Iowa’s rural future is brighter with solar energy

Contributed by Cody Smith, Center for Rural Affairs, The Gazette

For decades Iowans have led the nation in innovating our way to a cleaner, more reliable power grid that promotes public health and economic prosperity in our rural communities. Now, as we celebrate hitting the milestone of producing nearly 60 percent of our electricity with renewable wind energy, Iowa’s solar industry is also booming and bringing our rural economies along with it. Solar offers a way for Iowa’s local entrepreneurs to slash their energy costs and refocus resources on expanding businesses that line main streets in small towns statewide. Continue reading here.

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

THE WIRE

OPPD expands smart thermostat program, by Jason Kuiper
OPPD’s Smart Thermostat Program has expanded, and now includes more models from several thermostat manufacturers. These additional choices give customers more options for upgrading to a smart thermostat and participating in OPPD’s program. Customers who install a qualifying smart thermostat and enroll in the program also receive a one-time, $75 OPPD bill credit, plus an additional $20 bill credit each year they participate. If customers have an existing qualified smart thermostat they can enroll directly through their smart thermostat app or online.

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY NEWS RELEASE

DOE Launches Initiatives to Accelerate Solar Deployment in Underserved Communities
New Efforts Include $15.5 Million to Tackle Barriers to Solar Deployment, Increased Focus on Expanding Clean Energy Access to Low- and Moderate-Income Communities and Fostering A Diverse Solar Workforce

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION RELEASES CONSERVATION PLAN

Conserving And Restoring America The Beautiful Plan (PDF)
A preliminary report to the National Climate Task Force recommending a ten-year, locally-led campaign to conserve and restore the lands and waters upon which we all depend, and that bind us together as Americans.

GAF ENERGY

U.S. solar company GAF Energy moving production back home from Asia, Reuters
GAF Energy, which launched in 2019, competes with Tesla Inc in the market for solar panels that integrate with roofs. It has installed its product on more than 2,000 U.S. rooftops so far, according to [Martin DeBono, president of the company].

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 players enter field: More alternative energy options coming

By Molly Hunter, The Columbus Telegram

Sun Pro Solar Company has joined the mix of businesses trying to work with Loup Public Power District and sell alternative energy to the people in and around Columbus. Based out of Louisiana, Sun Pro Solar sells and installs solar panels for residential and commercial customers in a dozen and a half states, including Nebraska. Recently, they have started to make sales in the Columbus region. Read more here.

Links to More Information & Resources

Careers at Sunpro

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.

Energy Storage Grows Up

By Jeff Postelwait, T&D World 

Energy storage is even maturing to the point where it can take the place of building a new power generation asset or building grid upgrades. “When you add storage to your mix, everything becomes more flexible. You can increase hosting capacity of a transmission circuit without having to build a lot of new facilities. So, it’s easy to think of it as a competitor, but what it really is, is more of an enabler and a partner.”    Jason Burwen, interim CEO of the Energy Storage Association. Read more here.

Also By Jeff Postelwait: Energy Goals: What Does a New Administration Mean for Utilities? A look at the future of energy at the federal and state levels, and how the commercial sector also is a powerful driver for renewables.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

MODEL POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY SOLAR BUSINESS

Solar Power + Bees = Extra Benefit For Massachusetts, by Zachary Shahan, CleanTechnica

Navisun is focused on small utility-scale solar farms and community solar farms. It co-develops, acquires, owns, and operates the solar projects. The two it has just completed, one of which is a community solar farm, are fairly small projects, totaling 3.8 MW of solar power, but the company is just getting rolling and it intends to build and operate many more. 

PRIVATE INVESTMENTS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY

The Future of Private Equity and Solar Energy, contributed by Christopher J. Macklin, Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Solar Magazine

Investments in renewable capacity totaled more than $2.5 trillion between 2010-2019, according to BloombergNEF data. Solar alone drew in half of those funds—$1.3 trillion to be exact—and grew from just 25 GW at the beginning of 2010 to more than 660 GW by the end of the decade. That’s enough energy to power 100 million homes in the U.S. each year. The high volume of capital flowing into the renewable energy sector has increased asset prices. To counter this, private equity firms seeking higher returns are turning to projects under development as opposed to ones already operating.

SALESFORCE

Inside Salesforce’s bold play for supply-chain leadership, by Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group

Last week, the cloud-based software company Salesforce notified its thousands of suppliers that it will include language in all future procurement contracts requiring them, among other things, to set science-based targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. And it set financial penalties for those that don’t. It was an unprecedented and bold move that, if emulated by others and aggressively enforced, could transform companies and markets far faster than any regulation ever could.

Salesforce Report: More Than a Megawatt: Embedding Social & Environmental Impact in the Renewable Energy Procurement Process

TENNESSEE VALEY AUTHORITY

Biden’s TVA appointments offer crucial chance for climate justice, Energy News Network

Biden’s nominations to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority could help fulfill his climate promise by making TVA a model for how public power can lead the clean energy transition, writes guest commentator Gaby Sarri-Tobar, a campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice program.

SOLAR POWER WORLD 

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

Solar Industry Statement on President Biden’s First Address to Congress

Solar Energy Industries Association News Release

Following is a statement from Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) on President Biden’s Address to Congress:

“President Biden’s emphasis on creating jobs and tackling climate change is a welcome theme tonight in his address to Congress. In working with his administration, we have found that his whole-of-government approach to both jobs and climate is real.

“We know that solar energy plus storage must play a central role in achieving the president’s aspirations for reducing emissions from the power sector. Solar and storage will create hundreds of billions of dollars in new investment and hundreds of thousands of family-supporting jobs this decade. Continue reading here.

American Clean Power Association News Release

American Clean Power Association Encourages Congress to Support the American Jobs Plan

The American Clean Power Association (ACP)  today issued the following statement in support of President Biden’s first address to the 117th United States Congress.

“Climate and clean energy have never before featured so prominently in a presidential address to Congress. This is an historic moment that until now was inconceivable. This is a first, and it underscores that our economic strength and our climate leadership are inseparable. 

The clean energy transition is already well underway, but the President’s infrastructure push is a once in a generation chance to accelerate progress, put steel in the ground, and build a clean infrastructure system that’s the envy of the world. We implore Congress to support the American Jobs Plan to put the country back to work building a sustainable future. There is not a moment to waste.” – Heather Zichal, ACP CEO

OPPD’s CEO Selection Process Advances As Board Announces Finalist For The Position

OPPD News Release, April 28, 2021

During a special board meeting this morning, the Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors announced they have named a finalist to potentially lead the utility when Timothy J. Burke retires July 2. While no action was taken today, directors announced  Javier Fernandez as the final candidate for the chief executive officer position. They plan to officially vote on the final CEO selection at their next monthly meeting May 20 at 5 p.m. The board’s selection comes after conducting interviews over the past several weeks with five, highly-skilled internal candidates. Continue reading here.

Virtual Meet & Greet

Prior to the board making a final decision, OPPD is giving the public an opportunity to meet Javier Fernandez, learn more about his background, experience and thoughts about the future.

OPPD will host a virtual meet-and-greet event on Monday, May 10, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. If interested in attending, Webex registration information is coming soon and can be found on this Community Connect page: CEO Transition.

Read more about Javier Fernandez here:

Family led Fernandez to his OPPD ‘family’