Tag Archives: Fresh Energy

Cass County solar farm plans unveiled

By Ethan Hewett, KMAland.com

(Murray) — Plans have been revealed for one of the largest solar farms in the state in southeast Nebraska. That’s according to Cass County Zoning Administrator Michael Jensen, who says Boulevard Associates has revealed plans for a proposed 320-megawatt and 3,200-acre solar farm just north of Murray. Jensen says the Cass County farm would be one of the largest in the state in both land coverage and production. Read more here.

NFS Note: NextEra Energy Resources is the parent company for Boulevard Associates, LLC.

FEATURED ORGANIZATION & WEBSITE 

The AgriSolar Clearinghouse is an information-sharing, relationship-building, public communications hub for all things agrisolar. The AgriSolar community will:

  • Connect farmers, developers, researchers, and the public
  • Provide practical technical assistance
  • Develop best practices and innovative solutions to barriers
  • Evaluate innovative financing options
  • Promote sustainable agrisolar opportunities

Resources Include: Information Library / Media Hub / Events Calendar

MORE RESOURCES OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

    • Bellwood: 174.5 MW
    • Burt County: 250 MW
    • Clay County: Up-to 305 MW
    • Lincoln: 250 MW
    • McCool Junction: 310 MW
    • Murray: 320 MW
    • Pierce County: 443 MW
    • Saunders County: 81 MW

FEATURED PROJECT – PLATTEVIEW SOLAR IN SAUNDERS COUNTY NEAR YUTAN

About the Project, 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 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.

LAND LEASE RESOURCE  

 

Considerations for Leasing Land for Solar Development,
by F. John Hay, Extension Educator for Bioenergy,
University of Nebraska Lincoln


Links to More Extension Resources

FUN HOBBY FOR ALL AGES

Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification Program

This Extension program is open to Nebraska homeowners, schools, businesses, parks, homeowner associations, farmers, acreage owners and community gardens.

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

Can Solar Farms Help Save Bees?

By Brianna Barbu, Discover Magazine

Minnesota was the first state to adopt voluntary pollinator-friendly solar farm standards in 2016, with a scorecard laying out benchmarks for biodiversity, native plants and blooming seasons. States across the country followed suit, from Vermont to South Carolina to California. The standards are typically aimed at solar projects that are larger than one acre and tied to the electrical grid. Projects that earn enough points on their state’s scorecard can market themselves as pollinator-friendly.

More and more cities, universities and even companies like Clif Bar and Bank of America want to buy their solar energy from verified pollinator-friendly sources, says Rob Davis, the Director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy, a Minnesota-based clean energy think tank. “it’s increasingly helpful for developers to be able to describe their projects as pollinator friendly, and then base those claims on standards.” Continue Reading Here.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Pollinator Conservation on Solar Farms: The Entomology Perspective

By Entomology Today

Amid the steady growth of solar energy production in the United States, pollinator conservation at solar installations has become an appealing secondary pursuit, but the long-term success of such efforts remains to be seen. Can the land within a solar farm be made a true resource for pollinating insects? Will solar developers see value in the extra investment to plant and maintain flowering vegetation?

A group of entomologists tackles these questions in a new article published today in the journal Environmental Entomology. They say pairing solar energy with pollinator habitat offers great promise, but scientific evaluation and meaningful standards will be key to making it a true win-win combination. Continue reading here.

Photo by Rob Davis/Fresh Energy

Energy News Network year in review: stories of hope and resilience in 2020

By Ken Paulman, Energy News Network

It hardly bears repeating that 2020 has been a challenging year. A historic pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and devastated countless others, police killings that ignited an overdue national reckoning on systemic racism, and a divisive election that threatened to erode the very foundation of democracy continue to weigh on our hearts and minds as the year draws to the close.

But in the midst of all of this, there are still stories of hope and resilience, and throughout 2020, Energy News Network reporters have been diligently working to highlight people who are committed to meeting the challenge of building a better world. And so — while we acknowledge and hold close the pain that this year has brought — we’d like to highlight some of these stories. Continue reading here.

About Ken Paulman
Ken Paulman is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Subscribe to Energy News Network daily email digests here.

Photos by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota; Jimmy Davidson, Appalachian Voices; Gotham Greens

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.

Michigan vows to go carbon neutral by 2050, increase oversight of utility resource plans

By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D, on Wednesday signed an executive order committing her state to going carbon-neutral by 2050. It follows the governor’s commitment last year to reach the U.S. goals under the Paris Climate Agreement — reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Michigan’s new emissions reduction target is the most ambitious yet to come from a Midwest state, and calls for the state’s energy and environmental regulator to have additional oversight over utility integrated resource plans (IRPs). Its two largest utilities — DTE Energy and Consumers Energy — have goals to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and 2040, respectively. Read more here.

Previously Posted News Release: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Joins U.S. Climate Alliance

More About The Coalition

  • United States Climate Alliance Fact Sheet
    The United States Climate Alliance is a bipartisan coalition of 25 governors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Alliance is led by state governments and is focused on state-to-state cooperation to accelerate the deployment of climate solutions needed to help each achieve their climate goals. The Alliance represents 55 percent of the U.S. population and an $11.7 trillion economy – an economy larger than all countries but the United States and China.
  • Climate Alliance Governors
  • Climate Alliance Principles

Climate Alliance Publication (PDF): Solar Deployment Guidebook: A Resource for State & Local Governments

DTE ENERGY & CONSUMERS ENERGY NEWS RELEASE

DTE Energy and Consumers Energy pledge to help build extensive Midwest electric vehicle charging network, Globe Newswire

According to the Edison Electric Institute, more than 1.4 million EVs are in use today, a number expected to grow to nearly 20 million by 2030. The Institute anticipates that a robust network of EV charging stations will be required to serve the needs of these drivers. Companies joining DTE Energy and Consumers Energy in the charging network’s memorandum of cooperation include Ameren Missouri, Ameren Illinois, Oklahoma Gas and Energy, and Evergy (covering parts of Missouri and Kansas). Additional companies have expressed interest and may soon join the collaborative effort.

MORE NEWS FROM STATES

Can solar power save rural America?, Farm and Dairy
The sun is shining in Pennsylvania and Ohio. At least, solar developers hope so. They’re flocking to the two states, seeking out land leases and pitching projects that would put more renewable energy onto the grid. Solar development is touted as a win all around. It’s not extractive. It’s renewable. It allows farmers and landowners new opportunities to make money from their properties.

Solar panels shine a light on bee habitats, Southernminn.com
September is National Honey Month, and while there’s still concern over struggling bee populations, a Minnesota project has helped establish a new approach to make these pollinators thrive again. Several groups, including Fresh Energy, have played a role in making Minnesota the first state to adopt a regional standard for pollinator-friendly habitats within solar farms.

Solar Dominates Maine’s Largest Renewables Procurement on Record, Greentech Media
Average winning contract rates were 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour, according to reporting from the Portland Press Herald. That price is competitive with incumbent power in the region, Maine PUC Chair Philip Bartlett II told the newspaper. 

Alaska’s pro-oil Republican governor is quietly pushing green energy projectsKTOO
Renewables make an especially compelling case in Alaska, where electricity costs nearly twice the national average. And the Eklutna hydroelectric concept isn’t the only renewable power idea to draw [Governor] Dunleavy’s interest. The governor has also quietly pitched Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, on Alaska’s wind power potential, with Buffett responding in a letter that he hopes he can “join forces” with Dunleavy. Executives from one of Buffett’s companies, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, have held a series of meetings with the governor and senior administration officials.

States That Grew Rich From Fossil-Fuels Need to Figure Out What’s Next, contributed by The Conversation, U.S. News & World Report. These are very challenging times for U.S. fossil fuel-producing states, such as WyomingAlaska and North Dakota. The COVID-19 economic downturn has reduced energy demand, with uncertain prospects for the extent of its recovery. Meanwhilerising concern about climate change and the declining cost of renewable energy are precipitating a sharp decline in demand for coal in particular.

INNOVATIVE TRANSITION STRATEGY: SOLAR-FOR-COAL SWAPS

Electric co-ops lead growing wave of early coal plant retirements with ‘solar-for-coal swaps’, PV Magazine. A new white paper from Energy Innovation, an energy policy firm, suggests that one way to speed up the process may be found in the “solar-for-coal swaps” that a small number of U.S. electric cooperatives have successfully completed. As the name implies, the main idea here is for a utility to swap out power from aging coal plants for solar generation. Private sector financing for the swap allows the coal plants to be bought and then retired ahead of schedule.

UPCOMING WEBINAR

Clean Energy Group
: An Introduction to Virtual Power Plants, September 28, 12 pm to 1 pm 

Recommended Reading: Propelling the transition: The battle for control of virtual power plants is just beginning, Utility Dive

The largest power plants in the the U.S. — massive feats of engineering like the over 5,000 foot-long, 6,800-MW capacity Grand Coulee Dam — are proving to be no match in scale to the combined power of the rooftops and basements of homes and businesses across the country. Distributed energy, including rooftop solar, on-site batteries to store electricity and more, are on track to grow to nearly 400 GW in the U.S. by 2025, according to projections from Wood Mackenzie, significantly greater than the amount of coal or nuclear power capacity in the U.S. today. As virtual power plants develop, there is a growing debate about the degree to which the future of distributed energy management will be controlled by large utilities or third-party aggregators.

Photo by Sonnen: The all-electric Soleil Lofts apartment community in Herriman, Utah, a virtual power plant managed by Rocky Mountain Power, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE).

Perdue Farms Becomes the First Poultry Company in the United States To Create a Pollinator-Friendly Habitat Throughout its Solar Installation

Perdue Farms News Release, PR Newswire

“Given Perdue Farms’ long-standing commitment to being good stewards, having the area at our 5-acre solar field at our headquarters become a pollinator-friendly habitat was a no-brainer for us,” said Steve Levitsky, vice president of sustainability for Perdue Farms. “There is a growing body of research that shows pollinator habitat can help increase yields of a variety of fruits and vegetables, including soybeans – one of the key components of a chicken’s diet – so we wanted to do something that has the potential to benefit the environment as well as the farmers near our headquarters.” Read more here.

Resources for pollinator-friendly solar development are available from the Center for Pollinators in Energy nonprofit, a Fresh Energy program: www.BeesLoveSolar.org

Photo: Pollinator-friendly habitat at the Perdue Farms’ solar installation located at their headquarters in Salisbury, Maryland.

OCEANS AND CLIMATE 

To Save the Climate, Look to the Oceans, Scientific American
It offers major opportunities to abandon fossil fuels, sequester tons of carbon, and create a sustainable food system. I’m talking about renewable offshore energy and algae biofuel, about coastal ecosystems and regenerative ocean farming.

The writer, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., is a marine biologist, policy expert and Brooklyn native. She is founder of the consultancy Ocean Collectiv and the think tank Urban Ocean Lab.

FITCH SOLUTIONS RESEARCH

US and Spain poised for stellar capacity growth, Wind Power Monthly
Fitch Solutions researchers forecast the US to achieve 174GW of installed wind capacity by 2029, on the back of supportive policies at state level and the rise of corporate energy procurements. 

SOLAR MEDIA PODCAST

Major movements in US solar and greener-than-ever grids, PV-Tech
June 2020 episode of the Solar Media Podcast is now available to listen to, and it’s jam packed with insight and discussion around a flurry of activity in the US and Europe.

EV CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE

House bill includes EV charging infrastructure grant program supported by APPA, American Public Power Association. Section 1303 of the bill authorizes $350 million annually for fiscal years 2022-2025 for a grant program to deploy electric and hydrogen vehicle charging infrastructure along existing Alternative Fuel Corridors, based on the Clean Corridors Act (H.R. 2616), which APPA supports. 

COMMUNITY CHOICE AGGREGATION

Community energy utilities in California investigate long duration energy storage, Energy Storage News

A group of 11 community-focused energy utility groups in California have issued a Request for Information on long duration energy storage technologies that could be connected to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) grid. Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) are permitted to supply energy to residents in several US states.

What is a Community Choice Aggregation?, EPA Resource

Additional Resources

SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC REPORT 

Report: 60% of Global Professionals Considering Renewables Purchase over Next 3 Years

Power, plants: Seed mixes and ag innovation for PV solar

By Rob Davis, Director, Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy

Driven by rapidly declining costs and 100 percent clean energy commitments from corporations and municipalities, demand for large-scale solar energy development is surging. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) forecasts farmers and other landowners will lease 2-3 million acres of land for ground-mounted solar arrays by 2030, a 10-fold increase from 2020.

This rapid bloom in leasing land to produce solar energy isn’t just a lifeline for farmers looking to stabilize on-farm income, it’s also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create habitat at scale to help species critical to agriculture and ecosystem health. Climate change and loss of habitat pose significant threats to honey bees, bumblebees, monarch butterflies and a wide variety of pollinators. A recent global analysis found that 40 percent of pollinator species may be at risk of extinction in the coming years. Continue reading here,

Photo by Rob Davis, Fresh Energy: ENGIE project in Vermont

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

AWEA INTO THE WIND BLOG POSTS

American wind power supports COVID-19 relief efforts in communities across the country
Our society and economy continue to grapple with the unprecedented challenges COVID-19 presents. Ensuring the wind energy workforce’s safety and protecting U.S. wind jobs remains the top priority, and when the economy can safely reopen, wind power stands ready to play a leading role in the recovery. However, communities across the country are struggling right now, and the U.S. wind industry is doing its part to aid in the recovery effort.

Fact check: New Michael Moore-backed documentary full of errors, fundamentally misunderstands electric systemA new Michael Moore-backed documentary has been released that examines the climate crisis and the lack of progress made so far in combating the problem. Unfortunately, and somewhat strangely, the filmmakers chose to focus much of their attention erroneously critiquing a leading climate solution—renewable energy. Let’s set the record straight on where this film gets it wrong. See this article for an in-depth look at the film’s problematic portrayal of solar power.

FROM WIND EXCHANGE – DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY NEWSLETTER

The wind industry needs a broad range of workers, including turbine engineers, project developers, and supply chain managers, to support growth. Unfortunately, employers report difficulty hiring well-qualified candidates to support this growth, while graduates have also had difficulty finding jobs. Follow these tips from wind energy professionals to help narrow this gap and learn how to breeze into the wind energy workforce.

ROOFTOP WIND

Rooftop Wind Power Might Take off by Using Key Principle of Flight, by Scientific American, EcoWatch

Solar panels perched on the roofs of houses and other buildings are an increasingly common sight in the U.S., but rooftop wind systems have never caught on. Past efforts to scale down the towering turbines that generate wind power to something that might sit on a home have been plagued by too many technical problems to make such devices practical. Now, however, a new design could circumvent those issues by harnessing the same principle that creates lift for airplane wings.

Image: An artist’s rendering of AeroMINES along the edge of a roof and combined with solar arrays. Sandia National Laboratories

GOOGLE

Google Tests Load-Shifting at Data Centers to Capture the Grid’s Peak Clean Energy Hours, Greentech Media. In its quest for 24/7 renewables, Google tries scheduling “non-urgent” computing tasks at times of maximum wind and solar output.

Previously Posted: Google is a member of two regional transmission organizations: Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

The global corporation is also a member of RE100 and the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA).

Highly compatible: pollinator-friendly solar projects and farming

By Katie Siegner, Scott Wentzell and Whitney Mann, Minnesota Post

Installed solar capacity in Minnesota crossed the 1-gigawatt threshold last fall, and is set to grow sixfold by 2030 to meet the state’s 10 percent solar energy goal. The management of the land below the panels — most commonly seeded with turf grass — offers an important opportunity to provide multiple environmental and agricultural benefits in addition to carbon free energy generation. Last fall, our team of graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies conducted a cost-benefit analysis of solar development on farmland in Minnesota, and the results were illuminating. By developing projects as pollinator-friendly — the practice of planting deep-rooted grasses and wildflowers throughout a project site — solar developers have the potential to provide habitat for threatened pollinator species, restore important prairie ecosystems, and boost the crop yields of nearby fields. Read more here.

Photo by SoCore Energy: Kearney Solar Farm

Previously posted article with information about Kearney’s Pollinator-Friendly Solar Farm and links to additional resources:
In bid to help bees, Xcel to require vegetation disclosure in solar RFPs

Note about OPPD’s Community-Scale Solar Farm now under construction by NextEra:
Courtney Kennedy, OPPD Alternative Energy Program Manager, announced at Nebraskans for Solar’s March 13th public forum on OPPD’s Solar Farm, located on an acreage in Fort Calhoun, that it will be pollinator-friendly, with native plants, as well.

WIND ENERGY AND CROPS

Iowa State University Research Finds Wind Farms Positively Impact Crops
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Nation’s Largest Solar Bee Farm in Ore. Creating Buzz

Public News Service

The Eagle Point solar farm outside Medford is the largest “solar apiary” in the country, incorporating designs that benefit pollinators. It’s home to 48 bee colonies interspersed among solar panels, which are generating enough energy to power more than 2,100 homes annually. Rob Davis, who directs the Center for Pollinators and Energy for the nonprofit Fresh Energy, connected North Carolina-based Pine Gate Renewables with a beekeeper in southern Oregon.
Read the entire news release here.

Photo by Pine Gate Renewables: A solar farm near Medford, Ore., also is home to 48 thriving bee colonies.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
USDA, NIFA Announce Investments in Pollinator Health Research, USDA Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 28, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 14 grants totaling approximately $10 million for research to help sustain healthy populations of pollinators, which are crucial to the nation’s food security and environmental health. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“One-third of all U.S. crop production requires pollination by animals – primarily honey bees, but also wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles and bats,” said Acting NIFA Director Tom Shanower. “Recent declines in both managed and wild pollinators are of paramount importance to our nation’s food security and the vitality of natural resources.”