hear his PowerPoint presentation, Markuson DiPrince saw representatives of numerous graduate institutions and national laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, as well as representatives of Princeton and Harvard universities.

“It was pretty terrifying, I won’t lie,” Markuson DiPrince said. “But it definitely built up my ability to present in an academic environment, which is very important as I build the skills necessary to present and defend a master’s thesis.”

The innovation Markuson DiPrince laid out that day concerned the ability of glucose-based carbon nanodots to transform the ultraviolet light spectrum into green light, which is the ideal form of light for solar cells.

“This is a relatively new direction for our research team, and Max ran the project in its entirety,” Baruth said. “It is quite an achievement for an undergraduate. It is certainly graduate-level work, which is why I’m glad he’s sticking around for his master’s degree.”

Markuson DiPrince is no stranger to solar cell research. He was named a 2019-2020 recipient of a NASA Nebraska Space Grant for similar work investigating the use of glucose-derived carbon to boost the ability of solar cells to generate electrical energy from sunlight.

Max Markuson DiPrince is a member of Nebraskans for Solar’s Board of Directors. 

Upcoming Event Hosted by Conservation Nebraska

Virtual Solar Farm Tour: Creighton University
May 20, 2021 at 6 pm

Register Here.

 

Join Conservation Nebraska for a virtual tour of Creighton University’s solar farm!

Andrew Baruth with Creighton University’s Physics Department will take us on a virtual tour and show us just how bright our future can be. Join us in learning about how the solar farm works, the benefits it provides, and how Creighton uses the solar farm to help generate electricity for their campus.

Solar Jobs Support 231,000 Families, Must Grow 4X to Reach Biden’s Clean Energy Target

SEIA News Release, May 6, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020, a 6.7% drop from 2019 due to pandemic restrictions and increased labor productivity, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2020 released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), and BW Research.

The solar industry continues to support hundreds of thousands of jobs across all 50 states, and even during a pandemic, our companies largely were able to keep workers on the job,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “We now have an opportunity to quadruple our workforce, adding diversity and supporting underserved communities by taking policy steps that incentivize solar and storage deployment and provide long-term certainty for solar businesses.” Read more here.

Download the report, view the interactive charts and explore the state map.
Nebraska
Solar Jobs: 1,246 (ranks #32)
Solar Jobs Per Capita: 1:1,576 (ranks #16)
Installed Solar Capacity: 62.96 MW (ranks #46)

ACP News Release

New study: Transmission policy would unlock clean energy growth, by Jesse Broehl,  American Clean  Power Association

Building just 22 high-voltage transmission lines that are currently on hold in the U.S. could increase national wind and solar generation by 50 percent and create approximately 1.2 million jobs, according to a new study from Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG).

The report, titled Transmission Projects Ready to Go: Plugging into America’s Untapped Renewable Resources, identifies 22 projects currently stalled because the nation lacks the right policies to recover costs of the large-scale interregional transmission needed at the national scale. These shovel-ready projects would unlock roughly 60,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy capacity, but policies relating to how long-range transmission is planned, paid for, and permitted are needed for these to move ahead. Click on this link to access the full report.

 ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Ag groups recommend USDA use pilot projects to build a carbon bank

AgDaily

The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, which includes 70 agriculture organizations, has worked over the past three months to develop specific recommendations for how the U.S. Department of Agriculture should approach a potential carbon bank. FACA began sharing those recommendations with USDA and Congress.

A voluntary, USDA-led carbon bank is one policy mechanism being considered to help reduce barriers that producers and landowners face to participating in voluntary carbon markets and adopting climate-smart practices. FACA recommends that USDA lay the foundation for a potential carbon bank by first developing a series of pilot projects that would focus on the following four areas: Continue reading here.

USDA INVESTS IN RESEARCH INNOVATIONS

USDA Invests $21.7M in Research Innovations to Improve Soil Health and Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2021 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will invest at least $21.7 million in several key programs to help agricultural producers manage the impacts of climate change on their lands and production. NIFA awarded $6.3 million for 14 Soil Health grants and $5.4 million for seven Signals in the Soil grants through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). NIFA also is investing at least $10 million this year in a new AFRI program area priority called, “Extension, Education, and USDA Climate Hub Partnerships,” to train the next generation of agriculturalists and foresters to incorporate climate change research into their management practices.

About USDA’s Northern Plains Climate Hub
The Northern Plains Hub serves Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The Hub delivers science-based knowledge, practical information, management & conservation strategies, and decision tools to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with the goal of helping them adapt to weather variability and changing climatic conditions. See::Topics

MORE NEWS RELEASES: USDA RURAL DEVELOPMENT / NEBRASKA 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Solar and wind’s competitiveness over coal is accelerating, analysis shows

By Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network

“The Energy Innovation analysis does not factor in the
social costs of coal-fired power plants.”

The May 5 analysis comes from Energy Innovation: Policy & Technology, based in San Francisco. The work highlights the accelerating pace of the clean energy transition, even aside from the social costs of coal plant pollution.

“Out of the 235 plants in the U.S. coal fleet, 182 plants, or 80 percent, are uneconomic or already retiring,” according to the report, which counted plants in service in 2018. Put another way, the share of total U.S. coal plant capacity from that year that won’t be competitive beyond the next few years has climbed from roughly five-eighths to three-fourths in just two years. Read more here.

NPPD Photo: Gerald Gentleman 1,365MW coal-fired power plant in Sutherland

Kathiann M. Kowalski

Kathiann M. Kowalski is the author of 25 books and more than 600 articles, and writes often on science and policy issues. In addition to her journalism career, Kathi is an alumna of Harvard Law School and has spent 15 years practicing law. She is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. Kathi covers the state of Ohio. More by Kathiann M. Kowalski

Previously Posted Articles by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

  • Solar firm buying land rights near coal plants with eye toward transmission
    Josh Case, Photosol’s chief executive officer, intends to develop two arrays — one with 400 megawatts and one with 250 megawatts — on 5,000 acres he has under lease option near Nebraska’s Gerald Gentleman station. He pays an annual fee to maintain the option to lease the acreage. The projects would include 325 MW of battery storage.
  • Nebraska utility could slash emissions at little or no added cost, studies show
    The Nebraska Public Power District, which serves most of the state’s population outside the cities of Omaha and Lincoln, last year hired two firms to forecast the potential impact of federal carbon regulations. The results, by Ascend Analytics and Siemens, both conclude that the utility could significantly reduce its exposure to such policies without burdening customers with severe rate hikes. 

HIGH-CAPACITY EV CHARGERS 

Report finds increase in high-capacity EV chargers could benefit utilities, by Peter Maloney, American Public Power Association

The premise of the report, Charging Smart, is that an increase in the maximum power level of residential electric vehicle (EV) chargers is imminent and will likely reach the highest charger levels within a decade, leading to increased costs for utilities by shifting charging load to times of day when electricity is more expensive. 

The authors recommended that utilities should explore time variant rate options, as well as hybrid pricing options that offer higher fixed rates from 6am to midnight and discounted fixed rates from midnight to 6am. Utilities should also consider incentives for the deployment of smart charging technologies, such as owner-operated programmable charging systems and direct charge control functions in conjunction with pricing signals. And, finally, the authors say utilities should establish outreach campaigns to influence customer behaviors to shift charging patterns. 

“What’s so promising about this analysis is the clear opportunity to push innovation that will use vehicle electrification to create a more reliable electric grid and maximize greenhouse gas reductions,” Suzanne Russo, Pecan Street CEO, said in a statement.

U of M researchers pitch ‘green’ ammonia as key to renewable energy future

By Walker Orenstein, MinnPost

As wind and solar power make up an increasingly large share of energy production in the U.S., finding ways to store the intermittent energy they create is critical for when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The University of Minnesota is working on a novel way to help solve the storage puzzle for renewable energy: by creating ammonia.  

Michael Reese, director of renewable energy at the U’s West Central Research and Outreach Center, said the U has previously turned wind power into ammonia that can be used for fertilizer and even to fuel agricultural equipment. Read more here.

Presentation by Michael Reese to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission: Green Ammonia for Fertilizer, Fuel, and Energy Storage

NPPD & MONOLITH’S GREEN AMMONIA INITIATIVE

Previously Posted

NPPD RFP

Request for Proposals for Renewable Energy Resources, 4/19/21
Description: NPPD is seeking bids for Renewable Generation Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) with a proposed Commercial Operation Date (COD) during calendar year 2025. NPPD seeks to procure Energy, Capacity, and environmental attributes (including Renewable Energy Credits or RECS) for a term between 10-30 years.

NEBRASKA ALSO IN THE NEWS HERE

“Coal may contain as many as 76 of the 92 naturally occurring elements of the periodic table.” 
United States Geological Survey
__________________________________________

DOE Awards $19 Million for Initiatives to Produce Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals, Department of Energy News Release 

“The very same fossil fuel communities that have powered our nation for decades can be at the forefront of the clean energy economy by producing the critical minerals needed to build electric vehicles, wind turbines, and so much more,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “By building clean energy products here at home, we’re securing the supply chain for the innovative solutions needed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – all while creating good-paying jobs in all parts of America.” 

Production of rare earth elements and critical minerals, which serve as key components to several clean energy applications such as magnets in wind turbines and batteries in electric and conventional vehicles, is a prime example of how DOE is supporting regional economic growth and job creation in regions traditionally home to the fossil fuel industry.

The initiatives include:
University of Kansas Center for Research Inc. (Lawrence, Kansas) plans to study the feasibility of recovering critical minerals from coal and associated strata in the Cherokee-Forest City Basin encompassing Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Osage Nation.
DOE Funding: $1,500,000

See Also: FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Outlines Key Resources to Invest in Coal and Power Plant Community Economic Revitalization, The White House Briefing Room

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

New Report Identifies 22 Shovel Ready Regional and Interregional Transmission Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report released today identifies 22 shovel ready, high-voltage transmission projects across the country that, if constructed, would create approximately 1,240,000 American jobs and lead to 60,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy capacity, increasing America’s wind and solar generation by nearly 50 percent. The report, Transmission Projects Ready to Go: Plugging into America’s Untapped Renewable Resources, produced by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG) as part of the Macro Grid Initiative, outlines how these projects could begin construction soon if more workable transmission policies are enacted. These regional and interregional transmission lines would not only bring quality wind and solar resources to areas with high demand but also increase economic development and grid resilience as well as provide cost-savings for consumers. Read more here.

About Macro Grid Initiative:
The Macro Grid Initiative is a joint effort of the American Council on Renewable Energy and Americans for a Clean Energy Grid to promote investment in a 21st century transmission infrastructure that enhances reliability, improves efficiency and delivers more low-cost clean energy. The Initiative works closely with the American Wind Energy Association, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Advanced Power Alliance and the Clean Grid Alliance to advance our shared goals. To learn more, visit https://acore.org/macro-grid-initiative

About Americans for a Clean Energy Grid:
Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG) is the only non-profit broad-based public interest advocacy coalition focused on the need to expand, integrate, and modernize the North American high-voltage grid. ACEG brings together the diverse support for an expanded and modernized grid from business, labor, consumer and environmental groups, and other transmission supporters to support policy which recognizes the benefits of a robust transmission grid. 

FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Advances Expansion & Modernization of the Electric Grid, The White House Briefing Room

A New Program Like FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps Could Help the Nation Fight Climate Change and Transition to Renewable Energy

By Judy Fahys, Inside Climate News

President Joe Biden has been talking about the idea since before he took office. A week into his presidency, he directed the secretary of the interior to lead development of a strategy to mobilize a Civilian Climate Corps—“the next generation of conservation and resilience workers”—to help address the climate crisis. Then he called for spending $10 billion on the updated CCC in the $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan he proposed earlier this month.

“It’s reached a level of seriousness and intention that I have never seen before,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, president and CEO of the Corps Network, a national association representing the nation’s 135 existing conservation corps, mostly private-public partnerships that have adopted the corps model for job training and community service. Read more here.

Civilian Climate Corps Act

Image Credit: The Corps Network

Additional Recommended Reading

Student Conservation Association News Release

Young Americans Believe Climate Change is Real – and Want to Do More to Stop It
Eighty-six percent of young Americans believe the world’s climate is changing and 71% conclude human activities are the cause, but youth are struggling to identify individual practices they can take to improve global sustainability, according to a new nationwide poll.

Released by the Student Conservation Association (SCA)The SCA Climate Survey reveals the perspectives of 15-25 year olds on climate change, environmental justice, and related public policy initiatives. The poll shows that although nearly 40% of respondents view climate change as a “crisis,” 83% believe there is still time to prevent its worst effects. Youth are split, however, on whether that goal is achievable.

About the Student Conservation Association
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is America’s oldest and largest youth conservation organization. SCA conserves lands and transforms lives by empowering young people of all backgrounds to plan, act, and lead while they protect and restore our natural and cultural resources. Founded in 1957, SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders, and seven in 10 of alumni worldwide are employed or studying in conservation-related fields. For more, visit www.thesca.org.

Additional Climate Resource

Climate Science 101, Covering Climate Now 
Climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe explains the basics of climate change for beginners and those in need of a refresher.

About Covering Climate Now

Mindful of the media’s responsibility to inform the public and hold power to account, we advise newsrooms, share best practices, and provide reporting resources that help journalists ground their coverage in science while producing stories that resonate with audiences. Co-founded by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation in association with The Guardian and WNYC in 2019, CCNow’s 460-plus partners include some of the biggest names in news, and some of the smallest, because this story needs everyone.

Carbon market farming bill introduced in Congress

By David Murry, High Plains Journal

A bill that, if passed, would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to lay the groundwork and set standards for a “carbon farming” market was introduced in Congress April 20. The U.S. Senate Ag Committee planned to take up the Growing Climate Solutions Act April 22 during a committee hearing to coincide with Earth Day.

The bill was originally introduced last June but has since been refined and reworked after input from Republicans. Its title says its purpose is “to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a program to reduce barriers to entry for farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in certain private markets, and for other purposes.” Read more here.

Photo Credit: USDA

Additional Recommended Reading

Featured USDA Resource

Northern Plains Climate Hub
The Northern Plains Climate Hub serves Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The Hub delivers science-based knowledge, practical information, management & conservation strategies, and decision tools to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with the goal of helping them adapt to weather variability and changing climatic conditions.

More Nebraska Resources

Additional National Legislation: The Agriculture Resilience Act 

Agriculture Resilience Act a Thoughtful, Nuanced Approach to Climate Action, National Farmers Union News Release

“While the window is still open, we must take every possible opportunity to adapt to our changing climate and limit its impact. One key piece of the puzzle is the agriculture sector, which can not only work to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, but it can also offset other sectors’ emissions by sequestering carbon in the soil – a fact that the Agriculture Resilience Act recognizes and seeks to put into action. This thoughtful and nuanced bill would strategically further climate initiatives across USDA programs in an effort to provide farmers with the tools, resources, and assistance they need to implement climate-smart practices.” – NFU President Rob Larew

National Farmers Union
National Farmers Union advocates on behalf of nearly 200,000 American farm families and their communities. We envision a world in which farm families and their communities are respected, valued, and enjoy economic prosperity and social justice.

Nebraska Farmers Union
Founded in 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the quality of life and economic well-being of family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities. As Nebraska’s second largest family farm and ranch ag organization with over 4,000 family farm and ranch families as members, Nebraska Farmers Union is dedicated to the farm income issues which matter most to rural families. With active members across the state, Farmers Union is one of Nebraska’s oldest and strongest grassroots organizations.

As clean energy jobs recover, can they lift left-behind U.S. communities?

By Jack GrahamThomson Reuters Foundation News Release

Whether in building electric cars or making homes more energy efficient, clean energy jobs are rapidly recovering from the COVID-19 downturn and could help support rural and other left-behind U.S. communities, a business analysis has found. While they represent 2% of total private sector employment in the United States, they make up more than 10% in rural Midwestern areas such as Pulaski County in Illinois and Jefferson County in Nebraska, E2 noted. Read more here.

Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)
Environmental Entrepreneurs is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. Our members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital.

Annual Report

Clean Jobs America 2021: After Hard Year, Promise of Unparalleled Jobs Growth. FAQs about the report are available here.

Additional Recommended Reading

LOCAL SOLAR FOR ALL NEWS RELEASE

Broad coalition asks Congress to expand local rooftop and community solar power for all
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A coalition of advocates representing civil rights, indigenous, environment, equity, rural, and business organizations is calling on Congress to prioritize the equitable and just deployment of renewable energy through policies that support expanding local rooftop and community solar power for all.

MINNESOTA’S COMMUNITY SOLAR

Community solar surge strains Minnesota’s interconnection queue, by  Frank Jossi, Energy News Network

Minnesota lawmakers passed the state’s community garden solar law in 2013 and Xcel began formally accepting applications a year later. Projects must have a minimum of five customers and subscribers are limited to no more than 40% of power generation.

Today, Xcel’s community solar queue includes 515 projects that, if completed, will add 483 megawatts of capacity to its grid. The challenge is that many substations where the projects can connect to the grid are near capacity but still attracting multiple proposals, the utility said in its recent report to regulators.

Also Written by Frank Jossi: 

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

UC-Berkeley Report Claims Electric Cars Will Save Americans $2.7 Trillion, Create 2 Million Jobs, CleanTechnica

 

new report by the University of California at Berkeley makes several bold claims.

 

 

Additional Recommended Reading

CLEAN ENERGY ANALYSIS

Where progressives and conservatives agree on clean energy, by Sarah Golden, GreenBiz
From an ideological perspective, it’s curious that clean energy became a partisan issue. Looking at it as a technology, there is a ton to like about renewables across the political spectrum. This hasn’t escaped political conservatives outside the beltway.

A number of conservative groups champion clean energy, from the Conservative Energy Network (CEN) and Young Conservatives for Energy Reform (YCER) to the Christian Coalition for AmericaAs the federal government considers a massive infrastructure bill that would spur clean energy growth and decarbonize the economy, it’s worth looking at where the conservative and progressive ideologies align on clean energy, and where they diverge.

NEW GLOBAL FINANCE PLAN

Carney, Kerry launch global finance plan to boost climate action
LONDON (Reuters) – UN climate envoy Mark Carney and U.S. peer John Kerry on Wednesday announced a new plan to boost efforts by the financial system to help move the global economy to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.  [The] new group – Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) – will bring existing net zero initiatives together under one umbrella to help ensure all sub-sector efforts are consistent and ambitious.

Kerry’s support for the project follows a series of meetings with different chief executives from the financial sector over the last few months. So far, more than 160 firms with assets of at least $70 trillion have signed up, of which 43 are banks – as part of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) – including Barclays, Morgan Stanley and HSBC and Citi.

GLOBAL SURVEY OF WIND ENERGY EXPERTS ON COSTS

Predictions for Wind Energy Costs Drop Significantly, Renewable Energy Magazine.

Technology and commercial advancements are expected to continue to drive down the cost of wind energy, according to a survey led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) of the world’s foremost wind power experts.
Experts anticipate cost reductions of 17%-35% by 2035 and 37%-49% by 2050, driven by bigger and more efficient turbines, lower capital and operating costs, and other advancements. The findings are described in an article in the journal Nature Energy.

OPPD proposes recognizing ‘scientific consensus’ of humans’ role in climate change

By Nancy Gaarder, Omaha World-Herald

The Omaha Public Power District board is proposing to explicitly acknowledge climate change and the role of humans in contributing to it, a position that stands in contrast to the Nebraska Legislature. The board is considering the following proposed strategic directive: “The OPPD Board of Directors recognizes the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, from human activity contribute to climate change impacts.” To comment, go to oppdcommunityconnect.com and click on the “SD 7 Environmental Stewardship” discussion box. Continue reading here.

National News
What to expect ahead of Biden’s global climate change summit, by Emma Newburger, CNBC
President Joe Biden will host a closely watched global leaders climate summit on Thursday and Friday, during which the U.S. is expected to unveil an updated carbon emission reduction target and urge cooperation with other nations to combat the climate crisis. The president has invited 40 world leaders to the virtual summit and is hoping to reach deals with some of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, has been meeting with officials in China and elsewhere to garner support for the summit.

President Biden Invites 40 World Leaders to Leaders Summit on Climate, The White House Briefing Room