State government to use electricity From wind and biodiesel
In April, Governor Ben Nelson signed a contract to buy
electricity from wind for use in the Governor's Residence
and announced expanded use of a diesel/soybean fuel mixture
in all trucks operated by the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Closer to Reality
Nelson joined about 700 other large and small Lincoln Electric
System users in agreeing to purchase power produced from the
utility's wind turbine. The utility will be contacting other
state agencies to encourage their participation as well. Lincoln's
customers may subscribe for units of renewable energy, priced
not to exceed $6 per unit a month. The utility estimates the
unit cost will equal production expenses of 100 kilowatt-hours
from the turbine. Larger customers, such as the state, can
purchase up to five units which adds about $30 a month to
their bills. When enough customers agree to buy 1,000 units
of wind-generated electricity from Lincoln Electric System,
the utility will begin construction of a wind turbine northeast
of the city.
Biodiesel Use To Soar
The Department of Roads project brings together the Nebraska
Soybean Board, AGP, Inc., Farmland Industries and the Western
Regional Biomass Energy Program (see page 2 for more information
on other Western-funded Nebraska projects) to add one percent
soy-based additive to regular diesel fuel. The fuel additive
is called SoyGoldTM. The five organizations are
underwriting the difference in the cost of the fuel, $36,700.
According to the Roads Department, 1.6 million gallons of
diesel were used last year by the agency's nearly 1,600
pieces of equipment, including front- and end-loaders,
trucks, tractors and motorgraders. Other state vehicles
using Department of Roads' fuel pumps will also fill-up
with the soy/diesel mixture during a nine month test of
"The actions being taken are reasonable and affordable
examples of what we can all do to use less polluting energy
resources.The Executive Order I signed in January committed
the state to utilize more renewable resources," Nelson
said at a statehouse news conference, "and I am extremely
pleased with the progress we've made in just a few months. I
hope others in government and business will join us in making
renewable energy commonplace in the next few years."
Beginning in November 1996, the state's Roads Department
of Roads tested a 90 percent diesel/10 percent soybean oil
blend in six of its facilities in eastern Nebraska.
More than 100 vehicles of all types are operated in six
of the agency's maintenance facilities in eastern Nebraska.
During the period of the test from November 1996 to July
1997, these vehicles traveled more than half a million miles
and more than 126,000 gallons of the blended fuel.
Near the end of the test, the Roads Department assessed the
blended fuel's performance. "Biodiesel works. It is safe
and it is a renewable energy that supports our local economy.
It does not harm the engine or affect performance or mileage
to a noticeable degree," according to the Biodiesel
Pilot Project Report issued in August 1997.
The primary deterrent to using the blended fuel is cost. During
the study period, the state purchased diesel for 99 cents a
gallon. Blending the fuel with only 10 percent soybean oil
added 22 cents a gallon to the cost. For the duration of the
test, Roads shared the added cost of the fuel equally with
the Nebraska Soybean Association and the Energy Office.
Two wind turbines are expected to start
operating in September about 1.5 miles west of Springview
in north central Nebraska.
According to project sources, the two 750 kilowatt units
will be among the largest wind turbines in North America.
The wind turbines will be mounted on 210 foot tall lattice
towers. The three-bladed rotor diameter will be 165 feet.
The electricity expected to be generated by the turbines
would meet the needs of 350 residential customers slightly
more than the population of Springview itself.
The $2.1 million project is a joint undertaking involving
Nebraska Public Power District, Lincoln Electric System,
KBR Rural Public Power District, the Municipal Energy Agency
of Nebraska and locally-owned utilities in Grand Island and
Springview was selected based on wind speeds gathered at
eight locations across the state for the past several years.
Utility officials have called this part of the state one of
the most promising areas for wind generated electricity.
For more information about this project, contact Mike
Hasenkamp at Nebraska Public Power District
4 Biomass Energy Projects in Nebraska to Split $162,540
The 13-state Western Regional Biomass Energy Program picked
19 projects in 10 states totaling nearly $1 million for possible
funding. Four projects selected are in Nebraska.
Western is one of five regional biomass energy programs funded
by the U.S. Department of Energy designed to further the goal
of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy resources
to generate electricity and power vehicles.
Negotiations Begin Soon
"Projects were selected on technical merit," Jeff
Graef, Western administrator said. "Over the next few
months, Western staff will contact grant winners to finalize
project details such as cost and completion dates."
The 19 projects selected by Western's advisory panel allocated
$947,530 for the projects. Those projects anticipate adding
at least $2.138 million in funds from other sources. Western
requires the winners to at least match the grants
dollar-for-dollar. The particulars on each of the Nebraska
Lincoln — Nebraska Soybean Board
Grant of $8,806; Matching funds of $15,619
This one-year project would expand the use of soybean and
diesel fuel blend in all the medium and heavy-duty trucks
operated by the Nebraska Department of Roads. An earlier use
of soybean-enhanced fuels was limited to several sites
in eastern Nebraska. Under this effort, one-quarter of
one-percent of each gallon of diesel used by the state agency
will contain soybean oil.
University of Nebraska — Lincoln
Grant of $20,000; Matching funds of $90,440
This grant will provide a portion of the financing for
the University's 85 percent ethanol entry in the 1998
Ethanol Vehicle Challenge. This college-level competition
pits mechanical engineering students from 14 schools in a
test to improve the operation and fuel efficiency of a
vehicle that runs on a higher percentage blend of ethanol
Nebraska City — National Arbor Day
Grant of $58,734; Matching funds of $71,368
The existing fuelwood energy plant visitors' center
will be modified to allow viewing of the inner
workings of the Lied Center's heating/cooling operations
that are fueled by wood. An interpretive exhibit and other
exhibit materials will also be developed for use in the
York — High Plains Corp
Grant of $75,000; Matching funds of $221,500
This project will examine the feasibility of using
methane gas produced from ethanol waste water to power
a fuel cell that generates electricity and heat that
could be used by the ethanol plant. If successful,
this would be the first use of a fuel cell utilizing
biological waste from an ethanol plant, rather than
processing the waste through sewage systems.
$4.8 Million Requested
According to sources at Western, 82 project applications
for a record-shattering $4.8 million were submitted in January
for funding. "Even if the entire regional biomass budget
was available for these 82 projects, we would still be $1.8
million short," Graef said. Only $3 million is being
shared this year among all five regional biomass programs
across the nation.
Making the Hard Decisions
Each of the 82 proposals was reviewed four times. The proposals
were checked for completeness, evaluated by experts in the project
area, ranked by the representatives from the 13-member states and
checked by the U.S. Department of Energy for diversity and geographic
The Nebraska Energy Office in Lincoln provides day-to-day operations
for Western. The U.S. Department of Energy's Denver Regional Support
Office provides management oversight.
National surveys have shown a renewed interest in gardening.
Business at nurseries and gardening centers is booming.
As more people discover the joys of planting seeds,
plants, shrubs and trees, concerns have been raised
about matching gardeners' desires with the vagaries of
Few novice or experienced gardeners want to become daily
water-bearers for thirsty plants. Before you plant, you might
want to explore the vast range of water-wise plants native to
Nebraska or suitable in this climate.
By incorporating Xeriscaping concepts into your planting and
landscaping, you can reduce water consumption by 40-80 percent
and enjoy greater rates of plant, shrub and tree survival.
The Seven Steps
The following seven basic principles of landscaping have been
adapted for reducing water use in gardens and lawns:
Planning and Design. Consider soil and light conditions,
drainage, existing plants to be kept, level of maintenance desired,
plant and color preferences and cost
Soil Improvements. Mix compost or peat moss into the soil
before planting to help the soil retain water. If your yard is
sloped, reduce water run-off with terraces and retaining walls.
Practical Lawns. Limit the amount of area devoted to grass.
Plant groundcovers or add hard surface areas like patios, decks or
walkways. When replanting lawn areas, use drought-tolerant grass
Plant Selection. Choose from among the many types of
low-water-using trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers. Many
need watering only in the first year or two after planting.
Efficient Irrigation. Install drip or trickle irrigations
systems for those areas that need watering. These systems use water
efficiently and are available from commercial garden centers.
Effective Use of Mulches. Use mulches like pine needles or
shredded bark or leaves in a layer three inches deep. This keeps
soil moist, smothers weeds and prevents erosion.
Regular maintenance. Properly timed pruning, fertilizing,
pest control and weeding will preserve your landscape's beauty and
'zer–i–skap–ing : (from the Greek
xeros for dry and from the Dutch landscap
for region, or tract of land).
Replacing traditional landscaping with drought-tolerant
plants, shrubs and trees
Using a variety of techniques
to reduce water consumption by plants
Get to Know the Natives
The following identifies water-wise perennials
suitable for growing in Nebraska.
Asters Golden and Fendler's
Cone flowers Purple and Grayhead Prairie
Range of colors and bloom time
Good for drying
Gayfeathers Rough and Kansas
New Jersey Tea
Rose Prairie Wild
The material in this article is based on information
provided by the New York City Department of Environmental
Protection, Prairiescape and the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln, Institute of Agriculture and Natural
Resources, Cooperative Extension.
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
If a cooling system breaks down during warm weather,
can emergency approval be obtained to install a new
system before the loan process has been completed?
If your cooling system breaks down any time during April
through October, you can request emergency approval from
the Energy Office through your lender to install qualifying
equipment prior to the loan process being completed and the
Energy Office committing funds to the project. However, your
lender must provide the Energy Office with a written statement
from your doctor verifying there is a medical reason the
cooling system must be installed immediately and information
on the system being installed.
In these situations, the
Energy Office will review the request and notify the lender
whether or not emergency approval has been granted, usually
the same day. After Energy Office approval, the project may
be undertaken and the loan paperwork submitted as soon as the
system is installed.
Is there any available financing to improve the energy
efficiency of an existing home a family with limited means
may be purchasing?
The Energy Office offers a weatherization mortgage loan
supplement. The supplement will help income-limited
households families with earnings ranging from $11,800 to
$40,000 to install
energy efficiency improvements without increasing their monthly
mortgage payment, thereby reducing monthly utility bills.
The family purchasing the home may add the cost of the
improvements to the mortgage loan. The Energy Office will
purchase a portion of the mortgage from a participating
lender at zero interest which allows the lender to reduce
the mortgage rate to the borrower. With the supplement,
monthly payments remain at the same level as before the
cost of the improvements were added to the mortgage. For
more information on these supplements, contact Pete
Davis in the Energy Office.
If emergency approval to replace my cooling system has been
received, may heating and water heating systems be replaced
at the same time?
The Energy Office allows this, if all units meet the minimum
standards and have been approved at the same time as the cooling
system. It is usually easier and less expensive to install all
of the systems at the same time, which saves borrowers' added
What assistance does the Energy Office offer to help build
homes and apartments as energy efficient as possible?
The Energy Office offers free software, code manuals and code
compliance options to help anyone interested in building energy
Upon request, the Energy Office can provide free copies of:
The 1995 Model Energy Code;
MECheck Computer Software for the 1995 Model Energy Code.
MECheck is a simple one-page program that determines whether
a house complies with the model energy code based on the
square footage, R-values of walls, windows and ceilings
and the performance of heating and cooling systems. The
software works with either DOS or Windows and comes with
a manual; and
Code compliance option sheets for single and multi-family dwellings.
To obtain HUD/FHA, VA, or USDA-RD financing, a home must meet
1995 Model Energy Code requirements. Can the Energy Office certify
plans for code compliance?
The Energy Office does offer this plan certification
To have plans certified:
submit the plans, and
the building specifications
along with a $50.00 cashier's check to the agency
The more detailed the building information, the easier
and quicker the Energy Office can complete the review.
Have there been any changes to loan forms for window and
The Energy Office modified performance factors for
replacement windows and doors last year. Since then, there
has been some confusion about what needs to be provided to
document performance factors for proposed window or door
projects. To simplify the process, the Energy Office created
Form 2 Window/Door. This new form supplements Form 2 and
clearly specifies the efficiency level for windows and doors
and offers two compliance methods: measured performance or
construction features. Form 2 Window/Door is available from
the Energy Office.
This is the sixth in a periodic series on energy events in Nebraska.
The Plains' Fuels of Yesteryear...
Local Resources Plus Ingenuity
Equal a Hot Meal and a Warm Bed
For Nebraska's early pioneers, sources of fuel and water
were essential for survival. Coming from the eastern U.S.,
settlers were used to relying on wood for fuel and construction
materials for building homes. Pioneers settling the vast and
mostly treeless prairie had to devise alternatives to compensate
for the lack of this resource.
First, pioneers settled along rivers and streams where water
and trees were plentiful. In most areas, the good timber was
A Rare and Disappearing Resource
It was common for settlers in Nebraska to travel ten
to forty miles sometimes journeying for several days in
search of trees. Even stumps were uprooted for fuel.
Only in northwestern Nebraska, where forests of ponderosa
pine and cedars could be found, were settlers able to rely
on wood as a fuel source.
Even sod became a primary building material, substituting
for wood in building the prairie equivalent of the log cabin
— a soddy.
Solutions to the fuel problem varied with the availability
of local resources. But all the resources shared one
common element labor intensity.
Making Hay While the Sun Shines
Hay was the fuel of choice in central and northern
Nebraska until the corn culture supplanted it. However,
feeding loose hay into a stove produced excessive smoke
and required constant monitoring. To make the hay more
compact, it was twisted into twig-like bundles called
"cats." After the chores were done, many
evenings were spent twisting hay into "cats"
which were then stored in the stove's fuel box for later
Hay-burning devices came in four basic types: stove
attachments, piston-driven stoves, drum stoves and
A common hay burning stove attachment was shaped
like copper boilers used for washing, but twice as
deep, holding about twenty pounds of hay. Lids on
a cook stove were removed and the hay-filled attachment
was placed with the open end down on the cook stove.
A filled attachment could provide enough heat for
two to four hours. Local blacksmiths made most of
these stove attachments from sheet iron riveted
The piston-driven stove was designed specifically
to burn hay. It resembled an ordinary cook stove
with a firebox in the front and oven on the back
part of the stove. Under the oven were two cylinders
8 inches in diameter by 30 inches long that were filled
with hay. A spring driven piston fed the hay into the
The drum stove consisted of a large cylinder about
two feet in diameter which stood upright on a base
supported by four legs.The stove came with two drums
so that one could be filled while the other was in use.
The top of the stove lifted off to allow exchange
of the cylinders.
The concept of a Russian furnace was brought to the
Plains by Mennonite immigrants. Usually built of brick,
the huge stoves were six feet high, five feet long, and
two feet wide. The stove was only stoked with grass or
straw for twenty minutes two or three times in 24 hours.
The structures were very efficient, but never gained
wide popularity because of the high initial cost.
However, Russian furnaces did become popular after
the oil shocks of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Fuel supplies in this region burgeoned as corn replaced
prairie grasses. Both stalks and corn cobs were used as
fuel. Sometimes even corn on the cob was used when corn
prices fell below the cost of other fuels. But, the
oiliness of corn caused problems. While corn made a
hot fire and burned a lot like coal, the oil in corn
created excessive heat and burned holes in the stoves.
Various other devices were invented to make hay
and cornstalks easier to utilize for fuel. However,
most inventions failed because of faulty design or
the inability of settlers to afford them. Two such
devices were manufactured in Nebraska.
A hay baler made by the Luebben Baler Company in
Beatrice was cumbersome to use since it attached
to the back of a threshing machine. The baler shaped
straw into rounds for use in a drum stove.
The Farmer's Fuel Press manufactured by Davis Brothers
& Fisk in Omaha made "cats" from cornstalks
and sunflower stalks. Priced at $20, the press was well
beyond the means of most farmers who were accustomed to
bundling the stalks themselves.
Wood of the West
Settlers west of the 100th meridian, which is near Cozad,
turned to a unique Plains' fuel. French explorers called
the animal-made fuel bois de vache wood of the
buffalo. Pioneers simply called them buffalo chips.
After drying in the hot Plains sun for a few weeks,
bois de vache was practically odorless and
clean to handle. Burning with little flame, buffalo
chips were ideal for cooking and heating. Much like hay,
frequent stoking of the fire was necessary. However, the
fuel supply was soon exhausted because buffalo were nearly
driven to extinction. Buffalo chips did prove to be a
lifesaving fuel source for travelers on the Oregon and
With the demise of the buffalo, prairie coal
and Hereford lump cow chips became the
predominant fuel on the western Plains. Texas cattle
arriving for shipment as well as Nebraska ranches
became important sources of the chips. A common sight
outside the door of a soddy home would be huge stacks
of chips. A typical fall activity for settlers included
spending two or three weeks gathering chips before the
onset of winter.
Fossil Fuels to the Fore
By 1900, coal began arriving in Nebraska by rail and
was distributed to towns near railroads. Oil fields
appeared across the mid-continent region and oil became
popular for use in heating and cooking stoves. Regional
natural gas wells were opened, pipelines constructed
and gas lighting became a fixture in wealthier homes.
But in rural areas, corn cobs remained a staple for heating
and cooking before being displaced by fossil fuels. By 1960,
corn cob piles had largely disappeared with the advent of
the modern corn picker that left cobs in the fields.
Tomorrow's Fuel As Well?
On the surface, fuels used by pioneers and today's efforts
to produce fuels from biomass and animal wastes give the
impression we have come full circle in the fuel cycle.
However, there are some differences. Fuel was a matter
of survival for the pioneers. Environmental considerations
were not factors, except when smoke filled their sod houses.
Animals of yesteryear were usually free ranging, and the dried
chips were relatively clean.
Today, fuel is being produced from corn, soybeans and
other biomass resources as alternates to fossil fuels.
Protection of the environment and avoiding the effects
fossil fuels have on the climate are primary reasons for
using renewable energy sources.
Unlike free ranging animals, raising animals in large
production centers creates other environmental problems
such as odor and water pollution.
The use of biochemical converters, or anaerobic digesters,
to produce methane gas from the animal waste is one approach
to dealing with this expanding industry. More information on
converting animal waste to other uses can be found in the box
Further information on fuels used by Nebraska pioneers can be found in:
Dale, Edward Everett, "Wood and Water:
Twin Problems of the Prairie Plains,"
Nebraska History, 29:87-104, 1948.
Dick, Everett, Conquering the Great
American Desert: Nebraska, Lincoln:
Nebraska State Historical Society, 1975.
Dick, Everett, The Sod-House Frontier 1854-1890,
reprint of the edition published by Appleton-Century
Co., New York 1937, 1954, Bison Book printing 1979.
"The Story of Hay Burners and Balers,"
Nebraska History, 20:188-90, 1939.
Animal wastes from existing or planned hog raising operations
in Nebraska generated considerable Legislative discussion this
year. These four free publications offer ways of coping with the
resulting wastes and even converting them to productive uses.
Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Recovery and Utilization:
This summary of a 1993 workshop chronicles the opportunities and
barriers regarding the primary method of utilizing animal and
municipal wastes. Anaerobic digestion, or biochemically altering
the wastes to a usable gas for energy production, is thoroughly
explored by the workshop's attendees. October 1993. 43 pages
Bioconversion of Feedlot and Dairy Waste for Energy
This project in Utah explored ways mixed dairy wastes including
manure, cheese whey and assorted milk products could be utilized
for energy and fertilizer production. Equal consideration was
given to ways to minimize pollution and other environmental factors.
The project tested a conversion method called anaerobic digestion
which biochemically converts waste products into methane gas which
can be used to produce electricity with existing technology.
July 1995. 16 pages
Energy Conversion of Animal Manures — Resource Inventory
and Feasibility Analysis for 13 Western States
This compilation and assessment in 13 western states from Nebraska
to Texas to California and to Wyoming estimates animal wastes by
county throughout the region. Other analysis includes state
regulations, appropriate commercial energy technologies and
economic analyses of hypothetical rural situations. The authors
estimated the region's energy potential from animal manure as
22 million barrels of oil annually, about half of all the
petroleum products used by Nebraskans in 1995.
February 1994. 106 pages
Swine Waste Treatment: Odor, Energy and Economics: A Workshop
This summary of an Oklahoma workshop answered basic questions
for both large and small hog operations:
What is a treatment system and how does it operate?
What systems are best for small operations and what
systems are best for large operations?
What methods can be utilized to reduce odors?
Can hog wastes be utilized economically as energy sources?
This spring, the state's Health and Human Services Department
made $1.03 million from utility bill paying funds available
for weatherization of the homes of needy Nebraskans. About
507 homes will be less costly to heat next winter after
improvements are made in the houses.
Weatherization of homes in the state is provided by the
Energy Office in cooperation with regional community action
and other agencies. Weatherization crews typically install
caulking, insulation, weatherstripping and make other types
of energy saving home improvements.
The regional agencies receiving the funds and the estimated
number of homes that will be weatherized in each area include:
Estimated homes Improved
Blue Valley Community Action, Inc., based in Fairbury
Central Nebraska Community Services, based in Loup City
Goldenrod Hills Community Services, based in Wisner
Lincoln Action Program, based in Lincoln
Mid-Nebraska Community Services, based in Kearney
Northwest Community Action, based in Chadron
Panhandle Community Services, based in Gering
Southeast Nebraska Community Action Council, based in Humboldt
Weatherization Trust, Inc., based in Omaha
In 1997, funds from the state's Health and Human
Services Department weatherized nearly half the homes
that year. The balance of funds for these improvements
come from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Seven Years Big Gains
A recent evaluation of weatherization services in Nebraska
found the typical home saved an average of 18.7 percent
on energy used and reduced energy bills by $126 a year.
The survey, part of a national review, found significant
improvements had been made in the past several years. The
use of advanced diagnostic technologies such as computerized
audits better pinpoint the most cost-effective improvements
to make. These tools, in part, account for an 80 percent
rise in average energy savings per household between 1989
Lower income households spend about 15 percent of their
income for energy, more than four times that spent by
higher income households. About one-third of the homes
receiving the energy-saving improvements are occupied
by elderly Nebraskans.
For more information about the Weatherization Assistance
Program and the services provided, contact Pete Davis
in the Energy Office.
In April, the state's Energy Office received $550,000
in competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Energy
for multi-year efforts to expand the agency's work with
commercial businesses, multi-family housing groups and
homebuilders to increase energy efficiency in homes and
Since the discretionary grants began in 1996, the Energy
Office has consistently ranked nationally in the top seven,
based on total funds received by each state. Nationally,
nearly $11.04 million for 98 projects was awarded by the
federal energy agency.
New Projects, Same Goals
The three Nebraska projects included continuing work
on previous projects as well as several new efforts:
Financing Incentives for Increased Energy Efficiency
This $400,000 project expands and continues the
work begun with a 1997 grant that encouraged Nebraskans
to construct more energy-efficient buildings. The new
grant will leverage $400,000 in private funds to finance
750 new homes constructed 30 percent higher than the 1995
Model Energy Code.
Once the loans are repaid, additional
new home loans will be made.
The agency will provide $5,000 in oil overcharge funds
to match the federal grant.
Rebuild Otoe County
This two-year $100,000 project is the third Rebuild
America grant the agency has received in as many years.
The grant will enable the River Country Economic Development
Corporation in Nebraska City, in cooperation with the
Nebraska Municipal Power Pool, the Nebraska State
Historical Society-Preservation Office, Joslyn Castle
Institute for Sustainable Development, and the Energy
Office to demonstrate that historically significant
buildings can be energy efficient.
The agency and its partners are providing $351,220 in
matching funds for this project.
Home Energy Rating System
This $50,000 project is being teamed with $25,000.
$15,000 in oil overcharge funds from the Energy Office
and $10,000 from federal mortgage lender Fannie Mae to
implement a home rating energy system.
A home energy rating system is a measurement of a house's
energy efficiency. Rating systems allow buyers to easily
compare energy costs for homes being considered. Also, a
homeowner can use the energy rating to pinpoint the most
cost-effective energy-saving improvements.
A second part of this two-year project involves working
with staff in Lincoln's Fannie Mae office to develop
reduced cost mortgage loans that utilize the home 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.