Tag Archives: University of Nebraska Lincoln

UNO Magazine: Big Future for Tiny Homes

University of Nebraska Omaha News Center

Focused on the future of tiny houses, Bing Chen, Ph.D., a UNL professor of electrical and computer engineering based out of Omaha’s Peter Kiewit Institute, envisions a future filled with tiny, environmentally friendly houses.

Over the past two years, Chen, along with students from Metropolitan Community College, have taken the first steps to making his vision a reality. Earlier this year, this multidisciplinary team completed construction of a 400-square-foot prototype of a sustainable, ADA-compliant home that one day could be mass produced and easily transported almost anywhere in the country.

The construction students framed the home, created the floor, erected side walls, wired the home for electricity and installed heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The finished 20-foot x 20-foot home, which was built on MCC’s campus, will be moved on a flatbed trailer to a location near UNO’s Baxter Arena this coming spring. Learn more here.

Read the UNO Magazine online as a Flipbook or download a PDF.

Previously Posted

The future of ag policy debate

Contributed by Bradley D. Lubben, FarmProgress

Just as I teach students in class to understand the drivers of policy development, it is worthwhile to understand the fundamental challenges facing agriculture as a way to frame the policy issues and debate that is certain to come.

I believe the fundamental challenges or expectations of society for agriculture include four key questions: Will agriculture provide commodity food, feed and fiber production for global demand? Will it provide branded, specialized or production-process-verified products for local food systems? Will it provide bioenergy and renewable energy production to help meet U.S. energy demand? Or will it provide environmental benefits or agro-ecosystem goods and services for society? Read more here.

Lubben is the Extension policy specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

NEBRASKA’S ECONOMIC RECOVERY & RESILIENCE

THE SECOND INFRASTRUCTURE BILL

The Build Back Better Framework, The White House Briefing Room
This framework will set the United States on course to meet its climate goals, create millions of good-paying jobs, enable more Americans to join and remain in the labor force, and grow our economy from the bottom up and the middle out.

The Build Back Better framework is fully paid for:
Combined with savings from repealing the Trump Administration’s rebate rule, the plan is fully paid for by asking more from the very largest corporations and the wealthiest Americans. The 2017 tax cut delivered a windfall to them, and this would help reverse that—and invest in the country’s future. No one making under $400,000 will pay a penny more in taxes.

Specifically, the framework:

  • Stops large, profitable corporations from paying zero in tax and tax corporations that buyback stock rather than invest in the company.
  • Stops rewarding corporations for shipping jobs and profits overseas.
  • Asks the highest income Americans to pay their fair share.
  • Invests in enforcing our existing tax laws, so the wealthy pay what they owe.

RELATED READING

DOE Awards Nearly $40 Million for Grid Decarbonizing Solar Technologies

Department of Energy News Release
October 19, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today awarded nearly $40 million to 40 projects that are advancing the next generation of solar, storage, and industrial technologies necessary for achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s climate goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. Specifically, the projects will reduce the cost of solar technologies by increasing the lifespan of photovoltaic (PV) systems from 30 to 50 years, developing technologies that will enable solar to be used in fuel and chemicals production, and advancing novel storage technologies.

“We are laser focused on deploying more solar power and developing more cost-effective technologies to decarbonize our electricity system,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Research to develop stronger and longer-lasting solar panels is critical to addressing the climate crisis. The 40 projects announced today – led by universities and private industry across the country – is an investment in the next generation of innovations that will strengthen the nation’s solar capacity and enhance our grid resilience. Continue reading here.

PV PROJECTS

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Is among the 2021 Photovoltaics Funding Program selectees.

This program will help achieve the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) goal of lowering solar energy costs 50% by 2030. Some of the projects will help extend PV system life. The rest will lay the foundation for continued research that leads to new PV technologies to help achieve a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035 and a net-zero-emissions energy sector by 2050.

UNL’s Project Name: A Hot-Swappable, Fault-Tolerant, Modular Power Converter System for Solar Photovoltaic Plants
DOE Award Amount: $300,000
Cost Share: $75,000
Project Summary: This project will work to prove the concept of a fault-tolerant, modular power converter system for PV plants that does not require disconnection from the solar array to replace components. The system will contain innovations that enable 50% system cost reduction, 90% operation and maintenance (O&M) cost reduction, uninterrupted operation with 50 years of service life, improved manufacturability, and higher power density over the state of the art. The team will design, fabricate and test a 50 kilowatt (kW) prototype with over 99.5% inverter peak efficiency, less than $0.03 per watt system cost, and less than $0.5 kW-year O&M cost.

Read about the individual PV projects and the individual CSP projects.

Learn more about DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and its research priorities in PV and CSP

Ricketts’ order on 30-by-30 conservation effort is short on actual roadblocks

By Martha Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald

LINCOLN — In his battle against the federal government, Gov. Pete Ricketts has directed state agencies to take “any necessary step” to resist a federal initiative to conserve 30% of American land and waters by 2030. He signed the executive order last month, in the leafy shade of the garden at the Governor’s Mansion, flanked by allies from rural county governments and agricultural organizations.

Ricketts said his order is aimed at stopping implementation of what he calls “the 30×30 land grab.” But a closer look at the order shows it to be long on education and information-gathering and short on steps that would block the expansion of conservation efforts. Read more here.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Working with Individual Landowners on Conservation

The USDA provides voluntary, incentive-based conservation to landowners through local field offices in nearly every county of the nation. USDA helped landowners develop conservation plans and enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, conserve and clean the water we drink, prevent soil erosion and create and protect wildlife habitat. USDA support – leveraged with historic outside investments – helped support producer incomes and reward them for their good work.

Learn more about USDA’s conservation programs.

CENTER FOR AGRICULTURAL PROFITABILITY AT UNL

The interdisciplinary Center for Agricultural Profitability, which was approved March 11, 2021, facilitates faculty research, conducts outreach related to agricultural profitability and trains undergraduate and graduate students — all to support informed decision-making in agriculture through applied research and education.

Center for Agricultural Profitability Webinars – Archived & Upcoming

Analyzing the Proposed 30×30 Conservation Plan, July 22, 2021
With: Dave Aiken, Professor and Agricultural Law & Water Specialist, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

On Jan. 27, President Biden signed his climate action executive order, pledging, among other things, to conserve at least 30% of U.S. land and water by 2030. On May 6, an interagency report to the president provided some detail for implementing the 30×30 plan. The report pledges to honor private property rights and to honor existing voluntary stewardship efforts of private landowners as well as building on existing land and water conservation programs. Aiken describes the proposed 30×30 program and discusses how the U.S. may be closer to reaching 30% land protection than most realize.

Conservation Program Opportunities for Producers and Landowners, July 8, 2021
With Brad Lubben, Extension Associate Professor and Policy Specialist, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Agricultural Economics; Doug Klein, Conservation and Price Support Programs Chief, USDA FSA Nebraska State Office; and Brad Soncksen, Assistant State Conservationist, USDA NRCS State Office.

Fortenberry scores additional federal funding for USDA center at UNL

By Don Walton, Lincoln Journal Star

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday gave its approval to an additional $20 million appropriation for construction of a new U.S. Department of Agriculture research center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The new recommended funding follows on the heels of an earlier allocation of $11.2 million for planning and design of the multi-year project. If full funding for a new federal ag research center ultimately is acquired, that would signal the end of a long quest for a USDA presence at Nebraska Innovation Campus that began more than a decade ago.  Continue reading here

MORE UNL NEWS & UPCOMING WEBINARS

IANR launches Center for Agricultural Profitabilityby Ryan Evans | Center for Agricultural Profitability, Nebraska Today

The new Center for Agricultural Profitability in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources began operating June 28 with the unveiling of a new website and slate of informational events. For more on the Center for Agricultural Profitability, including registration for its free webinar series and access to its decision tools, articles and other resources, click here.

Center for Agricultural Profitability Webinars
July 8: 
Conservation Program Opportunities for Producers and Landowners
July 15: Business & Financial IQ – The Difference Maker

Hay helps rural Nebraskans explore clean energy options

By Russell Shaffer | Rural Prosperity Nebraska, Nebraska Today

Making the switch to clean energy is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. John Hay, a Nebraska Extension educator who conducts workshops on solar energy, helps individuals make the decision that best suits their home, farm, ranch or business.

“Success isn’t always choosing to install solar,” he said. “Success is doing a good analysis of the resources to make the best decision.” Since 2007, Hay has conducted workshops through Nebraska Extension to educate farmers, homeowners and rural business owners on the process of installing clean energy technology. Continue reading here.

Links to Extension Resources
Utility Scale Wind 
Small Wind 
Wind Measuring Towers
Solar Electric Systems 
Solar Economic Analysis 
Utility Scale Solar
Solar Water Pumping
Solar Electric on the Farm

MORE NEBRASKA NEWS

  • DOE Announces $22 Million for Energy Research Projects in Underserved Regions WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $22 million in funding for nine projects covering a range of energy research topics from grid integration, solar energy, wind energy, and advanced manufacturing. These projects are located in communities traditionally underserved by federal research and development (R&D) funding so that all parts of the country are central to efforts to solve the climate crisis and meet President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Projects Include University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE ($2,940,000): Developing and applying new experimental and computational tools to understand dynamics of chemical reactions in organic materials.
  • Lincoln to receive $2.7 million grant, StarTran plans to buy new electric buses, KOLN
    The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding Lincoln with an almost $2.7 million federal transit grant, and all of that money is heading to the city’s bussing system. With this grant, Lincoln’s StarTran will get 3 brand new electric buses and two new charging stations. These new electric buses will replace three 2006 diesal buses. The company says this grant will ultimately help the environment and the thousands of people who use Lincoln’s bus system every day.
  • OPPD moving to diversify prairie program, The Wire
    Changes are underway for OPPD’s “Prairie in Progress” pollinator program. The plan largely involves replanting some areas that did not take off as well as OPPD officials had hopedThe program, which began in 2018, is a joint effort between Environmental Affairs and Building Services & Operations personnel, the Save Our Monarchs Foundation, and grants from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
  • Aurora hosts ribbon cutting for new electric vehicle charging station, NPPD News Release
    Nebraska Public Power District will partner with the city of Aurora for a ribbon cutting event on Friday, June 25 at 3 p.m. The ribbon cutting kicks off the availability of Aurora’s first ChargePoint DC fast charger charging station, located downtown on the corner of 12th and N Street.
  • Unicameral Update – Session Review: Natural Resources, Senator Bruce Bostelman
    Included in the review:: LB507, introduced by Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman, prohibits the use of treated seed in the production of ethanol if its use results in the generation of a byproduct that is deemed unsafe for livestock consumption or land application. Under LB650,, introduced by Sen. Michael Flood of Norfolk and passed on a vote of 48-1, the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will regulate facilities that inject carbon dioxide through wells into underground geologic formations for permanent or short-term storage.
  • Nebraska Embarks on Major Carbon Capture Initiatives, Environment + Energy Leader
    Chief Industries, Inc. and Catahoula Resources have entered into an agreement to jointly develop carbon capture and permanent sequestration (CCS) within 
    Nebraska.
  • Most U.S. wind capacity built since 2011 is located in the center of the country, EIA
    Wind capacity in the United States has increased significantly over the past decade, from 40.1 gigawatts (GW) in January 2011 to 118.3 GW at the end of 2020. This wind capacity growth was mostly concentrated in the middle of the country.

Carbon market farming bill introduced in Congress

By David Murry, High Plains Journal

A bill that, if passed, would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to lay the groundwork and set standards for a “carbon farming” market was introduced in Congress April 20. The U.S. Senate Ag Committee planned to take up the Growing Climate Solutions Act April 22 during a committee hearing to coincide with Earth Day.

The bill was originally introduced last June but has since been refined and reworked after input from Republicans. Its title says its purpose is “to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a program to reduce barriers to entry for farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in certain private markets, and for other purposes.” Read more here.

Photo Credit: USDA

Additional Recommended Reading

Featured USDA Resource

Northern Plains Climate Hub
The Northern Plains Climate 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.

More Nebraska Resources

Additional National Legislation: The Agriculture Resilience Act 

Agriculture Resilience Act a Thoughtful, Nuanced Approach to Climate Action, National Farmers Union News Release

“While the window is still open, we must take every possible opportunity to adapt to our changing climate and limit its impact. One key piece of the puzzle is the agriculture sector, which can not only work to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, but it can also offset other sectors’ emissions by sequestering carbon in the soil – a fact that the Agriculture Resilience Act recognizes and seeks to put into action. This thoughtful and nuanced bill would strategically further climate initiatives across USDA programs in an effort to provide farmers with the tools, resources, and assistance they need to implement climate-smart practices.” – NFU President Rob Larew

National Farmers Union
National Farmers Union advocates on behalf of nearly 200,000 American farm families and their communities. We envision a world in which farm families and their communities are respected, valued, and enjoy economic prosperity and social justice.

Nebraska Farmers Union
Founded in 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the quality of life and economic well-being of family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities. As Nebraska’s second largest family farm and ranch ag organization with over 4,000 family farm and ranch families as members, Nebraska Farmers Union is dedicated to the farm income issues which matter most to rural families. With active members across the state, Farmers Union is one of Nebraska’s oldest and strongest grassroots organizations.

Initial solar contract inked for OPPD’s Power with Purpose

The Wire, OPPD Blog

The future is growing brighter as OPPD takes its first steps to acquire up to 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar generation. OPPD recently signed a contract with Community Energy, Inc. for an 81-megawatt solar array spread across approximately 500 leased acres south of Yutan, Neb., in eastern Saunders County. When complete, this facility will be capable of powering around 14,000 average homes. The facility’s name: Platteview Solar.

[Power with Purpose-Solar, available here], features background information, Frequently Asked Questions and a forum where anyone can ask a specific question not addressed in the FAQ. OPPD is striving to be a net-zero carbon utility by 2050, and the commitment to renewable energy heralded by this announcement is one important step on that pathway to decarbonization. Read more here.

ROOFTOP SOLAR

Inside Clean Energy: The Coast-to-Coast Battle Over Rooftop Solar, by Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News

Last year, all but four states—Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota—took some kind of action on rooftop solar policy, according to the most recent “50 States of Solar” report from the NC Clean Energy Technology Center. (Autumn Proudlove, senior policy program director at the center, was one of the people I spoke with about what’s happening in states right now). There are big differences in the states’ approaches, but what they share is an awareness that regulations need to change to be ready for a market in which rooftop solar is much more common.

Yet, regulators only control part of the financial equation. The costs of solar panels continue to decrease. And customers are increasingly buying solar along with battery storage, which means people are storing excess electricity for their own use rather than sending it back to the grid, reducing the importance of net metering policy.

Previously Posted

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA-LINCOLN NEWS

A student-led competition held as part of the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues is helping expand sustainability planning at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Offered as part of the forum’s 2020-21 focus on environmental issues, the E.N. Thompson Forum Sustainability Idea Award challenged Recognized Student Organizations to plan, develop or execute a “green” project that aligns with the university’s new sustainability and resilience master plan. The contest featured four themes: transportation, energy, waste management, and sustainability and COVID-19. “It was incredible to see a broad spectrum of student groups — more than 12 — participating and outlining a variety of interesting topics,” said Prabhakar Shrestha, sustainability coordinator for the university and a judge for the competition.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln: “Big Red Sat-1” is an education mission with a primary goal of engaging and developing future aerospace engineers by contributing to the development of critical technologies to improve solar power generation. The technology demonstration secondary focus is to take proven perovskite panel technology at technical readiness level (TRL)-5 to TRL-6 by testing the panels in space using flight heritage information and systems to maximize potential success. Testing should provide answers on handling and the life of perovskites, as well as comparative day/night performance with silicon in a space environment.

OTHER MIDWEST STATES IN THE NEWS

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has announced the 10 teams selected to advance to the final stage of the $3 million American-Made Solar Prize Round 4. The finalists were selected from 20 teams that presented their solar innovations to a panel of expert judges at a demonstration day hosted by Carnegie Mellon University’s Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Two Midwest teams are among the finalists:

Cool Tech Solar (North Oaks, MN): A nano-textured heatsink material for the back of a solar panel to increase the surface area, helping dissipate heat and lowering the panel’s peak operating temperature.

Rocking Solar (Monroe, OH): A solar panel tracker system that tracks the sun using a rocking motion, reducing the weight of a photovoltaic system and the number of roof penetrations required for installation.

Read the SETO newsletters for updates on the next demo day, and learn more about thAmerican-Made Solar Prize.

VOLKSWAGEN DIESEL EMISSION MITIGATION PROGRAM

Bill would fund Nebraska climate change study

By Jon Kipper, KMTV

LINCOLN, Neb — Eight years ago, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln created a climate change study at the behest of the Nebraska Legislature. Once the report was out, a plan was never developed. Now, there’s a push for a new, updated study that would be the precipice for the state creating a climate change action plan. Senator John Cavanaugh, who represents midtown Omaha, said the state’s climate is changing and it’s on the government to determine the next steps. “This is not a question of whether this is happening, the question is what are we going to do about it,” said Cavanaugh. Continue reading or watch the video.

LB 483: Provide for a climate change study and action plan

Sustainable ‘tiny house’ project making progress

By Jason Kuiper, The Wire, OPPD Blog

Despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus, the area’s first sustainable small house is moving closer to completion. What is a sustainable house? The way project coordinator Bing Chen describes it, it is a small, ADA-compliant house about the size of a studio apartment that is self-sufficient.

That means it incorporates passive solar heating, solar electrical generation, and a roof-collected rain water system, among other enhancements. Chen is partnering with OPPD and other local organizations on the Small Sustainable House (SSH).

Continue reading here.

Top Image: Architectural visualization of the Sustainable Small House by Steve Eggerling
Right Photo Credit: The Wire 

Additional Links / Resources

Passive Solar Research Group, UNL
Director: Dr. Bing Chen
The Passive Solar Research Group’s “Sustainable Small House” Research Project

Book 

 

Path to Passive: Nebraska’s Passive Solar Primer, 1982 – available for download from the Nebraska Energy Office

 

 

Presentation 


Dr. Bing Chen’s presentation to Nebraskans for Solar at UNO’s Community Engagement Center: Small House on the Prairie: A Sustainable Assisted Living Unit (ALU) Demonstration Project Utilizing Renewable Energy (PDF)