The State’s First Wind Turbine Twins Tower Above the Plains
In late 1998, several Nebraska utilities starting
how to harvest electricity from wind. Two wind turbines in
Springview in north central Nebraska and one turbine north
of Lincoln were added to the traditional mix — water, coal,
natural gas and nuclear — to generate electricity.
“These turbines are a major step in testing reliability of
wind generation of electricity in this region of the United
States,” Bill Mayben, head of Nebraska Public Power District,
said at the October dedication of the generators in Springview.
“We expect to learn a lot about this form of renewable
energy in the next few years and contemplate the possibility that
wind generation will be an important contribution to our renewable
energy portfolio in the long range future.”
Hard To Miss
The turbines dominate the landscape and are built to withstand
the prairie winds for which the region is famous. The support
towers are nearly 20 stories tall and weigh more than 123,000
pounds. The rotor blades that are attached at the top of the
tower add nearly another 100 feet to the height. A generator
that sits atop each tower weighs 50,000 pounds. Electricity is
generated when wind speeds are between 6.5 and 54 miles per hour.
“These turbines are truly a historic event for this part
of Nebraska,” Rich Walters, manager of KBR Public Power District,
said. “We've come full circle in the state, from windmills to
pump groundwater during the last century, to high technology wind
turbines which add electricity to the transmission system of
the 21st century.”
A glitch that caused the turbines to be shut down in early
November has been resolved. Shortly after the turbines became
operational on October 23, local residents noticed a humming
noise on telephone lines and data transmissions were being
According to staff at KBR, the local power company, changes
were made to the turbines after weeks of study by experts from
California, Maine and Washington. Filtering systems were added
to the both the turbine and utility lines, a ground wire was
added to eliminate circulating currents and the turbines’
output frequency was changed. One turbine was restarted in
December and the second one was turned on in January.
Two national sources, the Electric Power Research Institute and
the U.S. Department of Energy and six Nebraska utilities have provided
funding totaling more than $2 million for the turbines:
"...we wish Nebraska Public Power District and
other utilities involved in the wind generating project
much success. If wind energy proves out as a reliable
propulsion source for turbines, it could be a giant breakthrough
in developing an Earth-friendly renewable energy source."
A Hands-on Approach to Building
Affordable Homes in Nebraska
Last August, future homeowners broke ground
homes scattered throughout Nebraska City. What makes
these prospective homeowners different is that, for the
most part, they are building their own houses and the
houses of others as well.
The houses are part of a new effort in Nebraska, called
Mutual Self-Help, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Rural Development office. More than a dozen government
and non-profit organizations are also helping.
A number of sweat equity housing efforts have emerged
over the past several years, the best known is Habitat
for Humanity. These programs allow aspiring homeowners
to contribute labor instead of a cash down payment on
their house. The rest of the house's cost is paid through
a mortgage, which may be guaranteed or at a reduced
Mutual Self-Help has a number of differences
sweat equity efforts. Local groups and individuals spearhead
the housing effort. Future homeowners, not community
volunteers, provide most of the construction labor. The
homeowners/builders work on each others' houses, rather than
concentrating efforts on just their own home. The houses are
designed to incorporate sustainable and energy-efficient designs
to reduce the overall cost to the homeowners, the community and
The leader of the Nebraska City effort is Tim Rutledge
of Southeast Nebraska Community Action Agency in Humboldt.
"A year ago, I was at a state housing conference and
heard about Mutual Self-Help houses being built in other
states. When I returned to Nebraska City, I asked why can't
we do that here?" Rutledge said. Rutledge then asked
the same question of Nancy Hoch of the River Country Economic
Development Corporation and Cliff Kumm of USDA Rural Development.
Together, they felt Nebraska City was an ideal location for
the first Mutual Self-Help Homes in Nebraska because the town
already had a number of partners that worked well together.
Other members of the coordinating committee include Cecil
Steward, Dean of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College
of Architecture and founder of the Joslyn Castle Institute
for Sustainable Communities, Kirk Conger from the Nebraska
Energy Office and members of the Nebraska City Affordable
Before a Single Spade of Earth Was Turned
The local housing committee began work in February on
four fronts: recruiting future homeowners, firming up
finances, selecting house designs and purchasing land.
The future homeowners had to meet income limits (less
than $31,450 for a family of four), with sufficient income
to qualify for the mortgage. Each participating family
had to work about 30 hours per week until the end of
the project. Even parents, siblings and other family
members contributed to the effort. However, no one
could move in until all houses were complete. Prior
construction experience was not a factor in selection
of the future homeowners.
USDA Rural Development provided Southeast Nebraska
Community Action with an initial Self-Help grant to
manage the program. Additionally, USDA Rural Development
is providing the long-term reduced rate mortgages to each
individual homeowner for the purchase of a building site,
materials and all construction costs. Some additional
down payment assistance was provided to each homeowner
from the Nebraska City Affordable Housing Council with
Nebraska Department of Economic Development funds.
House plans were selected from several catalog sources.
Future owners selected their own home plans and even
customized the plans to fit their needs. Modifications
were also made to optimize energy efficiency and solar
opportunities and to utilize standard materials and
construction practices on all the houses.
Lots were selected throughout the community, individually
or in pairs, with a focus on developing remaining lots in
established residential areas of the city. Although
construction would have been simpler if the sites
had been grouped together, Nebraska City encouraged
scattered sites for the homes. This approach allowed
the future homeowners to determine where they would live.
Learning Homebuilding Skills
Jim Morgan, a retired building contractor and Nebraska City
resident, came out of retirement to supervise construction
of the houses. Most of the participants build in the evenings
and on weekends, but several work night shifts and come in the
On a typical day, Jim shows up with his construction
trailer at 8 or 9 in the morning, gets the workers started,
checks on progress and provides training on new techniques.
In between, Morgan handles paperwork,orders supplies and
prepares for another group of homeowner-builders in 1999.
Most evenings, he has a crew of ten starting at about 5:30
and working until after dark. Almost everyone works on
Morgan's job isn't to build the houses, but to teach the future
homeowners how to build them. He provides enough guidance that
the fledgling home builders not only understand what to do, but
why it is important.
Although the future homeowners provide most of the labor-except
electrical, plumbing and heating/cooling tasks-they have received
help along the way. On Saturdays, Jenifer Watson, University of
Nebraska architecture professor, leads a team of graduate students
who work and learn alongside the future homeowners. Watson said
the course was designed to help students do what they learned in
class. Staff members from the Energy Office have spent several days
at the sites, learning how the materials they selected perform in
the real world of home construction. Several community groups have
also helped with some aspects of construction.
A concern that too many volunteers would take away from the
"self-help" aspect has not proven to be a problem.
Although the chance to purchase their own house is certainly the
main reason why people participate in this program, Lisa Delong
said she was also grateful for the opportunity to learn construction
skills, and for her 6-year old son to learn a positive work ethic.
Delong told a group of housing conference attendees that
"working together with others to accomplish a project of
this magnitude is incredibly satisfying and builds a tremendous
sense of community."
Round One Nearing Completion
By winter, the basements were done and main floors were installed.
Morgan had hoped to have the main walls and roofs completed in
November, so that work could continue inside during the colder
months, but not all of the houses reached that point before winter.
The late start in August and other delays hampered early efforts.
The estimated construction cost for the houses range from
$50,000 to 60,000, but for loan purposes they have been appraised
at $90,000 to 100,000. "Sweat equity" has been translated
into dollars and cents about $30,000 to $50,000.
Now, Rutledge and others are looking for more Mutual Self-Help
homebuilders to start building homes this summer. And just down
the road, the Nemaha County Development Alliance and Southeast
Nebraska Community Action are looking for ten individuals or
families to start building Mutual Self-Help homes in the county.
According to Cliff Kumm of USDA Rural Development, the agency is
looking for other communities where the Mutual Self-Help program
could be considered.
Free copies of the U.S. Department of
Economy Guides for 1999 Model Year Vehicles are
The Guide can be used as an aid to consumers considering
the purchase of a new vehicle. The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency has provided the estimates of miles
per gallon listed for each new vehicle.
For the first time, vehicles that operate on ethanol,
natural gas and propane are listed. To secure a free copy,
contact Jerry Loos in the Energy Office.
An electronic version of the Guide is available on the
Internet at Fuel Economy Guide
This version can be searched by miles per gallon, vehicle
make and model and vehicle type. The electronic version
also includes a fuel cost calculator.
A home energy audit can identify many practical
improvements you can make to save significant amounts
of energy and dollars over time and make your home more
comfortable and environmentally friendly.
Now several auditing aids are as close as the nearest
computer. Some are interactive, while others allow
downloading of information. For those readers without
computers, contact your nearest library to find out if
Internet services are available.
The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse
offers a helpful guide to the specifics of a do-it-yourself
audit and audits performed by professionals. "Home
Energy Audits" is available at
EERE Consumer Information
A superb interactive home energy auditing tool that allows
customization based on such specifics as the year the home
was built, number of occupants and the price you pay for
electricity can be found at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
web site. Called the "Home Energy Saver," the
auditing tool also allows you to make changes so that you
can find out the effects of lowering thethermostat or
changing energy using appliances or systems. The "Home
Energy Saver" can be found at HERS
To find out the affect new windows can have on your energy
bills, check out the "Efficient Windows" web site
that is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. This
site allows viewers to select a town in their region Omaha
is the only Nebraska town available and discover the impact
of six different window types on heating and cooling bills.
The program utilizes actual fuel costs for each city. The
site also has downloadable fact sheets that summarize key
points for each major heating and cooling region in the U.S.
"Efficient Windows" is located at
Ann Selzer, Energy Projects Division Chief with the
Nebraska Energy Office, (center) was selected by the
U.S. Department of Energy to receive the 1998 National
Ann was honored for outstanding contributions by
"an individual at the state level who consistently
provides direction, inspiration and guidance to colleagues
and clients and promotes the goals of the energy
In presenting the award, Gail McKinley (left), Director of
the Office of State and Community Programs, cited Ann's work
on several initiatives undertaken by the Energy Office
during her 17 years of service to the agency.
Also pictured is Brian Costelli (right), Chief of
Staff in the office of the Assistant Secretary.
Fourteen university engineering student teams, including
a team of 30 students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
will convert a full-sized, gasoline-powered General Motors
pickup to run on a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent
The Nebraska team will compete for the second straight year.
The goals of the competition are to increase fuel efficiency and
reduce emissions without sacrificing performance and consumer appeal,
said Bill Wiens, sponsor of the University of Nebraska team.
The teams will spend six months adapting their trucks to run on
E85, as 85 percent ethanol is called. In May, the teams will meet
in Detroit for seven days of rigorous testing that will include
exhaust emissions, fuel economy, acceleration, driveability, handling,
range and cold and hot start performance. Winning teams will
receive cash awards.
Regionally, teams from schools in Kansas, Minnesota,
Illinois and Iowa are also competing. The national sponsors
of the 1999 Vehicle Challenge are the U.S. Department of
Energy, General Motors, the state of Nebraska and seven
others including the 22-member Governors' Ethanol Coalition.
For more information about the Vehicle Challenge, contact
at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at 402-472-3088.
American consumers and commercial users spent $45
billion in 1996 on natural gas to heat and cool homes
and offices, cook food, and provide power to other household
and business appliances. Under the Natural Gas Policy Act of
1978, homes and small businesses can choose their natural gas
supplier, much as they now choose their long-distance
Under a customer choice program, nonutility
gas suppliers, called gas marketers, buy gas and arrange for its
transportation to the local gas utility. Local gas utilities,
while no longer buying gas directly for their customers, continue
to deliver it to home and buisnesses.
Proponents of customer choice programs believe that allowing
choice will mean competition, thus leading to lower gas prices
and greater service options for consumers. Others are concerned
about the reliability of service and the possible market power
of gas suppliers if regulated gas utilities are no longer
responsible for buying gas on behalf of their customers.
This report discusses
initial participation in customer choice programs and
the effects of these recent customer choice initiatives
on residential and small commerical consumers.
A home energy rating is a standard
measurement of a home's energy efficiency.
An energy rating allows a
homebuyer to easily compare the energy costs for the
homes being considered. A homeowner who wants to
upgrade the home's energy efficiency can use the
energy rating to evaluate and pinpoint specific,
Home energy ratings involve an on-site inspection of a
home by a certified residential energy efficiency
One of the major differences between a home energy
rating and an energy audit is that the rating tool is
recognized by mortgage lenders.
To more fully understand both home energy ratings and
energy mortgages, the Energy Office recommends Home Energy
Ratings: A Primer. The Primer is an easy-to-understand
17-page compilation that explains why home energy ratings
were developed and how they can be used. Mortgages and
how the industry functions are also explored in the Primer.
To obtain a free copy of Home Energy Ratings: A Primer,
please contact Jack Osterman in
the Energy Office.
"...housing-related energy efficiency activities,
including new construction, remodeling and weatherization,
have over the past several years evolved into a significant
part of the Energy Office's work.
"In just the last year, the Energy Office was responsible
Almost $6.3 million invested in constructing new
energy efficient homes,
Another $8.6 million in low interest loans financed
the installation of new high efficiency furnaces, air
conditioners, windows, siding, roofs, insulation and
other energy improvements in existing homes, and
$2.7 million was invested in energy saving improvements
in the homes of lower income Nebraskans.
Taken together, nearly 2,800 homes in Nebraska have benefited
from almost $16.7 million in low-cost financing and other
services offered by the Energy Office in 1997-1998. The
state's banks, savings and loans, credit unions and
borrowers provided $7.3 million in financing for these
The state's Wind Energy Task Force is
making a number
of pieces of wind monitoring equipment available to
individuals and organizations that will use the equipment
to monitor wind resources in the state.
The wind monitoring equipment is being offered
free of charge if the equipment is removed by April
30. The equipment includes two 40-meter tall towers
at Wahoo and Winnebago and five data loggers at five
locations. Be prepared to replace monitoring sensors
on some of the equipment.
For more information about the equipment and its
availability, contact Wind Task Force chairman
In April, a four-year effort to record wind conditions
at eight In April, a four-year effort to record wind
conditions at eight sites in Nebraska will end. The Wind
Energy Task Force is comprised of representatives from the
Energy Office, Nebraska Power Association, electric utilities
and public interest organizations.
The Energy Office has received a $25,000
the U.S. Department of Energy to provide assistance to
state agencies that want to utilize renewable energy
resources in new purchases, construction and remodeling.
The federal grant was issued in response to a gubernatorial
executive order requiring state agencies to aggressively
incorporate energy conservation and renewable energy into
their future activities.
The Energy Office has enlisted the aid of the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Architecture to provide
professional, technical assistance on specific agency projects.
In October, the College brought agency architects and other
professionals together with staff from the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory in Colorado. According to Paul Torricelli
from the Lab, with proper planning, new buildings can be designed
to reduce energy use by 70 percent over comparable buildings.
For more information about state government's renewable and
energy efficiency work, contact
Nate Krug at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Architecture at
This spring, the Energy Office and Fannie
underwriting the cost of training for Nebraskans who
want to become certified in conducting home energy
rating system assessments.
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 for purchase. Also, a homeowner can use
the energy rating to pinpoint the most
cost-effective energy-saving improvements.
According to Jack Osterman in the Energy Office,
the value of the training is more than $1,000 for
each individual. The five-day training sessions will
be held in February and March at the Kansas Building
Science Institute in Manhattan. "We offered
people who attended the Affordable Housing and
Homelessness Conference a chance to register for
free training sessions," Osterman said.
"We received about twice as many applications
as there will be training slots available at this
Osterman said the applications will be reviewed
in January and the 10-15 winners will be notified.
Preference will be given to those individuals with a
technical background that work for housing organizations
and community action agencies. Others being considered
include employees of public utilities, state agencies,
housing inspectors and energy auditors from the private
sector. Workshop attendees are responsible
for the cost of travel, meals and lodging.
More to Come in '99
In early 1998, the Energy Office received a $50,000 U.S.
Department of Energy grant to establish a home energy
rating system in Nebraska. Funds from the grant, plus
$25,000 in matching funds from the Energy Office and
Fannie Mae, are underwriting the cost of the home energy
rater training. Other aspects of the project include
regional sessions for lenders, realtors, appraisers and
others to become more familiar with home energy ratings
as well as energy efficient mortgage and improvement
financing options available to homeowners and landlords.
Later in the year, the Energy Office hopes to make
additional free training sessions available. If you
are interested in becoming a home energy rater, contact
Jack Osterman in the Energy
Some have called the Great Plains states of
Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado, the Saudi Arabia of wind
since some of the nation's most promising wind resources
are located in the region.
The recent construction of three wind turbines in
Nebraska is dwarfed by recent developments in nearby
In Wyoming along Interstate 80 near the Foote Creek Rim,
69 turbines are generating 41.4 megawatts of electricity,
enough to serve 15,000 to 25,000 customers.
A wind farm in Colorado began generating power in December.
By the time the project is completed in the spring, the 21
turbines will generate 14.7 megawatts of power.
The largest wind farm project in the world, a 107 megawatt
wind farm, is nearing completion in Minnesota.
Next year, the Minnesota project will be eclipsed by a
188 megawatt wind farm in Iowa.
Even turbine manufacturers have taken a shine to
the region. By March, 23.5 and 29 meter turbine rotor
blades will be rolling off a brand-new assembly plant in
Grand Forks, North Dakota. LM Glasfiber of Denmark expects
the 150 employees to make the blades for the growing North
For more information about the Springview wind turbines,
contact Mike Hasenkamp at Nebraska Public Power District at
or Rich Walters at KBR Rural Public Power District at
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can
save as much as 10 percent a year on your heating bills
by simply turning the thermostat back 10-15 percent for
Programmable or setback thermostats can do
this for you automatically.
Temperature Settings Can Affect Heating Costs
Another way of looking at adjusting your thermostat
is that for every degree up or down the thermostat is
adjusted from 70 degrees, your heating bill will raise
or lower by 3.1 percent. Move the thermostat from 70 to
76 degrees and your heating bill will rise by 18.6 percent
(3.1 x 6 degrees).
The Nebraska Energy Quarterly
asked about 6% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans.
Loan forms may be obtained from
participating lenders or the Energy Office.
Loans Since 1990:
14,421 for $100.9 million
6% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans
120 Days to Complete a Project
What is the length of completion time allowed for
improvements financed with Dollar and Energy Saving
Under loan guidelines, projects must be completed within
120 days after the Energy Office has signed a loan commitment
agreement with the lender. The certifications on the application
also contain this provision.
What happens if a project is not completed within 120 days?
Borrowers should notify their lender if a project is not
completed by the deadline and the reason for the delay.
Borrowers should also inform the lender by what date the
project will be finished. In turn, the lender should supply
written notice to the Energy Office of the delay, why the
delay happened and when the project will be completed.
If the reason for the project's delay is beyond the control
of the borrower, an extension is typically issued.
A borrower insists that his or her project cannot be
completed within 120 days. How should this be handled?
With proper planning and scheduling, the overwhelming majority
of projects can be completed within four months. However, if a
borrower maintains the project will take longer, then the
improvement should be financed another way, not with a Dollar
and Energy Saving Loan.
In the past, some borrowers believed
loan funds might not be available when they wanted to begin
their project, so loans were processed many months before a
project was even scheduled to begin. “Temporary
unavailability” of loan funds has not occurred since
1997, so this rationale is no longer applicable.
Nearly 1 in 10 Projects Inspected
Should borrowers plan for their project to be inspected by
the lender or the Energy Office?
Yes. Lenders have two options for verification of the project:
an on-site physical inspection (for which a fee can
be charged), or
by obtaining proof of purchase documentation from
Borrowers are encouraged to read the loan application before signing
it. One of the certifications requiring a signature informs the
borrower the Energy Office and the lender may review at any time
the improvement to the property and any records associated with the
project. Typically, Energy Office staff inspects nearly one of every
A borrower has refused to allow the lender or Energy Office
staff access to the property for an inspection. What will be done
in this case?
The loan application signed by the borrower gives both the lender
and the Energy Office the power to perform an on-site inspection.
Refusal by a borrower to allow for an inspection will result in
a request to pay off the loan balance immediately. If a borrower
is unwilling to allow such an inspection of the property, he or
she should find other ways to finance their planned improvements.
Inspections are performed to verify to state and federal officials
that Dollar and Energy Saving Loans are being used only the purposes
for which these funds were intended.
Changing Minds and Projects
What if a project or equipment is changed after the Energy
Office approves financing the improvement?
The borrower should notify the lender of any changes
in a project before changes are made. The lender is then
responsible for immediately notifying the Energy Office.
Staff in the Energy Office must verify that any changes being
made are still eligible for financing. Failure to notify the
lender, or the lender to notify the Energy Office, prior
to the changes being made will result in the borrower
being asked to provide detailed documentation of the
changes and costs. If the Energy Office finds the changes
cannot be financed by the agency, the borrower will have
two choices: make further changes to the project so that
it can be financed or repay the cost of the ineligible
Buying a Home on a Limited Income
Can the Energy Office provide any financing to
limited income Nebraskans who may want to purchase
a home and make it more energy efficient?
The Energy Office does offer a Weatherization Assistance
Program Mortgage Loan Supplement which can provide some
inancing for those Nebraskans with incomes of $12,075 to
$41,475 for a household of one to eight, respectively.
Mortgage Loan Supplement Income Guidelines
Household Minimum Size
additional household member
Households containing a member who
Aid to Dependent Children
Supplemental Security Income
are automatically eligible to
With the supplement, the prospective new homeowner can
install energy efficiency improvements such as attic and
wall insulation, replacement furnaces, caulking and
weatherstripping identified in a home energy audit.
While the cost of the improvements are added to the
overall mortgage amount of the house, the Energy Office
purchases a sufficient amount of the mortgage from the
lender at zero interest to allow the borrower's monthly
payment to remain unchanged. For more information about
the mortgage supplement, contact
Pete Davis in the Energy Office.
The Energy Office's popular financing guide,
40 Ways to Finance Your Improvements, has been revised,
enlarged and updated for 1999.
The guide summarizes numerous financing opportunities available
from the state and federal governments as well as others.
Generally, the guide focuses on financing options for
making energy efficiency and pollution prevention
improvements. The guide examines four basic financing
methods: self-financing, direct borrowing, alternative-financing
techniques and community-based financing.
To aid users,
the guide is divided into sections that focus on building
or operation types:
commercial, manufacturing and industrial
all types of buildings
Each financing source is profiled in terms of eligibility,
amount limits and other features. Contactsfor additional
information about the financing option are also listed as
ell as web sites, if available. To obtain a free copy of
40 Ways to Finance Your Improvements, contact
in the Energy Office.
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.