Summer 1998

Nebraska Energy Quarterly logo Nebraska Energy Quarterly gasoline pump

Renewable Energy Advances...

State government to use electricity from wind and biodiesel in trucks...

Beginning in Novermber 1996, the state's Roads Department of Roads tested...

Two wind trubines are expected to start operating in September about 1.5 miles...

4 Biomass Energy Projects in Nebraska to Split $162,540...

Gardening for Today and Tomorrow...

Water Efficient Landscapes Don't Have to be Bland...

The state's seventh annual conference on affordable housing...

Questions and Answers...

6% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans...

The Plains’ Fuels of Yesteryear...

Local Resources Plus Ingenuity Equal a Hot Meal and a Warm Bed...

Animal wastes from existion or planned hog raising operations in Nebraska generated considerable Legislative discussion...

Cheap Oil Drilling May Keep Prices Down...

The reasons for the dramatic decline in exploration and production costs over the past 15 years are many...

From Chadron to Humboldt...

500+ Homes to be Cheaper to Heat Next Winter...

$550,000 for 3 Projects...

Energy Office Garners Grants for New Efforts...


State government to use electricity From wind and biodiesel in trucks

wind turbine

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 fuel.

"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."

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Roads Department's First Biodiesel Test A Success

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.

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Wind System Powers Up in September in Springview

Two wind turbines are expected to start operating in September about 1.5 miles west of Springview in north central Nebraska.

map of new wind turbine locations

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 Auburn.

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 at 402-563-5371.

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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 projects selected:

  • 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 and gasoline.
  • Nebraska City — National Arbor Day Foundation
    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 visitors' gallery.
  • 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 balance.

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.

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Water Efficient Landscapes Don't Have to be Bland

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 Nebraska's climate.

colorful flowers

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:

  1. Planning and Design. Consider soil and light conditions, drainage, existing plants to be kept, level of maintenance desired, plant and color preferences and cost
  2. 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.
  3. 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 seed mixes.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Regular maintenance. Properly timed pruning, fertilizing, pest control and weeding will preserve your landscape's beauty and water efficiency.

Xeriscaping

'zer–i–skap–ing : (from the Greek xeros for dry and from the Dutch landscap for region, or tract of land).

  1. Replacing traditional landscaping with drought-tolerant plants, shrubs and trees
  2. 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.

Common Name Bloom Time Notes
Asters Golden and Fendler's July-September Native plants
Beebalm June-August Attracts butterflies
Black-eyed Susan July-August Native plant
Blanket Flower June-August
Boltonia August-October
Butterfly Milkweed July Attracts butterflies
Cone flowers Purple and Grayhead Prairie June-August Native plants
Coreopsis June-August
Daylily Various Range of colors and bloom time
False Indigo May Good for drying
Gaura July-September Native plant
Gayfeathers Rough and Kansas August-September Native plants
Goldenrod August-September Native plant
Leadplant June-July Native plant
Missouri Primrose May-July Native plant
New Jersey Tea May-July Native shrub
Pasque Flower April-May
Penstemon Various Native plant
Pitcher Sage July-September Native plant
Prairie Baptista May Native plant
Prairie Gentian June-August Native plant
Prairie Phlox June
Prairie Smoke June-July Native plant
Purple Poppy-mallow June-August Native groundcover
Rattlesnake Master July-August
Rose Verbena June-August Native plant
Rose Prairie Wild May-June Native shrub
Sedum August-October
Sneezeweed August-September Native plant
Western Ironweed July-September Native plant
Wild Petunia June-September Native plant

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.

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Housing Our Community Conference

October 26 and 27

graphic depicting hammer and construction

The state's seventh annual conference on affordable housing will be held in Kearney at the Ramada Inn Hotel on October 26 and 27.

To pre-register or to find out more about the conference, contact Julie Hendricks at the Department of Economic Development, phone 402-471-3119, fax 402-471-3778, email Julie Hendricks

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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.

Loans to date: 13,529 for $85.8 million

Questions and Answers...
Ben Franklin on the $100 bill

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 expenses.

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 efficient housing.

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 for $50.00.

To have plans certified:

  1. submit the plans, and
  2. the building specifications
  3. 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 door replacements?

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.

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Editor's Note:

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 soon exhausted.

photos of old Nebraska barren plains
The contrasting landscape that greeted earlier Nebraska pioneers:
The Pine Ridge in the northwest (upper left photo) and
the barren plains of the east and central parts of the state (lower right photo)

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 use.

Hay-burning devices came in four basic types: stove attachments, piston-driven stoves, drum stoves and Russian furnaces.

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 together.

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 firebox.

piston driven hay burning stove
An example of a typical
piston-driven hay burning stove from the
Nebraska Historical Museum collection.

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 Mormon Trails.

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 at right.

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.

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cover of swine workshop notebook

Putting Waste to Good Use

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: A Workshop

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?
  • March 1996. 29 pages

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Cheap Oil Drilling May Keep Prices Down

chart of costs to find and produce onshore and offshore oil
Cost for Finding a Barrel of Offshore Oil in the U.S.
Total Cost of Producing a Barrel of Oil Both Offshore and Onshore in the U.S.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration

The reasons for the dramatic decline in exploration and production costs over the past 15 years are many:

  • Western oil producers have adopted innovative technologies such as horizontal drilling, floating production and electrical submersible pumps.
  • More oil can be extracted from fields even though fewer wells are drilled.
  • Geologic areas such as the Gulf of Mexico and offshore areas near Brazil and West Africa previously excluded for technological reasons are now among the fastest growing production regions.

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500+ Homes to be Cheaper to Heat Next Winter

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:

Regional Agency Grant Amount Estimated homes Improved
Blue Valley Community Action, Inc., based in Fairbury $68,929 34
Central Nebraska Community Services, based in Loup City $138,271 68
Goldenrod Hills Community Services, based in Wisner $142,502 70
Lincoln Action Program, based in Lincoln $123,722 61
Mid-Nebraska Community Services, based in Kearney $162,830 80
Northwest Community Action, based in Chadron $37,147 19
Panhandle Community Services, based in Gering $52,213 26
Southeast Nebraska Community Action Council, based in Humboldt $63,563 31
Weatherization Trust, Inc., based in Omaha $242,697 118

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 and 1996.

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.

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Energy Office Garners Grants for New Efforts

In April, the state's Energy Office received $550,000 in competitive grants.

These grants were 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 buildings.

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 rating system.

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Mission

“The mission of the Nebraska Energy Office is to promote the efficient, economic and environmentally responsible use of energy.”

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Americans with Disabilities Act

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.

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DOE Grant

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.

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