Tag Archives: Center for Rural Affairs

In a Twist, Old Coal Plants Help Deliver Renewable Power. Here’s How

By Elena Shao, New York Times

Building and operating renewable energy projects has long been cheaper than fossil fuel plants. The barrier “is not economics anymore,” said Joseph Rand, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which conducts research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. “The hardest part is securing the interconnection and transmission access.” This makes old coal plants an attractive option as sites for renewable energy projects. Not only are the old plants already wired into the transmission system, they also have substations, which help convert electricity to a supply that’s suitable for use in homes and businesses. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Bill Dickinson/Flickr

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY NEWS RELEASE

Biden-Harris Administration Announces $56 Million to Advance U.S. Solar Manufacturing and Lower Energy Costs

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Biden-Harris Administration, through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), today announced a slate of new initiatives and $56 million in funding, including $10 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to spur innovation in solar manufacturing and recycling. Together, the funding will help make clean energy more affordable and reliable, create good-paying jobs, and enhance U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. Developing more solar power, the cheapest form of new electricity supply, is key to achieving President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. “This administration wants to seize U.S. leadership in solar energy, from manufacturing to recycling, and that means making the right investments to ensure these technologies are made right here at home,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

NEW CENTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS WHITE PAPER

Exploring Siting Guidance: Agriculture Siting Matrices Inform Renewable Energy Siting,
by Lindsay Mouw, Policy Associate, Center for Rural Affairs


Statewide renewable energy siting matrices can help reduce barriers to renewable energy development by providing guidance to local decision makers while improving transparency, trust, and fairness in the siting process. A siting matrix also creates clear standards for future development that project developers can reference before proposing a project.

Groundbreaking held for York’s new solar power generation field

By Melanie Wilkinson, York News-Times

YORK – It was quite fitting that the sun was brilliantly shining and there were near-record high temperatures as gold shovels were used to turn dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new solar energy generation field at York. The location is on unused ground on the landfill property.

A number of people were on hand to mark the beginning of this project – a project that has been in the works since 2019 when the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) and the City of York began working together toward this end goal. Continue reading here.

SITING SOLAR ON LANDFILLS & OTHER BROWNFIELDS

Links to Resources

  • RE-Powering America’s Land
    RE-Powering America’s Land is an EPA initiative that encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites when such development is aligned with the community’s vision for the site.
  • EPA’s Brownfields Program provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties. To learn about EPA’s broader efforts to put previously contaminated properties back into productive use, read about the Land Revitalization Program.
  • Brownfields and Land Revitalization in Region 7
    EPA Region 7 manages  Brownfields and Land Revitalization Programs in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. On this page you will find information specific to Region 7’s Brownfields and Land Revitalization activities. Visit the national Brownfields Program and Land Revitalization Program websites for more information about these programs’ competitive grants.
  • Brownfields: FAQs, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy 

USDA NEWS RELEASE


USDA Announces $3 Billion Investment in Agriculture, Animal Health, and Nutrition; Unveils New Climate Partnership Initiative, Requests Public Input

 


“The new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative will support pilots that create new market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices and position U.S. farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners as leaders in addressing climate change. The pilots will invest in the science, monitoring and verification to measure the benefits of these climate smart practices. Today, we ask for public input to inform our decision making and enhance the design of this initiative.”
– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Comments may be provided on or before 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2021 via the Federal Register, Docket ID: USDA-2021-0010. Feedback will be used to inform design of the new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative. 

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING 

FACA consists of 80 organizations representing farmers, ranchers, forest owners, agribusinesses, manufacturers, the food and innovation sector, state governments, sportsmen and women, and environmental advocates. More information and a full list of members can be found at www.AgClimateAlliance.com. FACA’s original 40 recommendations are outlined in a 50-page report and summarized in a one-page hand-out.

RURAL ENERGY FOR AMERICA PROGRAM

REAP provides funding for rural America’s clean energy efforts,  Standard Journal

Contributed article by Kalee Olson,  a policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs. Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, nonprofit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action-oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues. The deadline to apply is Nov. 1.

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.

The Daily Iowan: Iowans hope to see infrastructure investment from Biden’s plan

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].

Power grid integrity — Cody Smith

Cody Smith, Policy Associate, Center for Rural Affairs
Letters to the Editor, Norfolk Daily News

LYONS — In mid-February, a large swath of the Midwest and Great Plains faced extreme cold and winter weather. While many states, including Nebraska, were impacted, Texas was by far the hardest hit by these events.

What happened in Texas was tragic and our thoughts are with the millions of people who were left without power, are dealing with damaged homes, or worse. In the weeks since this crisis unfolded, there has been no shortage of finger-pointing, blaming and misinformation. It appears many of us have missed the point — the time has come to discuss the integrity of our electric grid and actions that can improve resiliency. Continue reading here.

Center For Rural Affairs Series by Cody Smith

 

Amplifying Clean Energy with Conservation Part One: Pollinator-Friendly Solar

 

 


 

Amplifying Clean Energy With Conservation Part Two: Leveraging Electric Transmission Lines For Stewardship

 

 

 


Amplifying Clean Energy With Conservation Part Three: Exploring Wind Energy And Stewardship

 

Bee Better Certification Program is Buzzing on U.S. Farms, Local Grocers

Posted by Jocelyn Benjamin, USDA Public Affairs Specialist in Conservation
U.S. Department of Agriculture Blog

Collaborations between farmers and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to create better landscapes for bees and other pollinators have been going on for several years. The recently launched Bee Better Certification program funded through the NRCS Conservation Innovations Grant program has gained interest from big names in retail.

The Bee Better Certification program certifies the use of pollinator-friendly conservation practices on farms. After the farmer is Bee Better certified, they can use the Bee Better seal on their product packaging, giving consumers the option to support farms that are supporting bees. Continue reading here.

Resources for Farmers Who Want to Create A Pollinator-Friendly Solar Site 

How-To Program For All Ages For Creating A Certified Pollinator Habitat

Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification Program

This program is open to Nebraska homeowners, schools, businesses, parks, homeowner associations, farmers, acreage owners and community gardens. Winter is an excellent time to begin planning a habitat. 

The Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification application form with complete requirements and lists of pollinator-friendly plants is available here.

Amplifying Clean Energy With Conservation Part One: Pollinator-Friendly Solar

A Report by Cody Smith, Center for Rural Affairs

Throughout the Midwest region of the U.S., farmers, schools, and small businesses have been on the frontline of solar energy adoption. Collectively, states in the Midwest employ approximately 36,605 workers in the solar industry with 3,118.67 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity. These jobs include workers in the installation, manufacturing, and sale of solar energy systems of all sizes. These economic windfalls come as many cities, counties, and states across the U.S. are taking advantage of affordable renewable energy sources, including solar energy. Access the report here.

Growth in Solar Capacity Projected to Fuel Rural Economies

By Eric Galatas, Public News Service – Nebraska

LYONS, Neb. — The growth of the solar industry has brought a wave of new projects to Nebraska, including a community solar farm in Scottsbluff that’s expected to save the city more than $2 million in energy costs over 25 years. With more projects on the horizon, Lu Nelsen, policy program associate for the advocacy group Center for Rural Affairs, says solar is poised to boost rural economies. Nelsen says advances in technology and manufacturing have made solar more affordable for homes, communities and for big utility companies.

Read more or listen to the recording here.

Pixabay Photo

Previously Posted

Wind farms can bring economic benefits, officials sayby Elizabeth A. Elliott, Blair Enterprise Publishing

MORE MIDWEST NEWS

OPPD NEWS

Lighting the way – ahead of schedule, by Jason Kuiper, The Wire
After accelerating the replacement of streetlights with new LED fixtures last year, OPPD is running ahead of schedule on the project. The utility announced the project in 2018 to update the 98,744 streetlights in the OPPD service territory over a five-year period. So far, 32,000 lights have been replaced. Lights in smaller towns are done and SIDS will be among the next wave of replacements.

Midlands Voices: Nebraska’s wind industry generates over $3 million for counties

By Lucas Nelson, a policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs,
Omaha World-Herald

Tax revenue from wind projects in Nebraska is primarily derived from a nameplate capacity tax and property taxes. Projects in the state have generated about $3 million in revenue just for local schools, and additional revenue supports other services for counties.

The state’s nameplate capacity tax is equal to $3,518 per megawatt of energy. The tax is assessed on wind energy facilities based on their total potential for energy generation — the average turbine has a capacity of about three megawatts. Read more here.

Tri-State announces transformative Responsible Energy Plan

Tri-State News Release

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is pursuing an aggressive Responsible Energy Plan to transition to a cleaner energy portfolio, while ensuring reliability, increasing member flexibility and with a goal to lower wholesale rates.

“Our membership and board are unified in our pursuit of a cleaner, reliable and lower-cost resource portfolio,” said Rick Gordon, chairman of the cooperative’s board of directors. “We are making a strong and unequivocal commitment to transform Tri-State’s resource portfolio in a prudent and responsible manner.” Continue reading here.

From Tri-State’s Website

Our cooperative approach to a clean grid starts now.
We are pursuing an aggressive transition to a cleaner energy portfolio.

How we are transforming

  1. Developing a Responsible Energy Plan [to] comply with aggressive carbon reduction, renewable energy and resource planning requirements, ensure reliability and affordability and strive to lower wholesale rates while maintaining our strong financial position.
  2. Engaging with former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and the Center for the New Energy Economy to facilitate a stakeholder process that will contribute to our Responsible Energy Plan.
  3. Creating more opportunities for our members to develop local renewable energy by considering the types of memberships and contracts we offer.
  4. Increasing our renewable resources, with new wind and solar projects and a request for proposals for even more projects.
  5. Exploring opportunities with solar and energy services providers to make more community-scale solar, energy storage and electric vehicle infrastructure more available to our members at a lower cost.

Learn more about Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan.

Additional Recommended Reading

Rural America could power a renewable economy – but first we need to solve coal debt

By Joe Smyth, Clean Cooperative

As prices for new wind and solar projects continue to drop, renewable energy is booming across the United States, surpassing coal earlier this year for the first time ever. And most renewable energy projects are built in rural areas, harnessing abundant wind and solar resources. Yet the electric cooperatives that power most of rural America remain particularly reliant on coal – in part because of billions of dollars in debt on increasingly uneconomic coal plants.

Solving this coal debt problem in rural America is the focus of a new report by the Center for Rural Affairs, We Own It, and CURE (Clean Up the River Environment). Rural Electrification 2.0: The Transition to a Clean Energy Economy explores strategies that policymakers and electric cooperatives could pursue to restructure or eliminate debt that is currently tied up with uneconomic coal plants. Continue reading here.

NRECA Infographic: While electric cooperatives have begun to add more new renewable energy projects in recent years, overall they still remain more reliant on coal than other utilities. According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, coal accounts for 40% of electric cooperatives’ fuel mix, compared to 27% nationally. – Joe Smyth

Smyth’s list of recommended reading on electric cooperatives and coal debt:

He also provides a list of further reading on presidential candidates’ plans on climate, energy, and food.