Tidbits from Nebraska and Beyond...
Nebraska Home Builder Garners Award
In January 2006, a Nebraska home builder received an honorable mention in the Cold Climate Affordable housing category of the EnergyValue Housing Award competition.
Ken Inness, President of Skyline Homes and a certified Nebraska Green Builder, received an honorable mention for construction of an affordable home in southwest Lincoln, made possible through the U.S. Department of Energy Building America program.
This home will demonstrates that quality, energy efficient, environmentally friendly and affordable housing can be built with little or no extra initial construction costs and return a lifetime of savings for the new owners.
The one-story home has a full basement with attached garage. The construction plans detail the features that make this energy efficient home different. The house was also used for on-site training and as a laboratory.
The EnergyValue Housing Award in the nation’s pre-eminent energy efficiency award honoring builders who voluntarily incorporate energy efficiency into all aspects of new home construction. The ExtraValue Housing awards are primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program.
Energy Costs Rank #4 for Nebraska Businesses
Nebraska businesses listed energy prices as their fourth priority for cost reduction in the most recent “Cost of Doing Business in Nebraska” survey by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Bureau of Business Research.
Total survey results from all respondents rated energy prices fourth, at 43 percent. Health care benefits costs ranked first with 62 percent. For businesses with 20 or more employees, energy costs ranked fifth, garnering 33 percent of the votes. Health care benefit costs topped the list with 86 percent.
Probing the energy price issue deeper, the survey asked businesses which areas were of greatest concern: Transportation, building, manufacturing/processing or technology/electronics? Nearly half the respondents selected transportation costs, but nearly 40 percent listed energy-related building costs as being the greatest concern.
About 250 businesses replied to the survey, which listed 19 cost factors and respondents were asked to select their top five priorities for reducing the cost of doing business in Nebraska. The survey was conducted in July and August 2005, and published in the September issue of Business in Nebraska, the quarterly publication of the Bureau.
Biomass To Electricity Tests Scheduled in Eastern Iowa
A 450-ton mountain of cubed biomass — a symbol of transition as this eastern Iowa city enters a new age of electricity — may hold a town’s energy future according to a December 15, 2005 article in the Waterloo Iowa Courier. The cell phone-sized cubes — comprised of corn stalks, switchgrass and oat hulls — are stored in a building and will be burned next month to determine if biomass can partially replace coal as a source for Cedar Falls' power.
If successful, Cedar Falls Utilities plans to convert one of its two coal-fired generators into a biomass facility, providing nearly a quarter of the town's electricity. Cedar Falls Utilities cubed the biomass last week in preparation for the burning. But the initial effort did not go as planned: on the first attempt, the switchgrass crumbled and turned into dust. Workers discovered weathered switchgrass was needed that had been in the field for a full season.
If the tests are successful, the utility will need 100,000 tons of biomass annually for fuel. Officials have proposed creating an extensive network of farmers and co-ops to establish a supply — a process that could take years.
Oat hulls could be a more realistic source. They're a byproduct of Quaker Oats' cereal production in Cedar Rapids and could be readily available, said Tom Risse, a utility electrical engineer. He said that Quaker Oats already produces the 100,000 tons needed. All three of the biomass options produce which is about the same energy, which is about 75 to 80 percent of coal's energy.
Nebraska Public Power District Joins Hydrogen Utility Group
The board of directors of the state’s largest electric utility agreed to join the Hydrogen Utility Group which shares ideas on producing and using hydrogen, according to a December 11, 2005 article in the Columbus Telegram reporting on board actions.
The utility wants to explore generation and revenue options that might be associated with the production of an environmentally friendly fuel such as hydrogen. According to NPPD staff, Cooper Nuclear Station in Brownville is already using hydrogen to protect the nuclear reactor vessel and produces its own supply of hydrogen from water.
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