The words energy crisis may bring to mind images from
the 1970s of gas rationing and long lines of cars at the gas pumps,
but for farmers and ranchers in 2003, energy crisis means
yet another item on the long list of problems...
Although the wind energy resources in Nebraska are among the best
in the country, very little recent wind development has occurred.
There is one, pioneering commercial wind installation in the state...
Definitive Wind Speed Study... Nebraska Has Commercial Wind Farm Potential
The most definitive wind energy study is now online. This four-year
study of the most promising wind energy sites has been to the
Energy Office's web site...
The events of 2002 proved that it's tough to make a living on the family farm.
Net farm income was projected to be down 21 percent from 2001. Dry conditions
in much of the country reduced the forecasted yields of corn, soybeans,
and wheat. Lower returns were expected for livestock commodities. As unemployment
rates rose, the 54 percent of farmers and ranchers who work off the farm
for wages or salaries also suffered — and so did the tax bases of the rural
counties where they live.
Minnesota's New Crop
But some rural landowners and the communities they live in are faring better
by taking advantage of a new cash crop: electricity from the wind. Dave
Benson, a farmer and county commissioner of Nobles County, Minnesota, understands
the benefits that wind power can bring to a community. Minnesota has more
than 300 megawatts
of installed wind power and the opportunity to implement several thousand
more over the next 20 years — and Minnesotans are taking full advantage
of this cash windfall.
"This is one of the few bright spots in a rural landscape," Benson said.
"Wind is homegrown energy that we can harvest right alongside our corn or
soybeans or other crops. We can use the energy in our local communities,
or we can export it to other markets. We need to look carefully at wind
energy as a source of economic growth for our region."
The outlook for regional economic growth from wind energy is
promising. During the next 20 years, achieving the goals of
the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America initiative
will create $60 billion in capital investment in rural America,
provide $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners,
and create 80,000 new jobs. Because wind projects are more capital
intensive than conventional power plants, property taxes for wind
projects are often two to three times higher per unit of energy than
conventional plants. Thanks to wind energy, Pecos County, Texas,
added $4.6 million to its property tax revenue in 2002 alone.
Wind projects also contribute to state business, sales and income
taxes. The increased revenue benefits local services such as schools,
health care facilities, and roads. Farmers and landowners in rural
communities also benefit.
Landowners in southern Minnesota and northern
Iowa who lease their land to wind developers receive annual payments
from $2,000 to more than $4,000 per turbine. The Union of Concerned
Scientists estimates that typical farmers or ranchers with good wind
resources could increase the economic yield of their land by 30 to 100
Wind projects also benefit rural economies by providing local jobs,
from temporary construction jobs during the initial phases of a project
to permanent wind turbine maintenance jobs. Because of these many
benefits, rural community leaders across America are investigating
whether wind energy can benefit their local economies — and they're
finding many opportunities to site wind projects in their communities.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, in 2001 nearly 1,700
megawatts of new wind-generating equipment worth $1.7 billion was
installed in 16 states. The Wind Association projects that well over
2,000 megawatts of wind power will be installed in 2003.
Home-Grown Power Solution
Wind energy will benefit rural communities by contributing to a
portfolio of energy options. Wind energy is "homegrown" energy. By
contributing to utility-grade power generation, wind power can extend
non-renewable energy sources, helping to secure our energy future,
reduce energy costs, and reduce our dependence on foreign energy.
For these reasons, rural utilities are looking for ways to diversify
their energy portfolios and partner in utility-grade wind power
generation. In the process, more of the revenue stays at home in the
community. Wind energy generated in rural areas can be easily connected
to the current utility grid system. In fact, rural leaders in the Minnesota
Buffalo Ridge region where Benson lives are planning a new transmission
line along I-90 that will bring energy to the Twin Cities. Benson's region
currently generates about 360 MW, but the rural communities can only use
50-60 MW. "We need a line to export this new crop," Benson said. "And
we're hoping to educate the community to be partners in owning the means
of production. Our hope is that it really benefits the local communities."
Although integrating wind energy into the energy portfolio mix
sounds like a futuristic concept, harnessing the power of the
wind is hardly a new idea in the American West. Small turbines
on individual farms and ranches were commonplace before the
advent of rural electrification. Implementing wind projects in
rural America may be a return to the past that could help preserve
rural communities and the family farm. Making a living on the
family farm has never been easy, but harnessing wind energy as
the cash crop of the future is proving to be a viable way to
ease the financial burdens of farmers, ranchers and rural
communities and preserve the rural way of life.
On the Web
For more information on wind energy and its benefits to a rural
community, including information on wind energy provisions in the
2002 Farm Bill, please visit the Wind Powering America Web site
at: EERE Wind and Hydro Windpowering America
The U.S. Department of Energy contributed to this article.
Although he didnt know it at the time, Larry Widdels
future in the world of wind energy development was secured years
ago when his family bought some farmland near Minot, North Dakota.
Widdel remembers hauling piles of rocks off the acreage, clearing
it for the familys cattle.
It was the poorest land we owned, Widdel laughed. My
uncle said, Boy, this is awful. We dont own mineral rights.
We dont own anything but the air above it. Who would have
guessed that the air above our land might be worth money someday?
No one could have predicted that Widdels rocky land, which has an
outstanding wind resource and small hills that are perfect for siting
wind turbines, would someday feature two 1.5-megawatt wind turbines. Thanks
to Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Widell and his family have
joined the ranks of rural landowners who are leasing their land and cultivating
the cash crop of the future: electricity from the wind. And Widell couldnt
be happier about it.
Were very lucky that we were chosen, he said.
At a time when economic predictions for the family farm are anything but
rosy, wind energy is a bright spot on the horizon. Rural landowners like
Widdel who lease their land to wind developers typically receive about 2
percent 4 percent of the gross annual turbine revenue or
$2,000 to $4,000 for each turbine which can help compensate for
a downturn in commodity prices. Annual farm income can be increased by
$70 an acre.
But as with any business venture, rural landowners interested in leasing
their land should do their homework.
Wind developers must take several preliminary steps before they can
install turbines. First, they need to measure the wind resource on the
site theyve selected and assess its proximity to transmission
lines. Next, they need to line up capital and commitment from energy
buyers. Finally, they must complete any required environmental analyses
and zoning and permitting processes.
Some wind developers will offer a landowner a good faith
contract, which allows the developer to control the site while these
preliminary steps are taken. Under this contract, the landowner may
not enter into contracts with other wind developers. At the end of
the time period outlined in the contract (usually 1 to 5 years),
the developer must decide whether to install turbines or give up
interest in the land.
If all goes well in the preliminary steps, the wind developer
and landowner negotiate a lease. The arrangement is similar to
a lease used to reserve mineral rights. The landowner assumes
no financial responsibility for the project. The wind developer
may offer the landowner a single up-front payment, a fixed annual
payment, a share of the revenues from a wind project, or a
combination of these payment methods. The rate of return for
the landowner is proportional to the level of risk assumed.
The first option, a single up-front payment, may sound attractive.
Even if the wind turbines fail to produce as expected, the landowner
receives the guaranteed payment. But if the turbines produce more
electricity than expected, the landowner wont receive extra
compensation. Also, the value of wind is expected to increase over
time, in which case this payment arrangement would be a disadvantage.
Landowners should also know that any future sale of the property
is likely to be complicated by this arrangement. Up-front payments
are structured so that the developer receives a perpetual lease to
the wind resource rights on the property. The landowner should
consult with a tax adviser about the possible consequences of
receiving one large payment.
The second option, a fixed annual payment, is less risky for the
landowner, and it may have less impact on the landowners
income taxes. But it may also result in a smaller share of the
revenue. Still, some landowners prefer the relative security of
an annual payment.
Basing the lease on a share of revenues is the third option.
The compensation will vary according to the output of the turbines.
This is probably the best option for a landowner who wants to ensure
future compensation for increases in the value of wind power.
A leasing arrangement may include a combination of these
payment options. For example, a landowner may request a fixed
payment per acre along with a share of the revenue from each
Easements are another factor to consider in a leasing agreement
with a wind developer. Although a wind turbine has a small
footprint, which allows the landowner to continue
normal farming and ranching operations on the land surrounding
the turbine, developers also need access to the turbines and
transmission lines for maintenance and repair.When developers
from Cielo Wind Power approached Louis Woodward, a rancher in
Girvin, Texas, he was concerned about the impacts such access
would have on vegetation and the safety of his livestock.
Cielo Wind Power approached Louis Woodward, a rancher in Girvin,
Texas about leasing his land to build wind turbines. Nobody
likes a bunch of vehicles running over their property,
Woodward said. We dont get much rain out here, and
needless to say, without rain, we dont get much vegetation.
Woodward finally signed a lease agreement after the developers
agreed to install underground transmission lines and follow his
recommendations when reseeding grass. Cielo also agreed to pay for
any injuries to his livestock.
Today, Woodward has 242 turbines on his property.
Landowners should discuss all easement issues with their attorneys
and the developers prior to signing a lease agreement.
More Factors to Consider
While leases, taxes and easements are major concerns, there are
other factors to consider as well:
Heavy industrial equipment is used to erect wind turbines. New roads
may be needed, transmission equipment may have to be installed, and
equipment must be maintained. This can result in local jobs that benefit
the local economy. In general, local communities have responded favorably
to wind development projects.
Landowners should review their insurance policies before signing
any contract. If a policys coverage would be affected by wind
development on the land, a landowner can negotiate with the developer
and add provisions to the contract to compensate.
Landowners should discuss taxes with the developer and with an attorney.
Determine who will pay the property taxes, whether the developer will
pay for increases in property tax caused by improvements (usually this
is the case), and who will pay taxes on the sale of electricity. Discuss
whether one party will pay taxes owed by the other party if non-payment
would result in a lien or foreclosure on the property.
Wind turbines may be sited on Conservation Reserve Program and grassland
easements. Some restrictions do apply.
Landowners should not feel pressured by developers to enter into
a leasing arrangement. Developers should be willing to answer questions,
and landowners should investigate a developers history. Remember
the old adage, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
One final word of advice: Landowners who install wind turbines on their land
should expect a lot of attention. When Widdel goes to town, his neighbors
The first two or three months, the only thing people wanted to talk
to me about was wind. They didnt even ask me how I was, he said.
They just wanted to know about my wind power.
The U.S. Department of Energy contributed to this article.
On the Web
For more information on wind energy and its benefits
to a rural community, including information on wind
energy provisions in the 2002 Farm Bill, please visit
the Wind Powering America Web site at Windpowering America.
Learn More about Wind Development on Your Land
These organizations and resources are recommended if you need additional
information on wind power development issues:
This organization partners with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy to promote wind education and outreach. The organizations
web site at www.windustry.org features a section called Wind Farmers
Network of America. You can also find out more about easements at
If you dont have Internet access, write to
Windustry, 2105 First Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404; or
American Wind Energy Association
The American Wind Energy Association offers a fact sheet entitled Wind
Energy for Your Farm or Rural Land. It is available online at
Factsheets Windy Landowners.
You can also access a list of developers at
AWEA Directory of Developers.
Write to The American Wind Energy Association at 122 C Street NW, Suite
380, Washington, DC 20001; or call 202-383-2500.
American Corn Growers Foundation
Learn more about the Foundations Wealth from the Wind program
Write to the foundation at P.O. Box 18157, Washington, DC 20036; or
The words energy crisis may bring to mind images from the 1970s
of gas rationing and long lines of cars at the gas pumps, but for farmers
and ranchers in 2003, energy crisis means yet another item
on the long list of problems faced by rural communities. America is facing
a shortage of natural gas once thought to be so abundant that power
plants burn it to produce electricity. Last winter, home-heating bills
more than doubled in some areas, and they are expected to increase another
20 percent this winter. But farmers and ranchers have more to worry about
than high heating costs.
According to Dan McGuire, Wealth from the Wind program director for the
American Corn Growers Foundation, Many farmers use irrigation wells with
natural gas engines. Farmers use propane for space heating and grain drying,
and propane's prices are tied to natural gas prices. Natural gas also
accounts for 80 percent to 90 percent of the cost of producing nitrogen
fertilizer (anhydrous ammonia). In March, prices for hydrous ammonia,
which is typically derived from natural gas, jumped from $185 per ton
a year earlier to $350 per ton and had only declined to $320 per ton by
May. Farmers' cost of production is affected by both the fuel and the
As Congress debates how to reduce our dependence on natural gas as well
as foreign oil, the President's National Energy Policy recommends examining
the potential for greater electricity generation from sources other than
natural gas. McGuire knows that wind energy fits the bill.
Wind Turbine Sites in the Midwest Region
The impact of higher natural gas prices in 2003 had a tremendously
negative impact on corn farmers, McGuire said. The key is
to move the wind energy agenda at both the state and national levels,
including state and federal energy incentives, just as fast as possible.
The American Wind Energy Association predicts implementing policies that encourage
the growth of wind energy would create thousands of jobs and millions of
dollars in royalty income for hard-pressed farming and ranching states.
Wind projects also contribute to state business, sales, property and income
taxes. Thanks to wind energy, Pecos County, Texas, added $4.6 million to
its property tax revenue in 2002 alone. The increased revenue benefits local
services such as schools, health care facilities and roads. Farmers and
landowners in rural communities also benefit. Landowners in southern Minnesota
and northern Iowa who lease their land to wind developers receive annual
payments from $2,000 to more than $4,000 per turbine. Wind projects also
benefit rural economies by providing local jobs, from temporary construction
jobs during the initial phases of a project to permanent wind turbine maintenance
In areas of the country where wind farms generate electricity, they are
directly helping to conserve natural gas supplies. And unlike natural
gas prices, which are subject to market fluctuations, wind energy costs
are predictable over time. Once a plant is built, the cost of producing
electricity is stable and the fuel source is free. This means that wind
energy works well in tandem with natural gas production. For example,
smart investors know that they should diversify their investment portfolios
and balance potentially high-risk stocks with more-conservative bonds
and mutual funds. Utilities devise a similar strategy to mitigate natural
gas price fluctuations and risks they plan ways to use other energy
sources when natural gas prices soar. The fixed cost of wind energy helps
mitigate the rapidly fluctuating cost of natural gas in a utility's portfolio.
Soaring Natural Gas Prices Are Here to Stay
The days of $2 gas are gone, Randall Swisher, executive director
of American Wind Energy Association, said, referring to the historical market
price for natural gas of just above $2 per 1,000 cubic feet prior to the
California electricity crisis of 2001. Instead, a price range of $4 to $5
per 1,000 cubic feet is expected, with regional shortages and occasional
spikes to $6-$10. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan recently
testified to a U.S. Senate committee hearing on natural gas that no one
should expect a return of low prices in the near future.
Why are natural gas prices so high? First, domestic natural gas wells are
becoming tapped out, and even new, improved technologies can't
significantly increase production levels. Oil & Gas Journal reported
that Texas, which produces one-third of the nation's gas, must drill 6,400
new wells per year, or 17 wells per day, to keep its production from plummeting.
Proposed natural gas pipelines through Alaska and Canada are several years
away, and some question whether Canada, also faced with dwindling reserves
and rising natural gas prices, will continue to export increasing quantities
to meet the demand of its neighbor to the south. Importing liquefied natural
gas via tankers requires special port facilities, and only 1 percent of
America's natural gas is imported this way anyway. Many have voiced concerns
about security issues surrounding liquefied natural gas facilities near
metropolitan areas. These proposed solutions obviously cannot make a significant
dent in the present demand, and according to U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer
Abraham, demand for natural gas is expected to rise by as much as 50 percent
over the next 25 years.
Second, natural gas reserves are lower than past inventories because last
winter was cooler than normal. Analysts worry that if this summer's heat
and consumer use of air conditioning increases, natural gas prices will
follow suit. Abraham said this year's challenge is to ensure adequate
natural gas supplies at prices consumers can afford.
America's natural gas shortage affects everyone from senior citizens
living on fixed incomes to small business owners trying to keep the lights
on, Abraham said.
And that's where wind energy enters the picture. Electricity from the wind
can keep the lights on and benefit rural communities at the same
The Wind Energy Solution
Energy experts estimate the current natural gas supply shortage amounts
to 3-4 billion cubic feet per day, and they cite the increasing use of gas
for electricity generation as one of the major causes of the shortfall.
According to Swisher, rapid expansion of the nation's wind turbine fleet
could sharply boost wind generation over the next four years, increasing
its output to the equivalent of 3 billion cubic feet per day, or about as
much natural gas as the states of Colorado and Alaska produce today.
Wind plants can be permitted and built relatively quickly typically,
within one to two years, Swisher said. This presents a much more immediate
solution to the energy crisis than waiting for pipelines to be built or
ports to be retrofitted to handle liquefied natural gas.
And building wind plants makes good economic sense as well. In 2001, the
Colorado Public Utilities Commission ordered Xcel Energy, a regulated Colorado
utility company, to engage in good faith negotiations for a wind power plant
because the commission found that new wind generation would cost less than
new gas-fired power plants.
The American Wind Energy Association has proposed transmission plans for
30,000 megawatts of wind in the Midwest and West, which the group believes
is feasible in the near future. The wind industry has proposed a national
policy agenda to help avoid future power generation problems, including:
A five-year extension of the wind energy production tax credit, which
expires December 31, 2003, under current law
Tariff reform to increase effective transmission capacity on the current grid
Enactment of a national renewable portfolio standard to diversify the
national utility generating portfolio.
to the American Wind Energy Association, in addition to the new jobs and
royalty income generated, implementing these policies would also provide
energy stability and American businesses and farms desperately
need that stability. Time magazine reported that businesses including
Coors Brewery, Dow Chemical and Owens Corning have urged President Bush
to declare war on natural gas prices by maximizing use of other
energy sources for power generation. American corn growers concur.
Higher production costs combined with low commodity prices paid
to farmers spells economic trouble for rural America, McGuire said.
That's why the American Corn Growers Foundation and the American
Corn Growers Association are promoting wind energy. It's why we developed
the Wealth from the Wind program and work with the Wind Powering America
program of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Department
of Energy. We support wind farming as both an alternative income stream
for farmers and landowners and an economic development opportunity for
In the 1970s, wind energy technology could not be considered a viable
alternative to conventional fuels, and it certainly could not provide
an answer to the energy crisis. In 2003, rural America is poised to take
advantage of new, advanced wind technology to harvest the crop of the
On the Web
For more information on wind energy please visit the Wind Powering America
Web site at: Wind Powering America
This article was prepared with information provided by the Department
of Energy's Wind Powering America Program.
Learn More about Wind Energy's Benefits to the Rural Community
American Corn Growers Foundation
Learn more about the Foundations Wealth from the Wind program
at American Corn Growers Foundation.
Write to the foundation at P.O. Box 18157, Washington, DC 20036; or
call (202) 835-0330.
This organization partners with the Institute of Agriculture and Trade
Policy to promote wind educationand outreach. At the organization's
web site, under the section, "About Windustry", you may join the Wind
Farmers Network of America. You may write Windustry at 2105 First
Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN or call 800-946-3640.
American Wind Energy Association
AWEA offers information on policies that promote wind energy and provide
benefits to rural communities. Visit American
Wind Energy Association;
write to The American Wind Energy Association at 122 C Street NW, Suite
380, Washington, DC 20001; or call 202-383-2500.
Wind Energy Resource Atlas
To find out whether you have a strong wind resource in your area, visit
NREL Wind Atlas.
Although the wind energy resources in Nebraska are among the best in the country,
very little recent wind development has occurred. There is one, pioneering
commercial wind installation in the state: a 10.5 MW plant in Kimball
built by the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. But over the past several
years in the states surrounding Nebraska, wind plants sized in the hundreds
of megawatts have been built or are now in the construction phase. The
primary reasons for this difference are that:
unlike other nearby states, Nebraska has not enacted any
policies to encourage wind development; and
public ownership of the electric power system in the state
precludes access to a federal wind incentive the wind
energy Production Tax Credit that is available throughout
While wind power costs have progressed to the point where some
are cost effective without any incentives, wind project developers have
focused their attention in states that present a more favorable business
climate for their activities.
That is a part of the findings of a study commissioned by the Energy Office,
with funds from the U.S. Department of Energy, to foster wind energy development
in the state. An excerpted portion of the study's conclusions appears below.
Four Development Models
As requested by the Nebraska Energy Office, wind development was considered
in the context of four different types of electric utility entities:
Large public power district,
One or more smaller municipal utility systems,
Rural electric district, and
The objectives were to recommend approaches that could be taken
within the existing framework to move wind forward, and then to
develop recommendations on measures the state could pursue to
accelerate wind development in the state.
Wind in the Current Electric Power Framework:
The large public power
districts will evaluate prospective wind projects on the basis of cost comparisons
with conventional alternatives. The aim is to select the least cost option,
with costs measured in conventional, direct terms. Non-monetized benefits
and impacts, or externalities, are not considered. By statute, this is the
procedure required for approval by the state's Power Review Board, which
must approve any electric power project in the state before construction
can proceed. Fortuitously, the Omaha Public Power District has just conducted
an evaluation of this type, which provides a credible base case for wind
plant consideration. Reasonable variations from the base case used in the
study can result in selection of wind as the least cost alternative today
for a number of projects. There are indications that this is beginning to
occur. If one or more of the acceleration measures summarized below comes
into play, then considerably more wind generation can be incorporated into
the large public power district generation mix.
The smaller municipal systems and rural electric districts will find it more
difficult than the larger utilities to satisfy the current least-cost criterion
that the Power Review Board must apply (The Legislature modified the least
cost provisions during the session in 2003). This is so because the size
of wind projects appropriate to their needs would generally be smaller,
leading to higher wind energy costs.
These smaller utility entities could move forward by pursuing joint projects,
thereby aggregating electrical load and pooling assets such as attractive
plant sites, power plant operating experience and financing capability.
The rural electric districts are not likely to pursue a wind project independently,
because these entities have no history of power plant ownership and operation.
Instead they are much more likely to participate in joint projects. Tribal
entities may also benefit from joint pursuit of wind projects with a wholesale
electricity provider or one of the smaller utility entities.
A number of smaller municipalities would prefer to start small with wind
in order to minimize their risk exposure even though higher wind
energy costs would result.
Policy Options for Consideration:
Several policy options for Nebraska are
presented that would accelerate the introduction and use of wind power
in the state. All but one of these options are likely to be revenue neutral
with respect to the state's budget. The first option is to generalize
the least cost statute that governs the Power Review Board's decision
process. This would allow consideration of currently non-monetized benefits
of clean renewables like wind power; including, for example:
cleaner air and water resulting from emissions reductions,
reduced health risks and costs,
fuel diversity and energy security, and
economic benefits from developing and utilizing an indigenous
resource as opposed to exporting dollars to import fuels.
While these benefits are difficult to quantify, even a very small
allowance for them would often be sufficient to tip the scales
in favor of wind. With respect to budget impacts, this measure
would have no impact on state or local revenues. Initially, it
might result in a small but nearly imperceptible increase in
local electricity rates; but in the longer run the net economic
impacts are likely to be positive as the expected benefits
materialize. (The Legislature exempted wind projects of 10
megawatts or less from least cost compliance provisions).
The second option is to allocate transmission costs for new
wind plants over the entire transmission network in the state.
This would reduce the effective capital cost of wind plants
when comparing with conventional alternatives perhaps
by about 5 percent and is similar to a provision already
operating in Texas. This measure would have no impact on state
or local revenues, and would have a negligible impact on
electricity rates throughout the state.
A third option is to enact a sales tax exemption for renewable generation.
This also would reduce the effective capital cost of a wind plant by about
5 percent and ease the least-cost burden. Electricity rates would not be
affected, but there would be a resulting loss in state revenue. If 600 megawatts
of wind generation were built over a ten-year period which is about
10 percent of the state's generation then the revenue loss would
average approximately $3 million per year.
A fourth option is to institute a state production incentive for wind
power. At a level of 1¢ a kilowatthour over a 30-year plant life, this
would compensate for the inapplicability of the federal Production Tax Credit
in Nebraska. If 600 megawatts of wind were then installed in the state,
this would require revenue at peak of about $18 million per year. However,
several options exist for reducing and even eliminating this impact on state
revenues. First, any payments received from the federal Renewable Energy
Production Incentive, or as a result of tradable federal tax credits that
might materialize in the future, could be applied to offset the proposed
Nebraska incentive. These measures are highly uncertain, however. A more
attractive and reliable option would be for the state to offer green tags
to those wishing to purchase the environmental attributes of wind energy.
Markets for these tags are being established today, and green tags are being
sold at prices in the range of 1 to 2¢ a kilowatthour of generated electricity.
Hence it is likely that Nebraska can finance a production incentive entirely
through the sale of green tags, thus avoiding any negative impact on state
It is important to remember that some wind projects are likely to make economic
sense in Nebraska today without any incentives. Therefore, those wishing
to pursue projects on their own without participating in, or waiting for,
any incentive program should be allowed the flexibility to operate outside
of the framework of any incentive program that might be enacted.
One other incentive program that has been highly successful in other states
is the Renewables Portfolio Standard, which stipulates that a specific portion
of retail electricity supply must come directly or indirectly from renewable
sources in conformance with a specified time schedule. It is likely that
a Renewable Portfolio Standard could work well for Nebraska, but there is
clearly a strong distaste for mandated programs in the state. Consequently
the chances of legislative success are lower for this incentive option than
for the others discussed.
On the Web
A complete text of Accelerating Wind-Power Development in Nebraska:
Status, Recommendations and Perspective can be found at
Four Year Average Nebraska Wind Speeds in Miles Per Hour at 40 Meters Height
The most definitive wind energy study is now online. This four-year
study done in Nebraska of the most promising wind energy sites has
been added to the Energy Office's web site.
The Nebraska Wind Energy Site Data Study evaluated eight sites around
the state for four years. An initial group of more than 30 locations was
identified, visited and evaluated before the final eight were chosen.
Another aspect of the study reviewed previously gathered wind data.
At the conclusion of the study in 1999, the data suggested that
wind speeds at all eight sites were technically sufficient for
commercial wind farm development.
The Nebraska Wind Energy Site Data Study is located here.
When people start discussing wind turbines and generating electricity from wind,
terms may be used that might be unfamiliar. In addition to typical terms
used in electricity generation, words such as capacity factor, nacelle,
net metering and wind power density are commonly used.
To navigate this new terminology terrain, the folks at the Plains Organization
for Wind Energy Resources assembled a mini-glossary of wind words that can
help. This glossary is available at
And what does "nacelle" mean?
It is the structure at the top
of the turbine that is separate from the blades and comprises the
rotor shaft, gearbox and generator.
As interest in electricity generated from wind rises,
many who own land in
windy regions are asking very basic questions.
To answer those some of those questions, federal and regional officials
developed Harvesting the Wind A Landowners Guide
to Wind Energy Development in the Great Plains.
The brief guidebook addresses key points such as:
How developers are attracted to certain parcels of land
How wind turbines work
How wind developers operate
How to know if your land might be suitable
Examples of typical development agreements
Examples of the quantity and size of wind turbine installations
The guide also lists contacts throughout the Great Plains regions, organizational
contacts and web sites that have landowner information. A table also provides
an overview of wind resources and development incentives each state in
the Plains region offers.
The guidebook was developed by the Energy and Environmental Research Center
at the University of North Dakota, the Plains Organization for Wind Energy
Resources and the U.S. Department of Energy.
On the Web
A copy of Harvesting the Wind A
Landowners Guide to Wind Energy Development
in the Great Plains can be found at
This new guide for consumers helps people living in rural areas determine if
small wind electric systems will work for them based on an analysis of
wind resources, the type and size of the site and economics.
The Guide examines a number of issues in detail:
Is there enough wind where you live?
Are tall towers allowed in your rural area?
Do you have enough space?
Can you determine how much electricity you will need or want?
Does it work financially?
Wind energy systems are one of the most cost-effective home-based
renewable energy systems, and may help some avoid the high costs of
having utility power lines extended to remote locations and prevent
power interruptions. Wind turbine systems are also non-polluting
sources of energy. The complete guide can be found at
The American Wind Energy Association fact sheet Wind Energy for Your Farm or Rural Land
You may write the Wind Energy Association at 122 C Street
NW, Suite 380, Washington, DC 20001; or call 202-383-2500.
American Corn Growers Foundation, Wealth from the Wind
American Corn Growers Foundation
You may write the American Corn Growers Foundation at P.O.
Box 18157, Washington, DC 20036; or call 202-835-0330.
In May, Nebraska joined the other states in the way natural gas utilities
are regulated. The state's Public Service Commission's jurisdiction was
extended to include regulatory authority over investor-owned natural gas
Historically in the state, cities and villages regulated the rates for
investor-owned utilities that provided natural gas to people within the
town's boundaries. There was no local or state regulatory authority for
rural natural gas users. Municipally-owned natural gas systems were regulated
the same as locally-owned electric utilities: by city councils and village
If you have complaints about your natural gas service or have questions
about service or rate issues, contact Miles Halcomb at the Public Service
Commission at 402.471.3101 or 800.526.0017. The Commission's web site,
Nebraska Public Service Commission,
is also a source for information on natural gas issues.
Natural Gas Heating Bills Will be Bigger, But Supplies Are Okay
In June, it looked like natural gas could be in short supply this winter
- and carry premium prices. With the onset of Fall, some of those predictions
have changed: supplies are adequate to meet the needs, but prices will
definitely be higher than last year. At this point, weather is the biggest
"unknown" factor which could impact both supplies and prices. Whether
prices top the peak period of winter 2001-2002, remains to be seen.
This winter's residential natural gas prices are expected to be 10 to
15 percent higher than last year. At the end of August, the East Region,
which includes Nebraska, had an inventory of 1,418 billion cubic feet
which is only seven percent below the five-year average for the region.
Eastern Nebraskans served by Aquila will be paying even more because the
utility has also increased rates, which are being reviewed. For those
who want to monitor natural gas supply and price information, the Energy
Office web site provides updates every month.
According to experts at the Energy Information Administration, the long-range
view for natural gas is volatility, both on prices and supplies.
Need Help or Can't Pay?
If you or someone you know has struggled in the past
with winter heating bills, there may be a solution before the bills
get out of hand. There are several alternatives for those Nebraskans
who have had difficulty paying for heating bills:
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is available to those
with limited incomes. Grants to help pay for the cost of heating may
be available from the state's Department of Health and Human Services.
To find out more about grants to pay utility bills can be found at
DHHS Energy Assistance
The Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program makes improvements
in homes so that less energy is used and utility bills are reduced.
These services cannot help with unpaid utility bills, but could be effective
in reducing the heating bills for next winter. While weatherization
services are free, access to services is based on income. Current income
limits are listed at Weatherization Income Guidelines
To find out the weatherization services provider closest to you,
click on Weatherization Local Contacts
which will take you to an interactive map of the state. Simply click
on the county where you live to locate the nearest office where
you can apply for weatherization services.
If your income level is greater than the program allows, you can find
energy saving, utility billing shaving ideas at the U.S. Department
of Energy's Energy Savers web site Consumer Info
Making the Best Resource Choices and Using Energy Wisely
Whether you are looking for or building a new home, or
remodeling an existing home, there are a number of options
for making improvements that will use fewer resources,
improve comfort and create a healthful environment.
The New Construction section
at the Energy Office's web site is a one stop
shop that contains an ever-expanding array of products,
techniques and information on how homes and other buildings
can be made more energy and resource efficient when they are
At the New Construction section, you will find the
Resource Efficient Construction — Design Details
Dozens of methods for utilizing resource
efficient building techniques are listed in this section.
Diagrams of the construction details are available in either
HTM, PDF or DWF formats.
This section contains nearly 200 products used in building
construction that contain recycled content or utilize sustainable
resources. Below is a list of types of building materials, systems
and interior products that have varying percentages of recycled
Click on the items in the list below
or at the web site to find sub-classifications of construction
materials with links to specific product literature. When available,
the amount and types of recycled materials in each product is
identified with numbered symbols so that those products with
higher percentages of recycled content can be easily located.
The Nebraska Energy Quarterly
features questions asked about 5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans
Loan forms may be obtained from participating
enders or the Energy Office, or the agency's web site by
As of June 30, 2003 ...
... 20,608 loans for $176.9 million
Questions and Answers...
5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans
Is the interest paid on a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan tax deductible item
on federal and state income tax returns?
There are no provisions in federal or state tax codes which allows a taxpayer
to claim interest paid on a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan as a deduction
on a return.
However, the interest may be deductible depending on
how the Dollar and Energy Saving Loan is secured by the lender, e.g. by
the borrower's home, or type of borrower or operation, such as business
or agriculture. Borrowers should check with their tax accountant, the Internal
Revenue Service, or the Nebraska Department of Revenue, to make a determination
as to whether the interest paid on a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan is deductible.
Does the Energy Office still have funds available for reduced
rate mortgages on new homes that are built at or above current
national energy codes levels?
The Energy Office no longer provides incentive funding for
reduced rate mortgages.
The Energy Office's Dollar and Energy Saving Loans are available
for low interest loans for energy efficiency improvements and
specific waste minimization projects
in existing homes, dwelling units, businesses, agricultural operations and
local governments, excluding public school districts.
Construction of new homes, which substantially exceed current
national energy codes and incorporate a number of green building techniques,
are being promoted through the Nebraska Green Building Council. This Council
certifies the homes which qualify under their guidelines as a Nebraska Certified
Green Built Home. The council also certifies home builders who meet the
required criteria as Nebraska Certified Green Builders.
How is a lender who makes Dollar and Energy Saving Loans found if my
lender does not offer these loans?
You may contact the Energy Office loan staff directly for
names of lenders in your area who offer Dollar and Energy
Saving loans. Inquiries for participating lenders may be
directed to John Osterman.
However, keep in mind that whether you are a new customer or
an existing customer of a participating lender, when you apply
for a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan you must meet their credit
in addition to meeting the Nebraska Energy Office's eligibility
for residency and improvements. A participating lender must also
Energy Office guidelines on term, rate, loan amount, and fees
on the Dollar
and Energy Saving Loans. Lenders are responsible for determining
of a borrower and whether the borrower meets the requirements
of their particular
loan policies, which will vary from lender to lender.
I do not understand why the interest rate of a Dollar and Energy
Saving Loan can be higher than 5 percent?
There is a difference between the maximum rate of interest which a lender
can charge on a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan, currently 5 percent, and
the Annual Percentage Rate, or A.P.R., which is disclosed on the loan.
The rate a lender uses to compute interest on the principal you borrow
for a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan is 5 percent, or less, if the lender
offers a lower rate of interest on the loans. If the lender charges you
no loan fees which federal regulations deem to be "finance charges," then
the A.P.R. is the same as the interest rate. However, if a lender charges
certain fees which are deemed "finance charges" such as an application
or origination fees, then these charges are added into the interest you
will be paying over the term of your loan to arrive at an A.P.R. which
takes both into account. Thus, "finance charges," if paid at the time
of the loan, result in the A.P.R disclosed for your loan being higher
than the interest charge on the loan.
The loan document will state an
interest rate, say 5 percent, but the A.P.R. appearing on the loan
contract will show a higher percentage if finance charges are factored
in with the interest to be paid.
The Energy Office recommends borrowers
check with lenders as to what their A.P.R. is on the Dollar and Energy
Saving Loans they make and whether disclosure of an A.P.R. is required
for the type of loan being sought. The Energy Office does limit the dollar
amount of indirect loan fees a lender may charge on a Dollar and Energy
Saving Loan to make sure that the low rate of interest offered on the
loans is not negated by other finance charges.
This fact sheet provides an overview of air-source heat pumps for home
heating and cooling. More publications on related topics can be found in
the Resources section.
Air Source Heat Pumps
There are two common types of heat pumps: air-source heat pumps and
geothermal heat pumps. Either one can keep your home warm in the
winter and cool in the summer. An air-source heat pump pulls its heat
indoors from the outdoor air in the winter and from the indoor air in
the summer. A geothermal heat pump extracts heat from the indoor
air when it's hot outside, but when it's cold outside, it draws heat into
a home from the ground, which maintains a nearly constant temperature
of 50° to 60°F.
An air-source heat pump can provide efficient heating and cooling for
your home, especially if you live in a warm climate. When properly
installed, an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-a-half to three
times more heat energy to a home compared to the electrical energy it
consumes. This is possible because a heat pump moves heat rather than
converting it from a fuel, like in combustion heating systems.
How They Work
You might be wondering how an air-source heat pump uses the outdoor
winter air to heat a home. Believe it or not: heat can be harvested from
cold outdoor air down to about 40°F. And this can be accomplished through
a process you're probably already familiar with — refrigeration.
Basically, a heat pump's refrigeration system consists of a compressor
and two coils made of copper tubing, which are surrounded by aluminum
fins to aid heat transfer. The coils look much like the radiator in your car.
Like in a refrigerator or air-conditioner, refrigerant flows continuously
through pipes, back and forth from the outdoor coils.
In the heating
mode, liquid refrigerant extracts heat from the outside coils and air,
and moves it inside as it evaporates into a gas. The indoor coils transfer
heat from the refrigerant as it condenses back into a liquid. A reversing
valve, near the compressor, can change the direction of the refrigerant
flow for cooling as well as for defrosting the outdoor coils in winter.
When outdoor temperatures fall below 40°F, a less efficient panel of
electric resistance coils, similar to those in your toaster, kicks in to
provide indoor heating. This is why air-source heat pumps aren't
always very efficient for heating in areas with cold winters. Fuel-burning
furnaces generally can provide a more economical way to heat homes
in cooler U.S. climates.
The efficiency and performance of today's air-source heat pumps is
one-and-a-half to two times greater than those available 30 years ago.
This improvement in efficiency has resulted from technical advances and
options such as:
Thermostatic expansion valves for more precise control of the
refrigerant flow to the indoor coil
Variable speed blowers, which are more efficient and can compensate
for some of the adverse effects of restricted ducts, dirty filters and
Improved coil design
Improved electric motor and two-speed compressor designs
Copper tubing, grooved inside to increase surface area.
Types of Air-Source Heat Pumps
You can use a central heat pump to heat and cool a whole house. Most
central heat pumps are split-systems — that is, they each have one
coil indoors and one outdoors. Supply and return ducts connect to a
central fan, which is located indoors. The fan, often called an air
handler or blower, circulates air throughout the house. The fan also
usually contains electric resistance coils (some units now have a
gas-fired furnace option). The heated or cooled air circulates from
the fan to the supply ducts, and openings in the home called supply
registers. Return registers and ductwork return the air to the fan
to be heated.
Some heat pumps are packaged systems. These usually have both
coils and the fan outdoors. Heated or cooled air is delivered to the
interior from ductwork that protrudes through a wall or roof. Another
packaged system is the ductless room heat pump. These pumps will
efficiently heat or cool a room or small house with an open floor plan.
They are much more common for apartments and motel rooms than
homes. They can be installed in a window or through a hole in the wall
— wall installations being preferable for appearances sake. Through-the-wall
installations, however, sometimes aren't well insulated from inside to
outside and can have infiltration problems. When used, mini-split
systems can solve these problems.
Selecting a Heat Pump
When selecting an air-source heat pump, consider the following three
characteristics carefully: the energy efficiency rating, sizing and the
Energy Efficiency Rating
In the United States, a heat pump's energy efficiency is rated by how
many British thermal units (Btu) of heat it moves for each watt-hour
of electrical energy it consumes.
Every residential heat pump sold in this country has an EnergyGuide Label,
which features the heat pump's heating and cooling efficiency performance
rating, comparing it to other available makes and models.
The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor
(HSPF) rates both the
efficiency of the compressor and the electric resistance elements. The HSPF
gives the number of Btu harvested per watt-hour used. The most efficient
heat pumps have an HSPF of between 8 and 10.
The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio
(SEER) rates a heat pump's cooling
efficiency. In general, the higher the SEER, the higher the cost. However,
the energy savings can return the higher initial investment several times
during the heat pump's life. Replacing a 1970s vintage, central heat pump
(SEER = 6) with a new unit (SEER=12) will use half the energy to provide the
same amount of cooling, cutting air-conditioning costs in half. The most
efficient heat pumps have SEERs of between 14 and 18.
You'll find the Energy Star® label — sponsored by the U.S Department of
Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — on heat pumps with
an HSPF of at least 7 and a SEER of at least 12. Many new heat pumps
exceed these ratings, but looking for this label is a good way to start
shopping for one.
When selecting a new heat pump, it's important that you determine the
proper size needed for your home. Bigger is not better. Oversizing causes the
heat pump to start and stop more frequently, which is less efficient and
harder on the components than letting it run for longer cycles. A properly
sized heat pump also will provide you with better comfort and humidity
control than an oversized one.
The heating and cooling capacity of heat pumps is measured in Btu per hour.
The cooling capacity is commonly expressed in "tons" of cooling capacity —
each ton equaling 12,000 Btu per hour. Correct sizing procedures involve
complex calculations, which are best performed by an experienced contractor,
who uses sizing methods accepted by the heat pump industry.
Don't employ a contractor who guesses the size of the heat
Rule-of-thumb sizing techniques are generally inaccurate, often resulting in
higher than necessary purchase and annual energy costs.
You and your contractor should discuss options that will help improve your
home's comfort and the economy of your heat pump. Regarding ducts, for
example, it's important to carefully consider their design and materials, as
well as the proper amount of space they require. Check your home's
blueprints to see if the architect and builder have planned adequate space for
ducts and fans. Heating and cooling contractors complain that they often
have to squeeze heating and cooling systems into spaces that are too small,
resulting in constricted ducts and inadequate airflow.
Except for packaged systems, you'll also need to select the proper type of
indoor coil for adequate summer moisture removal.
Installing a New Heat Pump
A heat pump's performance and energy efficiency not only depend on the
selection and planning of the equipment but also on careful installation.
Consumers and home builders alike tend to accept the lowest bid for heating
and air-conditioning work. This unfortunate choice can often leave a system
lacking 10 to 30 percent in the materials and labor necessary to optimize heat
pump performance. Rather than just accepting the lowest bid, it's best to
research the performance records of local contractors, and get involved in the
planning and decision-making about your new heat pump system.
You can avoid most of the common comfort and performance problems from
improper installation by following these guidelines:
Make your home as energy-efficient as you can with proper insulation,
energy-efficient windows and an effective air barrier. Then your contractor
can install a smaller pump system with shorter duct lengths. In an
energy-efficient home, it isn't necessary to run ducts all the way
out to exterior walls to install registers near the exterior walls.
Install the ducts inside your home's insulation and air barrier, if
possible. Research shows that this strategy is a major energy saver.
Insulate your ducts to R-8 if they must be located in an attic or
crawl space beyond the home's air barrier and insulation.
Locate the outdoor unit on the north side of your home if possible.
If not, pick a shady spot. There should be no obstructions within 10
feet of the sides with openings and the top.
Specify that the measured air leakage through your new ducts be less
than 10 percent of your system's airflow. Air leakage of 5 percent or
less is possible with careful workmanship.
Tell your contractor that you want a return register in every room.
Don't use building cavities as ducts. Building-cavity return ducts
are notoriously leaky and often cause comfort, energy and moisture
Pull on ductwork after installation to make sure it is fastened and
sealed well. (Seal duct joints with mastic.)
Poor installation, duct losses and inadequate maintenance are more of a
problem for heat pumps than for combustion furnaces. A growing body of
evidence suggests that most heat pumps have significant installation or
service problems that reduce performance and efficiency.
According to a report on research funded by Energy Star®‚ more than 50
percent of all heat pumps have significant problems with low airflow, leaky
ducts and incorrect refrigerant charge.
Increasing Airflow in Central Heat Pumps
The capacity and the efficiency of a heat pump depend upon adequate
airflow. There should be about 400 to 500 cubic feet per minute (cfm) airflow
for each ton of the heat pump's air conditioning capacity. Efficiency and
performance deteriorate if airflow is much less than 350 cfm per ton.
An ideal duct system has both a supply register and a return register for
every room. Most homes, however, have only one or two return registers for
the entire house. Air from other rooms must find its way back to these
registers to be reheated or re-cooled. Obstructions in return air are a
common air circulation problem, particularly from closed interior doors to
rooms with no return-air register.
Blockage of supply or return air ducts and registers can pressurize or
depressurize portions of the home, resulting in poor performance and
increased air leakage through the building envelope. Restrictions to airflow
have the greatest impact on the return-air side of the system, so repairs
should start with the return ducts.
Air from every supply register must have an unobstructed pathway back to
a return register. You can install louvered grilles through walls or doors, ducts
between rooms and/or additional return ducts and registers to improve air
Technicians can increase the airflow by cleaning the evaporator coil,
increasing fan speed, or enlarging the ducts — especially return ducts.
Enlarging ducts may seem drastic but in some cases, might be the only
remedy for poor comfort and high energy costs.
Measurements of heat pump performance indicate that duct leakage wastes
10 to 30 percent of the heating and/or cooling energy in a typical home. It's
one of the most severe energy problems commonly found in homes because
the leaking air is 20° to 70°F warmer than indoor air in winter and 15° to
30°F cooler in the summer.
Duct leakage may cause some minor comfort problems when ducts are
located in conditioned areas. But when leaky ducts are located in an attic or
crawl space, the energy loss is often large. Some of the worst duct leakage
occurs at joints between the air handler and the main supply and return air
Some main return ducts use plywood or fiberglass ductboard boxes.
These boxes frequently leak because their joints are exposed to the duct
system's highest air pressures. Heating and air-conditioning contractors often
use wall, floor and ceiling cavities as return ducts. These building-cavity
return ducts are often accidentally connected to an attic, crawl space, or even
the outdoors, creating serious air leakage. Fiberglass ducts and flex ducts are
often installed improperly. These ducts may also deteriorate with age, leading
to significant supply-duct leakage.
The best heating and cooling contractors have equipment to test for duct
leakage. Testing helps locate duct leaks and indicates how much duct sealing
is necessary. Do not use duct tape for sealing — its life
span is very short, often less than 6 months.
Adjusting Refrigerant Charge
Room heat pumps and packaged heat pumps are charged with refrigerant
at the factory. They are seldom incorrectly charged. Split-system heat
pumps, on the other hand, are charged in the field, which can sometimes
result in either too much or too little refrigerant.
Split-system heat pumps that have the correct refrigerant charge and airflow
usually perform very close to manufacturer's listed SEER and HSPF. Too much
or too little refrigerant, however, reduces heat pump performance and
For satisfactory performance and efficiency, a split-system heat pump should
be within a few ounces of the correct charge, specified by the manufacturer.
When the charge is correct, specific refrigerant temperatures and pressures
listed by the manufacturer will match temperatures and pressures measured
by your service technician.
Verify these measurements with the technician. If
the manufacturer's temperatures and pressures don't match the measured
ones, refrigerant should be added or withdrawn, according to standards
specified by the EPA.
Refrigeration systems should be leak-checked at
installation and during each service call. Manufacturers say that a technician
must measure airflow prior to checking refrigerant charge because the
refrigerant measurements aren't accurate unless airflow is correct.
Operating a Heat Pump
Like combustion heating systems, you control heat pumps using thermostats.
If you leave and return at regular times everyday, you'll save money by using
automatic thermostats, which minimize energy use during the times the
home is unoccupied. However, choosing an automatic thermostat's
reactivation time requires considering the duration of heat-pump operation
necessary to restore a comfortable temperature. During the heating
season, some homeowners also set their thermostats back 10°F, manually or
automatically, when they leave home or go to bed.
A two-stage thermostat controls the heating. The first stage activates the
refrigeration system. If it's too cold outside for the refrigeration system to
counteract the home's heat loss, then the thermostat's second stage activates
the electric resistance coils. An outdoor thermostat will prevent the less
efficient electric resistance heat from coming on until the outdoor
temperature falls below 40°F. An outdoor thermostat also will prevent
auxiliary heat from activating when an automatic thermostat is warming
the house after a set-back period. Use setback thermostats that are only for
A defrost control tells the reversing valve when to send hot refrigerant
outdoors to thaw the outdoor coil during the winter. During the
2-to-10-minute defrost cycle, auxiliary heat takes over, reducing the heat
pump's overall efficiency up to 10 percent.
The two most common types of defrost controls are time-temperature and
demand-defrost. Time-temperature defrost controls activate defrost at
regular time intervals for set time periods, whether there is ice on the
outdoor coil or not.
A demand-defrost control senses coil temperature or airflow through the coil
and only activates defrost if it detects the presence of ice. Obviously,
choosing a heat pump with demand-defrost will pay a significant efficiency
For greater efficiency, don't locate a thermostat near a heat source or cold
draft because they can cause a heat pump to operate erratically. This
includes shading thermostats from direct sunlight. Also, do not turn the
thermostat beyond the desired temperature. It will not make the heat pump
heat or cool your home any faster. It will only waste energy. Residents who
duel one another over the thermostat settings, moving it up and down to
suit their different comfort levels, cause heat pumps to operate erratically and
Maintaining and Servicing
Heat pump performance will deteriorate without regular maintenance and
service. The difference between the energy consumption of a well-maintained
heat pump and a severely neglected one ranges from 10 to 25 percent.
Either the homeowner or service technician can perform the following routine
Clean or replace filters regularly (every 2 to 6 months, depending on
operating time and amount of dust in the environment)
Clean outdoor coils as often as necessary (when dirt is visible on
the outside of the coil)
Remove plant life and debris from around the outdoor unit
Clean evaporator coil and condensate pan every 2 to 4 years
Clean the blower's fan blades
Clean supply and return registers and straighten their fins
You should have a professional technician service your heat pump at least
every year. The technician can:
Inspect ducts, filters, blower and indoor coil for dirt and other
Diagnose and seal duct leakage
Verify adequate airflow by measurement
Verify correct refrigerant charge by measurement
Check for refrigerant leaks
Inspect electric terminals and if necessary, clean and tighten
connections and apply nonconductive coating
Lubricate motors and inspect belts for tightness and wear
Verify correct electric control, making sure that heating is
locked out when the thermostat calls for cooling and vice versa.
Verify correct thermostat operation
The following are sources of additional information on heat pumps. This
list is not exhaustive, nor does the mention of any resource constitute a
recommendation or endorsement.
Did you know the state has 909,346 electricity consumers who are supplied
by 162 different utilities? That's just one information nugget buried
in a newly created database at the Energy Office's growing web-based Energy
The series provides the total number of consumers in each sector and totals
for the state. The number and type of consumers for each utility is listed
as well as the type of organization there are five types for each
utility. A link to each electric utility is also provided, if available.
Overall, 81 percent of Nebraska's customers are residential, 13 percent
are utility that sells both gas and electric to its customers.
Under the statute that created the Energy Office, the agency is required
to maintain a database on energy consumption and production for use by
consumers and others.
University of Nebraska at Omaha Gets Federal Energy Technology Grant
In September, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the University
of Nebraska at Omaha was one of 21 research projects selected to
advance energy efficiency and fossil energy technologies.
The UNO project will design, implement and validate a prototype monitor
that tracks occupancy and control indoor environment services in buildings.
Emphasis of the research is on:
evaluating feasibility, performance and economics associated
with occupancy detection and indoor environment control based on
multiple distributed occupancy detectors;
developing new algorithms based on network analysis; and
developing a prototype-control system based on the first two phases.
The prototype will be field-tested in a private office, an open-plan
office and a classroom. The grant from the U.S. Department of Energy totaled
$321,440. The University will provide $107,340 in matching funds.
According to the National Association of Home Builders and the Census
Bureau, houses in America are getting ever larger. In the past 100
years, typical homes have grown from 800 square feet to more than
2,300 in 2002, a near quadrupling.
In 1900, a standard home measured just 40 feet x 20 feet, and families were
a lot larger then. Over the next five decades, the typical home only increased
to 983 square feet. Just 20 years later, typical homes added 500 square
feet more. The next 20 years in 1990 yet another 500 square
feet had been added. A typical home in 1990 now totaled nearly 2,100 square
I will be constructing a storage unit and am considering solar energy
as the source of electricity. What are the pros and cons of using
renewable energy in this application? Are there incentives for installing
The research that I've read indicates that wind energy has about half
the installation costs of solar. Of the two, wind and solar are about
even with regard to reliability; the wind blows only some of the time,
and the sun shines only some of the time. On the other hand, solar is
less maintenance intensive. In either case, you may want to consider a
battery backup system for those times when the sun is not shining, or
the wind is not blowing.
With regard to maintenance, while wind turbines are becoming more and
more common, and the technology has improved over the years, wind turbines
have moving parts, and any machine with moving parts will require maintenance.
Just what that maintenance would be, and how often it would occur, I do
not know. I would suggest contacting a wind turbine representative for
With regard to incentives, please contact Mr. Michael Crisco, who is working
with the federal government's Million Solar Roofs program. Mr. Crisco
will probably best know of any incentive programs that are available.
Mr. Crisco's phone number is 402-435-0483. Mr. Crisco will probably
be able to help you with contacting a solar panel representative in your
The staff at the Energy Office respond to many inquiries on a variety
of topics from Nebraskans. From time to time, the Quarterly will share
some questions and the answers with readers.
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.