In the oil price shocked 1970s, America
and other petroleum-dependent nations charted courses
and policies they hoped would lead to greater
utilization of renewable energy resources such as wind
and solar power.
Boom and Bust
Nebraskans reacted the same way. By the early 1980s,
solar panels could be found on the roofs of homes
throughout the state. A few Nebraskans even invested in
small-scale wind generators -the 1980s version of
windmills or wind chargers that used to be a common
feature on every Nebraska farmstead.
Then came the worldwide oil bust of the mid-1980s when
a barrel of oil cost not $50 or $100 as predicted, but
about $10 - $15. As America's domestic oil industry
collapsed, the fledgling renewable energy industry
As quickly as Americans and Nebraskans embraced energy
efficiency and renewables, they reverted to their
practices before oil embargoes as the price of oil
plummeted. Despite dramatic increases in energy
efficiency, the nation's petroleum addiction continues
Recent news accounts have focused on Americans
switching from cars to less efficient trucks and
utility vehicles. Are America and Nebraska making any
headway on those renewable energy goals established two
A National Yardstick
New reports from federal and state energy sources
provide some encouraging news.
The 1996 Renewable Energy Annual from the
U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information
Administration found the nation's total energy supply
from renewable energy resources increased to an
all-time high of 7.6 percent in 1995. Use of renewable
energy has increased 2.2 percent annually since 1991.
Comparatively, petroleum accounted for 38.3 percent of
the total energy supply during the same period.
According to the report, conventional hydroelectric
power accounts for about half of all renewable energy
produced. About 40 percent comes from biomass resources
that include wood, wood waste, peat, municipal
solid waste, agricultural resources (including the
production of ethanol), tires and miscellaneous gases,
oils and wastes. The remaining ten percent is split
among geothermal, solar and wind resources.
Use of renewable energy resources in Nebraska is about
half the level of national use. According to the
state's Energy Office, in 1995 an estimated three
percent of all energy used in the state came from
renewable sources. Five-sixths of the renewable energy
came from conventional hydroelectric power. Slightly
less than one-sixth came from ethanol used as a fuel
additive in gasoline. Wind and solar power supplied the
Historically, use of renewable resources in Nebraska
has grown at a pace similar to that of the nation. In
1993, only 2.5 percent of all energy used in the state
came from renewable sources. Two percent came from
hydroelectric while four-tenths of a percent came from
ethanol. In 1994, the growth in ethanol use resulted in
a near doubling to eight-tenths of a percent while
hydropower remained constant at two percent.
The federal energy agency's report indicated the
greatest gains in renewable energy would likely occur
in less developed nations, not in the United States.
Regions without existing electrical infrastructure
represent a prime growth area for photovoltaic
panels because installation is more economical than
building power lines.
The ultimate outcome of deregulation of the electric
industry may have substantial impacts on current and
future renewable resources in America.
Some experts have suggested
that utilities now
required to purchase electricity from renewable
resources may seek exemptions to those requirements.
Since electricity from wind and solar sources tends
to be more expensive than that from other sources,
some utilities may try to cancel required renewable
purchases as a means of competing in a cost-competitive
To foster renewable energy development, others are
proposing that federal or state deregulation policies
require use of some electricity generated from
renewable resources. Several bills being considered in
Congress require just such a “renewables portfolio
Total Energy Consumed by Fuel Type in 1995
Closer to Home: A Triad of Options
While promising, Nebraska's renewable horoscope is
unclear. The three brightest hopes continue to be
ethanol, wind and solar. Each renewable option has
strengths and weaknesses.
The state's unparalleled success remains ethanol
production. Over time, Nebraskans have traded
increased use for increased production. In a series
of policy decisions, state leaders decreased
incentives for using imported ethanol by removing
price incentives at the gas pump and increased
incentives for producing ethanol from local grains.
This strategy vaulted Nebraska into the third largest
ethanol producing state.
However, further gains in either production or
consumption are uncertain. A few states have matched
or exceeded Nebraska's ethanol production incentives.
As a result, new plant construction has shifted to
other states. Expansions of current facilities remain
an option, since this is a cheaper alternative to
constructing new facilities. Federal tax policies on
ethanol will be the determining factor in continued
growth of this industry.
Increasing in-state use of ethanol may also be
ultimately determined by state or federal policies.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency
recently said Nebraska was not a source for air
pollution in states to the east. If the federal
agency had determined Nebraska was a pollution
source, vehicles in the state might have been
required to use less polluting gasoline that
included oxygenates such as ethanol.
In 1997, state legislators considered a law that would
set minimum goals for ethanol additives in gasoline. The
legislative session ended before final action could be
taken on this proposal. It will probably be considered
again in the 1998 session of the Unicameral.
More Than Hot Air?
As of today, the energy potential in Nebraska's winds
remains just that a potential. Nine different sites across
the state are being evaluated for placement of wind turbines.
No utilities are currently generating electricity from wind,
but interest in its potential remains high.
Not until July 1994 near Ainsworth, did the latest round
of wind monitoring get underway. Nebraska Public Power
District and KBR Rural Public Power District began
studying wind speeds and turbulence at a site 5 1/2
miles from Ainsworth.
Less than a year later, a consortium of utilities,
interest groups and the state's Energy Office, began
a three-year study of eight sites from Wahoo to Kimball.
This study is expected to end in 1998. First year results
indicated that six of the eight sites have good near-term
potential for wind generation development according
to experts who studied the data collected.
Today, four Nebraska utilities
Nebraska Public Power District, Lincoln Electric System,
the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska and the City of
Grand Island are negotiating with the Electric Power
Research Institute for partial funding to install two 750
kilowatt state-of-the-art wind turbines.
“This project will help participants learn the
most cost-effective ways to use wind turbines as part
of their electric generating mix. It is a significant
step in learning how well renewable wind energy will
complete in Nebraska,” said John McClure of
Nebraska Public Power District.
According to sources working on the project,
the turbines will likely be located near Springview
in north central Nebraska. The Springview site
had one of the top profiles for wind generation
of the nine sites currently being studied.
One of the purposes of the project is to evaluate
the performance, reliability and cost of the latest
design of wind turbines. If the new turbines operate
as designed, the anticipated electrical output
would be equivalent to that used each year by 350
residential customers, slightly more than the population
If the project proceeds, the wind turbines are expected
to be operational in late 1998.
The Sun Shines On
The best hope for gains in solar power remains in
remote sections of the state where installation of
photovoltaic panels make more economic sense than
building power lines.
For more than five years, several rural electric
systems such as McCook Public Power District and
Northwest Rural Public Power District, based in Hay
Springs, have pioneered in placing photovoltaic systems
used to power fencing systems in remote ranching
locations. Small solar cells charge batteries when
the sun is shining.
Now, larger and more expensive applications are being tested that do
not rely on battery storage.
Near Ainsworth, on the 4,200 acre Pinney Ranch photovoltaic panels
that power water pumps began operating in April. This renewable
energy test is part of a much larger project that is one of five in
the nation undertaken by farming, utility and conservation groups to
test more efficient and environmentally-sound ways of cattle
The Pinney Ranch test involves both stationary and mobile solar
panel arrays. "This project allows the farmers to make the best
use of their resources, and also brings together a unique group of
organizations to help Nebraska's rural economy," said Larry
Liss from Nebraska Public Power District, one of the cooperating
Others involved in the Pinney Ranch project
include the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Upper Loup Natural Resource District, Nebraska
Game and Parks Commission, Farm Service Agency, The Sandhill Task
Force, KBR Rural Public Power District, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants
Forever and Nebraska Electric Generation and Transmission.
This is not the first time solar power units have been tested for use
in livestock watering. In 1995, Wheat Belt Public Power District in
Sidney was testing photovoltaic units on the ranch of one of the
In the late 1980s, a ranch near Thedford
tested photovoltaic water
pumping systems that utilized alternating current pumps. The water
pumping test failed when equipment problems with the inverters proved
Current state-of-the-art solar technology being used on ranching
rangelands in Nebraska is very reliable compared to the technology that
was tested in the late 1980s.
Chester Smith, President of the National
Association of State Energy Officials (above at right),
presents the group's 1996 Energy Efficiency Advocate
Award to Governor Nelson during a news conference
“It is always
gratifying to be recognized for doing what
needs to be done,” Nelson said. “Energy
efficiency is one of the easiest ways this nation
can reduce its reliance on oil imports.”
The national energy group has members from 54 states
and territories and presents the award annually to the
person who has demonstrated a commitment to sound energy
According to the Association, Nelson was selected as
co-recipient because of his commitment to the Nebraska
Energy Office, a balanced national energy policy and
for his work in domestic oil, natural gas and
alternate fuel organizations.
Rebuild Nebraska Offers Incentives
To Make Businesses More Profitable
Since November, businesses and owners of
multi-family housing have been finding ways to
make their operations more profitable with the
assistance from the state's Energy Office
because of a federal/state effort called Rebuild
Rebuild partners voluntarily agree to improve
energy efficiency and reduce
waste. In exchange for that agreement, Rebuild
Nebraska partners gain access to services
and low-cost financing that are not available
to others in the state.
Ahead of the Pack
To date, 32 local, state, public, private and
nonprofit organizations have become
partners. The Energy Office attributed its success
to its unique approach and combination
of services. “Not all states are able to
offer audits and other types of evaluations
as well as locally available financing, if
needed,” said Lynn Chamberlin, the state's
“We see each of
Nebraska’s Rebuild partners
as unique,” said Chamberlin.
“We combine the Energy Office's technical
expertise with the partner's needs and
provide the services that are most valuable.”
Chamberlin estimated the cost of an
evaluation of a typical commercial business ranges from
$1,000 to $1,500. “The Energy
Office provides the evaluation for free,”
Cheap Cold Cash
Other Rebuild partner services include access to
inexpensive local financing.
Nebraska's Rebuild commercial business partners can
borrow up to $100,000 at 6 percent if
financing is needed to make cost-saving improvements.
Multi-family housing owners can
borrow up to $60,000 at the same low interest rate.
“These loans are just like the agency's very
popular 6 percent Dollar and Energy Saving
Loans,” said Chamberlin. “If a Rebuild
partner needs to
finance an improvement, in most cases they can go the
financial institution that already handles their
business.” Chamberlin said about 70 percent of
the banks, savings and loans and credit unions in
Nebraska at more than 600 locations offer the 6 percent
“Since 1990, the Energy Office and its
participating local lenders have financed nearly $9
million in improvements
in small businesses across the state,” Chamberlin
said. “We helped more than 500 businesses in the
past seven years get financing.” According to the
Energy Office the average loan is less than $16,000.
Some of the state's Rebuild partners see the effort
differently. “Rebuild Nebraska helps us serve our
customers better,” said Bob Rye, Northwestern
Public Services Nebraska manager, “and it allows
them to improve the efficiency of their operations
using low interest loans.” Northwestern provides
natural gas service in Grand Island, Kearney, and North
Platte and also became a Rebuild partner.
One of the newest Rebuild partners is another state
agency, the Department of Economic Development.
Director Maxine Moul sees energy efficiency as a way
to make communities stronger by stimulating economic
growth, creating jobs, saving money and improving the
Nursing Home in Stromsburg Finds $7,000
in Yearly Savings
Stromsburg, nestled on the banks of
the Big Blue River in the east central part of the
state, made a commitment to its elderly residents
In 1963, Midwest Covenant Home opened its doors and
offered a place for aging local residents to live when
staying in their own home became impractical. Nearly
every decade since, additions to the original building
have been added.
Today, more than 90 residents call Midwest Covenant
home. The nursing facility was also one of the state's
first Rebuild Nebraska partners.
In November, 1997, Pat McElhose, the administrator of
Midwest Covenant, received a letter from the Nebraska
Energy Office offering a number of services free of
charge including finding ways to reduce operating
“The adage ‘I'm from the government and
I'm here to help you’ didn't deter me from
contacting the Energy Office,” said McElhose.
“When a building is more than 30 years old, it's
time to examine the facility. What the Energy Office
was offering could easily cost $1,500 that we didn't
When the agency's Rebuild team evaluated Midwest
Covenant in February, they first asked the staff about
any problems with the building or the energy-using
systems in it. Complaints about drafty rooms were
common and some faucets had to run for 15 minutes
before getting any hot water.
An evaluation of the facility indicated that if only
cost-effective improvements were made, Midwest Covenant
could expect to save about $7,000 yearly from reduced
energy bills. Additional savings would come from
reduced water use.
When the evaluation was completed, the results were
shared with McElhose. One of the recommendations
suggested operating only one of the facility's boilers
at a time, not both. That simple action could save more
than $1,000 a year.
The solution to getting hot water faster could cost
about $2,000 and could be recovered in ten years or
less if the savings in water are considered.
Another area of possible savings was the lighting
system. While the yearly savings were smaller --
ranging from $55 to $1,300 per project -- they added up
to $3,500, nearly half of the improvements recommended.
“Some of the lighting projects paid for
themselves in a year,” McElhose said.
“What I really liked
about the analysis,”
McElhose said, “was that the Energy Office
examined several options for the problems. Now I know
that replacing the windows is the most expensive, and
uneconomical, solution to the problem with drafty
rooms. It would take 45 years to recover the cost of
At a recent national gathering of
energy professionals, the state's Energy Office was
one of three to receive special recognition by the
U.S. Department of Energy.
According to Jean Van Vlandren, director of the
Office of State and Community Programs, the agency
was recognized for its leadership and contribution
to federal and state energy programs. Van Vlandren
singled out the agency's early success in recruiting
Rebuild Nebraska partners.
In March, Nebraska Public Power District
became one of the state's Rebuild Nebraska partners.
The utility will be assisting in promoting and
marketing the effort throughout Nebraska.
“NPPD has a rich tradition of working with its
customers to constantly help them find ways to use
energy more efficiently. We focus on providing our
customers with recommendations that are in their best,
long term, economic well being,” said the utility
President Bill Mayben. “Our goal is always
to do that in a cost effective and environmentally
friendly manner so that we preserve our quality of life
and maintain the lowest possible energy costs here in
According to the utility, a number of trained energy
analysts will work with the Energy Office and the
utility's customers to build awareness of the Rebuild
“The program is important, not only for energy
efficiency and economic development, but also to help
revitalize communities throughout the state and
contribute to improved environmental quality,”
said Dennis Grennan, Senior Vice President of the
“We will also
provide our customers with
information on technology, how to apply it to
reduce energy usage and make their facilities
more energy efficient, and methods of financing
new energy efficient technologies.” Grennan
Grennan continued, “We view this
program as another tool in our diversified services
for customers. Improved information on energy
efficiency makes good economic sense for all
In May, officials in Beatrice and York agreed to
become the initial focus of the joint utility/state
effort. By working with local entities such as the
Greater York Area Chamber of Commerce already a
Rebuild partner and Beatrice's Public Works Board
the two hope to find 30 additional partners in
the two towns.
The Birth of Oil Production in Nebraska
The Rise and Fall of Crude Oil Production in
Richardson County, 1939-1996
On November 2, 1939, the
Falls City Journal ’s
banner headline trumpeted “State's First
Commercial Oil Well Believed Struck Near
City” High hopes rested on Boice
One, an oil well being developed on the nearby Boice
farm. The well was being drilled by the Pawnee Royalty
Company of Odessa, Texas, which was owned by brothers
Bill and Burl Guinn.
Boice One appeared capable of producing 130-150
barrels of oil daily. That amount would easily qualify
for the bonus created by the Legislature in 1903 for
the first oil well in the state that could produce
fifty barrels of oil a day for sixty consecutive
The Guinns were confident that Boice One would capture
the $15,000 bonus offered by the state that had
remained unclaimed for more than 35 years. "It
took some of us Texas rookies to show you there was oil
in Nebraska,” Bill Guinn said. Local newspaper
accounts record crowds mobbing the Boice farm to see
the well and fill a pop bottle with oil from the well
as a souvenir.
Alf Comes to Town
Richardson County boomed with excitement as news of
the oil strike brought royalty and lease buyers as well
as other oil industry players to the area. Even Alf M.
Landon, the successful Kansas oil man, but unsuccessful
1936 presidential candidate, stopped in Falls City.
Landon was enthusiastic about the oil field and the
possibility of establishing a refinery in the city.
After nearly two weeks of pumping, two truckloads of
oil totaling 6,972 gallons were hauled to the Searle
refinery in Omaha. A welcoming convoy accompanied the
oil truck as it paraded through Omaha on its way to the
The landowners on which Boice One was located made
only $19.50 on the first truckloads delivered to Omaha.
Under the lease, the landowners received an eighth of
the oil without paying any of the expenses. The
refinery paid 94 cents per barrel, about $10.56 in
Pumping to qualify for the $15,000 bonus offered by
the Legislature began on November 20, 1939. As
production began to fall at Boice One, efforts to boost
production only resulted in an increase in water with
the oil. The Journal's December 9 headline
told Falls Citians the news: Boice One Fails. Pumping
at the well came to a halt because of paraffin clogging
(Paraffin is a hydrocarbon-based component of oil that
is separated from oil during the refining process.
Excessive amounts of paraffin in the oil often led to
abandonment of wells).
Undaunted, the Guinn brothers persevered in their
attempts to bring in a commercial well in Nebraska.
But, the second well on Mabel Meyer's farm also
encountered excessive water problems, yielding several
barrels of water for each barrel of oil.
Third Time A Charm
The brothers' third attempt was at the Bucholz farm. On
May 29, 1940, official testing of Bucholz One began, and
on July 27, 1940, the Pawnee Royalty Company's Bucholz
One was declared the winner of the $15,000 bonus, about
$170,000 in today's dollars. Bucholz One had produced
an average of 169 barrels of oil a day.
As a commercial well, Boice One was a failure. Its
success was that it created interest in oil well
prospects around Falls City and verified that
commercial production in the state was possible.
Production in Richardson County peaked in 1941 with
1.88 million barrels just two years after Boice One
and quickly subsided to 1.3 million barrels in 1942.
In spite of the oil production decline, Falls City
was still calling itself "Oil Capitol of
Nebraska” in 1951.
While oil wells are still pumping in Richardson County
more than 55 years after Boice One, the region long ago
relinquished the state's oil crown to Red Willow and
The Nebraska Energy Quarterly features questions
asked about 6% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans.
Loan forms may be obtained from
participating lenders or the Energy Office.
Questions and Answers...
6% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans
Have there been changes in who can borrow
money and the amount that can be borrowed?
Yes, several changes were made beginning in
Dollar and Energy Saving Loans to public school
districts are no longer available.
Firms that become Climate Wise partners are
limited to loan maximums of $150,000. Climate Wise
is a voluntary federal and state effort to increase
energy efficiency and reduce waste by manufacturers.
Climate Wise action plans must be filed with the Energy
Office prior to loan approval.
A business with more than 25 employees and more than
$2.5 million in annual sales could borrow up to $100,000
if the firm becomes a Rebuild Nebraska partner. Rebuild
Nebraska is a voluntary effort to increase the use of
energy efficient technologies in commercial buildings.
The firm's Rebuild action plans must be filed with the
Energy Office prior to loan approval.
Owners of apartment buildings or multiple family housing
units with 25 or more employees or annual revenues of more
than $2.5 million can now borrow up to $60,000 for making
energy efficient improvements in each building. By becoming
a Rebuild Nebraska partner and filling an action plan with
the Energy Office before loan approval, these larger housing
operations can now access low-interest energy loans.
Light density railroad rehabilitation was eliminated
as a pre-qualified project that could be financed. These
projects must now be supported by a technical audit in
order to qualify for a loan.
What are waste reduction or waste minimization loans?
These loans are primarily for commercial businesses and
manufacturers that need low-cost, long-term financing to
make improvements in systems and processes to reduce the
volume or toxicity of wastes.
Examples of projects that could be financed include:
renewing or recovering solvents, chemicals or abrasives
for further on-site use;
modifying a process to require fewer or less
conversion to reusable or low volume packing or
controlling inventory to reduce waste;
producing new or additional products from the
current waste stream; and
reducing the volume of mixed waste by separating
To calculate the amount of financing available divide the
cost of the project by the total annual dollar savings in
energy bills, disposal costs, permit fees, replacement
materials purchased, and operations and maintenance costs.
The simple payback for the loan cannot exceed ten years or
the expected useful life of the equipment. Form 36 has
additional information on these projects and can be obtained
from the Energy Office.
Waste reduction loans are available to any person or entity
eligible for loans. However, the same borrower maximums for
other loans available from the Energy Office apply.
Relocating to reduce space and save
approximately $140,000 in rent over the next five
years, the Energy Office will be moving across the
street to Energy Square in downtown Lincoln by September.
“Since leaving the State Capitol building
in 1992, we have continued to streamline the agency's
operations,” said Bob Harris, Energy Office
Director. “Over the past five years, staffing
levels have been reduced by more than 20 percent to
just 23 people, so we need far less space than we
currently have. Doing more with less is the
goal of the Energy Office,” Harris said.
The new address for the Energy Office after September
1st is Energy Square (formerly known as Centrum
Plaza), 1111 "O" Street, Suite 223 in
The agency's post office box, zip code, phone and
facsimile numbers remain unchanged.
Ways to reduce energy use and maximize
water recovery in the food processing industry will
be held around
August 20 in Lincoln. Staff from the Electric Power
Research Institute will provide information on the
latest in energy management and membrane
The six hour conference is being organized by
Nebraska Public Power District, Omaha Public Power
District, the Energy Office and Food Strategy, an
entrepreneur assistance effort of the Food Processing
Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
For more information about the food processing
workshop, contact Loisjean Tush in the Energy
The Department of Energy’s
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
(EERE) provides fact sheets, brochures, videos
and publications on energy efficiency and renewable
Shop Smart To Save Dollars
Shop 'til your energy bill drops! The Department of
Energy's free publication, Making Energy Smart
Purchases(FS113), provides information
on buying efficient appliances, insulation materials and
caulking and weatherstripping.
The site continues to evolve and new features are
being added regularly. The web site now includes
Climate Wise A federal/state effort to assist
industry to make cost-effective improvements that save
energy and/or protect the environment
Dollar and Energy Saving Loans These
low-interest loans are available to homeowners,
businesses, government, farmers and ranchers to
make energy efficiency improvements
in buildings and systems
Energy Efficient Mortgages These mortgages
feature discounts of up to 1 percent on mortgages
for newly constructed homes and 1/4 percent on
mortgages for existing homes
Rebuild Nebraska This federal/state effort
assists business and apartment owners improve the
energy efficiency of their buildings
Low Income Weatherization Assistance
Program This federal/state effort provides free
home improvements for those with limited incomes
Low Income Weatherization Mortgages For
Nebraskans with limited incomes, these mortgages
make it possible to finance needed energy
improvements in homes in the process of being
purchased without having an increase in the monthly
The Energy Office has a limited supply of
several publications that can be handy resources:
Consumer Guide to Home Energy
Savings (1995 edition) by Wilson and
Morrill and published by the American Council
for an Energy Efficient Economy.
From light bulbs to furnaces, air conditioners to
washing machines, the Consumer Guide
will help you find energy saving products.
The 1997 Nebraska Energy Office Annual
Report provides a fiscal year snapshot
of your state energy office's activities and
spending as well as detailing developments during
the period in the energy area across the state,
nation and world.
To get a free copy of any of these resources,
contact the Energy
In accordance with the American Disabilities
Act, the state will provide reasonable
accommodation to persons with disabilities. If
you need reasonable accommodation to participate
in any program or activity listed in this
publication, please contact the Energy Office
at 402-471-2186 to coordinate arrangements.
Upon request, this publication may be available
in alternative formats.
This material was prepared with the support of
the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Grant No.
DE-FG47-92CE60410. However, any opinions, findings,
conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein
are those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the views of DOE.