Winter 1998

Nebraska Energy Quarterly logo Nebraska Energy Quarterly gasoline pump

A Hands-on Approach to Building...

Last August, future homeowners broke ground...

"...housing-related energy efficiency activities...

A number of experts in the fields...

A home energy rating is a standard measure...

Nebraska Scores High...

A December report from Congress'...

14 Ethanol Vehicle Teams to Vie in '99 Event

Fourteen university engineering student teams...

Award-Winning

Ann Selzer, Energy Projects Division Chief...

Want to Become A Home Energy Rater?

This Spring, the Energy Office and Fannie Mae...

The Energy Efficiency and Renewable ...

Fact sheets, brochures, videos and publications...

A home energy audit can...

Free copies of the U.S. Department..

The State’s First Wind Turbine...

In late 1998, several Nebraska utilities...

"..we wish Nebraska Public Power District...

Some have called the Great Plains...

The state's Wind Energy Task Force...

6% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans

What is the length of completion time...

State Government Seeks...

The Energy Office has received...

40 Ways to Finance Your Improvements

The Energy Office's popular financing guide...

Winter Dollar Saving Tips

According to the U.S. Department...


A Hands-on Approach to Building Affordable Homes in Nebraska

Last August, future homeowners broke ground on seven 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 interest rate.

insulated concrete form block on prepared cement footings
Project Foreman,
Jim Morgan, positions
the first insulated
concrete form block
on prepared cement
footings.

Mutual Self-Help has a number of differences from other 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 environment.

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 Housing Council.

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.

steel bars within insulated concrete forms
Steel bars within insulated concrete forms
stabilize styrofoam and reinforce the concrete walls.

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 mornings.

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 Saturdays.

insulated concrete forms ready for bracing
Insulated concrete forms ready for
bracing and concrete pouring.

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.

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Excerpt from the Energy Office's 1998 Annual Report

$16.7 Million for Housing in Past Year

"...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 for:

  • 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 housing projects."

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What Makes These Mutual Self-Help Homes Sustainable and Energy Efficient?

A number of experts in fields such as building construction, passive solar design, heating and ventilating and sustainable construction contributed to the modifications of the Mutual Self-Help home designs.

Here are some of the features that make these homes different from similar homes under construction.

  • Houses and plans were sited on the land to optimize solar gain during the winter and natural cooling during the summer.
  • Window locations were adjusted to maximize solar heating through south-facing glass, while overhangs were added to prevent overheating during summer months.
  • East-, west- and north-facing windows were minimized.
  • Landscaping was planned to provide solar access for heating, but shade and cooling breezes in the summer.
  • Building materials were selected to be easy for the novice builders to use, as well as to utilize recycled and locally-produced materials.
  • Foundation walls were built using interlocking polystyrene block forms into which concrete was poured. The blocks are lightweight and simple for unskilled workers to assemble, and the blocks stay in place, providing a basement wall insulation value of about R20.
  • Exterior walls are made from 6" thick sandwich panels, made of polystyrene insulation between layers of particle board. These walls provide high insulating value of more than R19 and very low air leakage. The walls arrive at the site already cut to size including window and door openings. This allows fast assembly and minimizes waste.
  • The insulating blocks and particle board walls are manufactured in eastern Nebraska, which reduces costs and transportation energy.
  • Floors and roofs were built with engineered truss systems that are also delivered pre-sized and ready for installation. These, along with the sandwich panels and steel studs for interior walls, minimize the use of larger dimensional lumber 2x6s and larger which is more costly and makes less efficient use of trees.
  • Twelve inches, about R38, of cellulose insulation is in the attic.
  • High-performance windows complete each house's thermal envelope. The windows are double-pane, vinyl-frame units with a low-emissivity coating on the glass and are filled with argon gas to minimize heat loss without affecting the view or reducing sunlight. Double hung windows were selected to promote natural ventilation for cooling, and the house plans were modified to use only one size of window which produced a significant cost savings.
  • A high-efficiency gas furnace and central air conditioner were selected because they offered simple operation and the lowest life-cycle cost (purchase price and annual fuel costs analyzed over the life of the mortgage). The high insulation levels allowed the use of very small furnaces and air conditioners, which reduced construction costs. The houses should be self-heating until the outside temperature falls below 50°, and will not need heating at all during bright winter days.
  • The heating bill should average $150 a year. The total monthly cost for natural gas and electricity for all uses should range from $50 to 60 a month.
  • The high-efficiency, sealed-combustion gas water heater and furnace use outside air for combustion. This minimizes winter drafts and eliminates health dangers from insufficient operating air.
  • Other interior materials were selected to minimize their contribution of volatile organic compounds and other pollutants that could pose health problems.
  • The Energy Office used computer modeling to verify that the house designs met the 1995 Model Energy Code, a federal requirement for houses financed through the Rural Development program as well as other federal mortgage lenders. This analysis indicated that all the designs exceeded the code requirements by at least 28 percent, with the best exceeding the requirements by almost 40 percent.

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For more information

about the Mutual Self-Help Housing or the Nebraska City project contact:

  • Tim Rutledge, Southeast Nebraska Community Action, 6181/2 Third, Humboldt 68376, phone 402-862-2411
  • Clifford Kumm, USDA Rural Development, 201 North 25th Street, Beatrice 68310, phone 402-223-3125
  • Nancy Hoch and Dale Haverty, River Country Economic Development, 806 First Avenue, Nebraska City 68410, phone 402-873-4293
  • Joslyn Castle Institute for Sustainable Communities, 3902 Davenport, Omaha 68131, phone 402-595-1903
  • Jim Stark, City of Nebraska City, 1409 Central Avenue, Nebraska City 68410, phone 402-873-5515
  • Kirk Conger, Nebraska Energy Office
  • Jed Wagner, Nemaha County Development Alliance, 1824 "N" Street, Suite 105, Auburn 68305, Phone 402-274-3985

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Home Energy Ratings and Mortgages Made Simple

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, cost-effective improvements.

Home energy ratings involve an on-site inspection of a home by a certified residential energy efficiency professional.

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.

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Excerpt from GAO Month in Review

GAO MONTH IN REVIEW:
DECEMBER 1998

Energy Deregulation:
Status of Natural Gas Customer Choice Programs

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 telephone provider.

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

  1. initial participation in customer choice programs and
  2. the effects of these recent customer choice initiatives on residential and small commerical consumers.

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14 Ethanol Vehicle Teams to Vie in '99 Event

vehicle.gif (6935 bytes)

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 gasoline.

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 Bill Weins at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at 402-472-3088.

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Award-Winning

Ann Selzer wins 1998 National Recognition award
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

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 Recognition Award.

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 programs."

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.

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Want to Become A Home Energy Rater?

This spring, the Energy Office and Fannie Mae are 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.

High Interest

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 time."

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 Office.

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Information Services and Resources

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) provides fact sheets, brochures, videos and publications on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

letter icon
Mailing Address

Office of the Assistant Secretary
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Mail Stop EE-1
Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585

phone icon
Telephone

Toll Free: 1-877-337-3463

computer icon
Internet

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

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Energy Audits and Other Aids Now on the Internet

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 Efficient Windows.

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Free Resources

The 1999 Fuel Economy Guide

Free copies of the U.S. Department of Energy's Fuel Economy Guides for 1999 Model Year Vehicles are now available.

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.

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The State’s First Wind Turbine Twins Tower Above the Plains

In late 1998, several Nebraska utilities starting learning 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.”

1 Assembly of the top portion of the 123,000 lb. lattice tower
1 Assembly of the top portion of the 123,000 lb. lattice tower.
2 The center portion of the 20-story lattice tower is lifted into place
2 The center portion of the 20-story
lattice tower is lifted into place.
3 Tower construction crew torquing bolts at the base of the lattice tower
3 Tower construction crew torquing
bolts at the base of the lattice tower.

4 The top section of unit number one is lifted into place during tower assembly
4 The top section of unit number one
is lifted into place during tower assembly.
Wind5.gif (128635 bytes)
5 Five foot diameter rotor blades being prepared
for assembly with rotor hub.
Hay bales help support the blades during assembly.
6 Heavy-lift crane places generator and nacelle on top of unit number two tower
6 Heavy-lift crane places generator
and nacelle on top of
unit number two tower.
7 Crane lifts the 50 meter diameter rotor to the top of unit number one
7 Crane lifts the 50 meter diameter rotor to the top of unit number one.
8 Attaching the rotor and hub to the 750 kilowatt generator assembly
8 Attaching the rotor and hub to the
750 kilowatt generator assembly.
Wind1.gif
9 Overall view of the wind generation site after completion.

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.”

Problem Solved

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 disrupted.

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:

  • Nebraska Public Power District
  • Lincoln Electric System
  • Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska
  • City of Grand Island
  • City of Auburn
  • KBR Rural Public Power District.

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Editorial, Kearney Hub

"...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."

July 17, 1998

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Midwestern Oil Wells!

Some have called the Great Plains states of the Dakotas, 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 states:

  • 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 American market.

For more information about the Springview wind turbines, contact Mike Hasenkamp at Nebraska Public Power District at 402-563-5371 and mahasen@nppd.com or Rich Walters at KBR Rural Public Power District at 402-387-1120.

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Wind Monitoring Equipment Available in April

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 Dave Reid at 402-552-5925.

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.

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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 Since 1990: 14,421 for $100.9 million
Questions and Answers...

6% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans

Ben Franklin on $100 bill

120 Days to Complete a Project

What is the length of completion time allowed for improvements financed with Dollar and Energy Saving Loans?

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 the borrower.

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 ten projects.

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 improvements.

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 Annual Income
1 $12,075
2 $16,275
3 $20,475
4 $24,675
5 $28,875
6 $33,075
7 $37,275
8 $41,475
For each additional household member add $4,200.
Households containing a member who receives either Aid to Dependent Children or Supplemental Security Income are automatically eligible to participate.

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.

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State Government Seeks Renewable Energy Projects

The Energy Office has received a $25,000 grant from 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 402-472-9236.

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40 Ways to Finance Your Improvements

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
  • multi-family housing
  • all types of buildings
  • community-based financing

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 Jack Osterman in the Energy Office.

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Winter Dollar Saving Tips

image of thermostat
Programmable thermostats

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 eight hours.

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).

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Ongoing


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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