Tag Archives: Karen Uhlenhuth

Omaha utility and environmentalists agree on the path to net-zero — but not the timeline

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

The Omaha Public Power District and the Sierra Club, often at odds over energy issues, have found some important common ground: The utility can achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at minimal additional cost — or even slightly reduced cost — to customers. 

The utility and environmental group both recently made public the results of computer modeling by consultants to determine how the utility could meet its net-zero goal while minimizing impacts on reliability, resiliency, and affordability. Continue reading here.

Photo: Omaha Public Power District’s Nebraska City Station. Credit: Ammodramus / Creative Commons

Additional Recommended Reading

American Public Power Association: The Need for Direct Payment Of Refundable Tax Credits for Public Power 

Tax-exempt entities, including public power utilities, cannot directly benefit from either the ITC or PTC for a facility that they own. Some entities with little to no tax liability do jointly own qualifying facilities with a “tax equity” partner whose sole role is to monetize an ITC or PTC. However, a public power utility cannot feasibly enter this sort of “partnership flip” transaction.  Public power utilities can indirectly benefit from such credits by entering long-term power-purchase agreements with taxable entities that can claim these credits. However, the transactional costs of such agreements can be high. Additionally, only a portion of the value of the tax credit is generally considered to be passed on to the purchaser, thus muting the incentive effect.

These costs and limitations are problematic in that tax-exempt entities serve a substantial percentage of the nation’s retail electric customers (14.4 percent by public power and 13.0 percent by rural electric cooperatives). Additionally, omitting tax-exempt entities from energy-related tax incentives makes it more costly for public power utilities to make investments in renewable and other non-emitting resources and clean energy technologies that will be needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. This is a significant shortcoming if Congress is seeking market-wide changes in energy-related investment and production decisions.

Would Upper Midwest carbon capture pipelines offer a lifeline to coal plants?

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

An environmental group is warning that a proposed pipeline network that would carry carbon emissions to underground storage in Illinois and North Dakota could also extend the life of fossil fuel power plants in the Upper Midwest.

The recently announced projects would immediately benefit ethanol producers, but the Sierra Club says they might also offer a regulatory or economic lifeline to coal-fired power plants in the region under future federal emissions policies. Continue reading here.

LINKS TO ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management

DOE’s Carbon Capture Program at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). The program is managed by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

NETL Resources Include:

National Carbon Capture Center

Department of Energy News Releases

Global CCS Institute

IN NEBRASKA

Nebraska utility could slash emissions at little or no added cost, studies show

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

Nebraska’s largest electric utility could dramatically reduce carbon emissions over the next three decades at little or no cost to ratepayers, according to a pair of recent reports prepared for the utility’s board of directors. The path — and cost — of completely eliminating emissions by midcentury, though, becomes far less certain.

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. Continue reading here.

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

Also Written by Karen Uhlenhuth

Nebraska Legislation: LB483: Provide for a climate change study and action plan

Nebraska utility won’t convert power plant to run on hydrogen after all

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

Nebraska’s largest electric utility and the manufacturer that will soon be its largest private customer have agreed to abandon a potentially innovative plan to partially convert an aging fossil fuel power plant to run on hydrogen. The Nebraska Public Power District in 2018 said it had contracted with Monolith Materials to buy all of the hydrogen byproduct produced at a new factory under construction near the utility’s 225-megawatt Sheldon Station power plant, about 20 miles south of Lincoln. The power district planned to convert a 120-megawatt boiler to burn hydrogen, something that’s never been done before. Continue reading here.

NPPD Photo: 225-MW Sheldon Coal Plant near Hallam, Nebraska

ALSO WRITTEN BY KAREN UHLENHUTH

Solar firm buying land rights near coal plants with eye toward transmission

Solar firm buying land rights near coal plants with eye toward transmission

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

A utility-scale solar developer is acquiring land rights near U.S. coal-fired power plants, hoping the facilities will close sooner than expected and open up lucrative transmission connections. Photosol US, a subsidiary of a French company, has purchased options near plants in Nebraska and Kansas, as well as the San Juan Generating Station in northern New Mexico. While the San Juan plant has approval from state regulators to shut down in 2022, the Nebraska and Kansas plants, completed in the early 1980s, do not have retirement dates. The Nebraska Public Power District, which owns the Gerald Gentleman Station, has begun evaluating the plant’s future. Read more here.

Wikipedia Photo: The Gerald Gentleman Station, located just south of Sutherland, is Nebraska’s largest electricity generating plant. The station consists of two coal-fired generating units which were launched into service in 1979 and 1982 and which together have the generation capacity of 1,365 megawatts of power.

NPPD’s R-Project: Reducing transmission congestion and providing opportunities for additional renewable energy 

Project Overview
NPPD’s R-Project is a 345,000-volt transmission line from NPPD’s Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland to NPPD’s existing substation east of Thedford. The new line will then proceed east and connect to a second substation to be sited in Holt County.

NPPD’s electric grid is an essential link to ensuring service for our customers. The R-Project will increase the reliability of the transmission system, relieve congestion on the existing system, and provide additional opportunities for development of renewable projects if desired at the local level.

Southwest Power Pool’s Role
NPPD is a member of the Southwest Power Pool, a regional transmission organization. The SPP conducted a study, also known as the Integrated Transmission Plan, to assess the needs of the entire transmission network with the SPP region over the next 10 years. The R-Project is one of numerous projects to come out of that study.

Additional Recommended Reading

Department of Energy awards funding for Phase II of carbon capture study for Gentleman Station, NPPD News Release

Omaha utility’s solar plan collides with suburban development aspirations

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

The Sarpy County board of commissioners on Tuesday adopted new zoning language that would complicate, and possibly undo, plans by the Omaha Public Power District to develop a solar farm and gas-fired power plant in the fast-growing suburban county. Along with the restraints on solar arrays, the commissioners approved a moratorium on construction of fossil-fueled power plants through Oct. 31. Although the new regulations likely would prohibit the utility from proceeding with its current plan, there probably is a viable alternative, according to Stephen Bruckner, general counsel for the Omaha Public Power District. Read more here.

About Karen Uhlenhuth


Karen spent most of her career reporting for the Kansas City Star, focusing at various times on local and regional news, and features. More recently, she was employed as a researcher and writer for a bioethics center at a children’s hospital in Kansas City. Karen covers Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

More Articles by Karen Uhlenhuth

Photo Credit: Lincoln Electric System

Nebraska tribe’s latest energy project: reclaimed solar thermal heaters

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News / Energy News Network

A Nebraska tribe that is completing the installation of 720 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic panels is pursuing another solar technology for meeting even more of its energy needs. The Winnebago tribe recently received a gift of used solar thermal heaters and soon will refurbish and install them to heat several buildings on tribal land in eastern Nebraska.

The tribe began about a decade ago to pursue greater energy self-sufficiency. In 2008 it experimented with a 25-kilowatt solar installation. The tribe’s vision and ambition grew, and it won a federal grant in 2017 and a second grant a year ago, totaling about $790,000. Read more here.

Photo by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

About Karen Uhlenhuth

Karen spent most of her career reporting for the Kansas City Star, focusing at various times on local and regional news, and features. More recently, she was employed as a researcher and writer for a bioethics center at a children’s hospital in Kansas City. Karen covers Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota for the Energy News Network.


Also written by Karen Uhlenhuth

Additional Recommended Reading 

The Winnebago Community’s Renewable Energy Development A Part of Overall Mission, by Sam Burrish, Communications Manager, Ho-Chunk, Inc: The Winnebago Tribe’s Economic Development Corporation 

Midwest utilities ‘overwhelmingly surprised’ by solar subscription demand

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

As Midwest utilities offer solar subscription plans, customers are sending a clear message: They want more. On May 4, the Omaha Public Power District sold the last available share for a utility-owned solar project under construction on a piece of degraded land a few miles from the utility’s shuttered nuclear plant.

“We knew the demand was there, but I can say we were overwhelmingly surprised it sold out so quickly,” said Tricia McKnight, a product specialist with the Omaha Public Power District. “I think customers are a lot more environmentally sensitive than we expected.” Continue reading here.

Click here to learn more about OPPD’s community-scale solar project and watch brief videos about the program by two well-known OPPD customers and community leaders, David Corbin and Don Preister.

Lincoln Electric System Photo: Generating 5 megawatts of solar energy, the LES solar facility was Nebraska’s first community-scale solar installation. The solar farm is located on a portion of a 46-acre site near Northwest 75th and Holdrege Streets.

See Solar Examples for brief descriptions and photos of more Nebraska community-scale projects and Community-Scale Solar to read news stories about local and national projects, completed or under development.

In Nebraska, a unique carbon-capture concept has a lot of unknowns

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

In November, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) announced a partnership with Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology and Wärtsilä, a Finnish manufacturer, to explore using that company’s technology to generate electricity from methanol, which would be synthesized by combining hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

While a news release touts the study as intending to help “accelerate the move towards a future where energy will be produced from 100 percent renewable carbon free sources,” NPPD does not yet know whether any carbon reduction benefits will result. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Wärtsilä

NEBRASKA ALSO IN THE NEWS HERE

ASU engineers break solar cell record, ASU News
Arizona State University researchers continue to break solar cell efficiency records in an effort to harness the sun’s energy more economically as a renewable source for electricity. Last year, Assistant Professor Zachary Holman and Assistant
Research Professor Zhengshan “Jason” Yu in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering set a world record of 23.6 percent
efficiency for a tandem solar cell stacked with perovskite and silicon.

The number was a few percentage points shy of the
theoretical efficiency limit for silicon solar cells alone. Now, the team improves upon the record by nearly two percentage points, to 25.4 percent, in a joint project with researchers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, predicting they’ll be nearing 30 percent tandem efficiency within two years.

Photo: The perovskite/silicon tandem solar cell created by researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has the potential to transform mainstream silicon technology and lower the cost of solar energy. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

ADDITIONAL UNIVERSITY NEWS

Stanford scientists locate nearly all U.S. solar panels by applying machine learning to a billion satellite images, Stanford University News. Stanford researchers have identified the GPS locations and sizes of almost all U.S. solar power installations from a billion images. Using the data, which are public, they identified factors that
promote the use of solar energy and those that
discourage it. Photo: Telesis Inc’s solar array in Lincoln 

Iowa, already a leader on wind, looks to take the next steps on storage

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

State officials see huge potential for batteries to help make the most of its wind and solar generation, and they hope to test it with a new grant-funded project. The Iowa Economic Development Authority has awarded a $200,000 grant to support research into the workings of two large solar-plus-storage projects by Fairfield-based Ideal Energy. Ideal will gather information about how the systems work and share it with a team of researchers at Iowa State University who will analyze it. Read more here.

Related: Iowa solar installer using storage to help customers avoid costly demand charges

Photo by Ideal Energy

ALSO WRITTEN  BY KAREN UHLENHUTH

 


Nebraska tribe to double solar capacity after landing federal grant

 

 


Nebraska tribe becomes a solar power leader on the Plains

 

 


Omaha hotel is first project financed with Nebraska’s PACE legislation