Green Watts for Good

About Nebraskans for Solar’s Green Watts for Good Program

We partner on the installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems with Nebraska food pantries, homeless shelters, children’s homes and other nonprofit organizations that focus on food and housing security in our communities.

Our current partnering nonprofits include No More Empty Pots in North Omaha, Heartland Hope Mission in South Omaha, Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children in Fremont, and Seventy Five North Corporation’s North Omaha Highlander Neighborhood, a Purpose-Built Community.

Previously we partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Omaha on the installation of solar hot water systems on 4 Habitat homes in North and South Omaha and the Benson Neighborhood, but now we install PV systems only.

We request matching funds from partnering nonprofits but do not require them.

Energy is generally a major expense for nonprofits that provide a hand up to people in need in our local communities. Donating solar energy through our Green Watts for Good program is a way philanthropists of all ages can help nonprofits save on their electricity bills each month for a very long time, as solar panels typically last 25 or more years.

A New Part of Our Green Watts for Good Program: Helping Nonprofits Save Even More Money With an Energy Management Analysis & Plan 

Louis Lester, who was a Senior Distribution Planner for Omaha Public Power District for many years, retired in December 2019 and joined our Board of Directors in January 2020. He volunteers as Nebraskans for Solar’s Energy Management Projects Director.

He’s currently working with Heartland Hope Mission and No More Empty Pots to develop case studies from analyses of their electricity usage, the rate their utility charges them, their peak power demand and costs, among other factors.

From this data he is customizing a plan to reduce their energy usage and peak demand costs through specific measures such as management of the power loads of their large appliances, HVAC and other major energy-consuming units. He will use the case studies in a presentation to all interested Nebraska nonprofits to demonstrate how they can also save energy and money.

To participate in the online event, download and complete a one-page Nonprofit Energy / Solar Survey. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to answer all the energy-related questions. Louis will discuss each item in his presentation. To register, keep a copy of the survey for your own reference during the presentation and email it as an attachment to: nebraskansforsolar@gmail.com

ABOUT OUR NEWEST PARTNERSHIP

No More Empty Pots

No More Empty Pots Solar Project Update

Nebraskans for Solar, No More Empty Pots, and Creighton University are collaborating on the common goal of reducing the Food Hub’s electricity use through improved energy management and solar energy. The money No More Empty Pots will save on electric bills will provide meals to a great number of people over many years.

In separate campaigns, Nebraskans for Solar and No More Empty Pots raised funds for this purpose through Omaha Gives’ annual giving day on May 20th. Nebraskans for Solar raised nearly $6,000. Additional donations to our Green Watts for Good fund brought the total amount we will commit to the NMEP solar project to $13,000.

No More Empty Pots, founded by Nancy Williams, raised over $25,000, matching our contribution over two-and-a-half times! According to an Omaha World-Herald article on May 21st, No More Empty Pots was also the first nonprofit to receive Omaha Gives’ hourly-drawing prize of $1,000!

Our next steps will be for our board members to meet with CEO Nancy Williams and Dr. Andrew Baruth, Creighton University Energy Technology Program Chair, and students from his Energy Innovation class, to create a final plan.

A top priority for No More Empty Pots is for their building to be net zero energy.

Under Dr. Baruth’s direction, students from his Energy Innovation course conducted a comprehensive energy study of No More Empty Pots’ building over the past academic year. The students recently shared a recorded presentation with No More Empty Pots and Nebraskans for Solar that includes several options for reducing electricity through improved energy management and solar energy, along with each proposal’s estimated cost.

Additionally, Nebraskans for Solar’s Energy Management Projects Director, Louis Lester, analyzed No More Empty Pots’ electricity bills and demand charges and has recommended ways they can be reduced.

Both sets of information gathered by Creighton University and Nebraskans for Solar will help No More Empty Pots to make an informed decision on a plan as we discuss, evaluate and explore each proposed option together. Stay tuned! We will provide regular updates to you as our work progresses.

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COMPLETED SOLAR PROJECTS 

Heartland Hope Mission 

Nebraskans for Solar and Heartland Hope Mission partnered on the installation of a photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of their building at 2021 U Street in Omaha. The nonprofit’s mission is “to be more than a pantry by providing clients with resources to be food secure and self-sufficient in a hope-filled environment.”

The solar project was funded through direct contributions to our Green Watts for Good program and donations made to our Giving Tuesday campaign last December, sponsored by SHARE Omaha.

Ric Hansen from Interconnection Systems Inc, based in Central City, designed and installed the 5-kilowatt PV system, with plenty of roof space available for Heartland Hope Mission to add to it in the future. Additional ISI projects include the Kearney Solar Farm and Duchesne Academy’s rooftop solar array. See “Solar Examples”  for brief descriptions and photos of the projects. Visit ISI’s website to see more of their installations and new projects.

Project Lead Coordinators

The lead coordinators for the Heartland Hope Mission solar project were: Chelsea Salifou, Dodji Salifou, and Scott Kinkaid with Heartland Hope Mission, and Louis Lester, Ken Deffenbacher, and Helen Deffenbacher representing Nebraskans for Solar.

“We are excited to partner with Nebraskans For Solar and to be part of their model program. Not only will the solar system help us save money by using a renewable energy source, but their assistance is also helping us make modifications to lower our overall energy costs! These will enable us to put more of our resources towards providing food and other essential needs to working poor families in our community.”  – Chelsea Salifou, CEO, Heartland Hope Mission

A New Part of Our Green Watts for Good Program: Helping Nonprofits Save Even More Money Through Energy Management Measures

Louis Lester, longtime Omaha Public Power District employee who retired in December 2019 and joined our board in January 2020, serves as Nebraskans for Solar’s Energy Management Projects Director. He is working with Heartland Hope Mission and No More Empty Pots to develop case studies from analyses of their energy usage.

From this data he is customizing a plan to reduce their electricity bills and high demand charges through conservation measures, including management of the power loads of their large appliances, HVAC and other major energy-consuming units. He will use the case studies in a presentation to all interested Nebraska nonprofits to demonstrate how they can also save energy and money.

To participate in the online event, download and complete a one-page Nonprofit Energy / Solar Survey. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to answer all the energy-related questions. Louis will discuss each item in his presentation. To register, keep a copy of the survey for your own reference during the presentation and email it as an attachment to: nebraskansforsolar@gmail.com

Louis Lester, NFS Energy Conservation Projects Coordinator
Leo Arens, NFS Community Solar Projects Coordinator

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Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children

The Masonic Eastern Star Home in Fremont has been providing care for children in need for more than 70 years. Now Nebraskans for Solar, the Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children, and the Fremont Department of Utilities have collaborated on a model initiative for all nonprofits located in Nebraska towns and cities with community solar programs similar to Fremont’s.

Participating Fremont Department of Utilities customers can purchase solar panels for $200 each from Fremont’s Solar Farm ll to reduce their monthly electric bill, or sign up for solar energy shares. Everyone, no matter where they live, can also buy solar panels for $200 each to donate to the Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children or another local nonprofit.

Through our Green Watts for Good program, Nebraskans for Solar provided a $5,000 grant to the Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children. The nonprofit provided an equal match of $5,000 to purchase a total of 50 solar panels in Fremont’s Community Solar Program.

The 50 solar panels will generate enough energy to cover 50% of the electricity consumed in the Leonard A. Johnson 4-H Barn, shown in the above photograph.

To learn more about Fremont’s Community Solar Farm II and Nebraskans for Solar’s initiative, or to donate one or more solar panels to the Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children or another local nonprofit, call the Fremont Department of Utilities: 402-727-2630 or email: Lottie.Mitchell@fremontne.gov or Brian.Newton@fremontne.gov

Recommended Reading: Masonic Home gets solar energy grant, by Tammy Real-McKeighan, News Editor, Fremont Tribune

Project Lead Coordinators: Leo Arens, Nebraskans for Solar; Ron Giesselmann, Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children; Brian Newton and Lottie Mitchell, City of Fremont Department of Utilities

Top Right Photo: Ron Giesselmann, Masonic Eastern Star Home for Children; Helen Deffenbacher, Ken Deffenbacher, Leo Arens, Nebraskans for Solar

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Highlander Neighborhood Home In North Omaha 

Nebraskans for Solar partnered in 2019 on the above PV project with Seventy Five North Revitalization Corporation, a member of the Purpose-Built Communities network founded by Warren Buffett. The 4-kilowatt PV system was installed on a house located in  the corporation’s mixed-income Highlander neighborhood in North Omaha.

The solar panels and components and the installation costs were funded by Nebraskans for Solar’s Green Watts for Good Program through individual contributions directly to the fund and from money raised during our 2019 Omaha Gives campaign sponsored by the Omaha Community Foundation.

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Four Habitat for Humanity Homes – Solar Hot Water Systems

Nebraskans for Solar and Habitat for Humanity of Omaha partnered on the installation of solar hot water systems on three newly-built Habitat homes: two in North Omaha and another in South Omaha. A fourth solar hot water system was installed on a rehabilitated home in Benson.

The solar collectors, shown in the above photo, are much more compact than photovoltaic (PV) modules, but these generate the equivalent power of a 3-kW PV system. Money for the projects was raised through crowdfunding on Indiegogo, individual contributions, and donations to our Omaha Gives campaign, an annual event sponsored by the Omaha Community Foundation.

Blake Johnson, a former Nebraskans for Solar Board member, worked for Habitat for Humanity of Omaha and served as the liaison between our organizations. Blake’s and NFS’s shared objective was to obtain approval from Habitat for Humanity of Omaha administrators to provide their home buyers the option of adding PV solar to their mortgages. The last time we met,  that was still Blake’s goal. The following is an article he wrote about our partnership: Solar Powering Habitat for Humanity Homes 

 Photo Credit: Blake Johnson / Habitat for Humanity of Omaha 

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Ways You Can Get Involved In Green Watts for Good

  1. Learn more about Green Watts for Good at NFS-sponsored events, on our website and Facebook page, and from our newsletters.
  2. If your ecology or sustainability club, faith group, foundation or  business would like to partner with Nebraskans for Solar to develop a solar project to benefit a nonprofit in your community, please discuss your idea with one or more of our board members, send an email to: nebraskansforsolar@gmail.com, or come to one of our board meetings, held the second Saturday of each month at 9:30 am.
  3. You can also donate to a solar project by sending a check payable to Nebraskans for Solar, with Green Watts for Good in the memo line, and mailing it to: 

Metro Credit Union
PO Box 390696
Omaha, Nebraska 68139

From all of us at Nebraskans for Solar, thank you for your contributions!