We live on small farm near the Colorado border in western Nebraska. Right across the border is a large wind farm. Are there programs or opportunities that allow individuals to test new designs for solar panel technologies? Also, is there funding available for small scale wind turbines?

The only known grant opportunities for these types of projects are the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development efficiency and renewable energy grants. These grants provide 25 percent of funding for an eligible project. Either wind or solar would most likely need to be funded under the renewable energy section of these grants. You need to be aware that because of the state’s low electric rates, some renewable technologies are currently not very cost effective, due to the high cost of installation compared to the payback. There are also zero-interest loans available from USDA Rural Development. For more information, contacts in Nebraska for USDA grants are:

wind turbine on farm U.S. Department of Agriculture
Federal Building, Room 308
100 Centennial Mall North
Lincoln, NE 68508
Web site: www.rurdev.usda.gov/ne

Karissa Berks
USDA Business Programs Director
Direct Phone: 402-437-5568
Fax: 402-437-5408
Email: karissa.berks@ne.usda.gov

Deb Yocum
USDA Business & Cooperative Specialist
Direct Phone: 402-437-5554
Fax: 402-437-5408
Email: debra.yocum@ne.usda.gov

Lincoln-Jan Knobel 402-423-9683
Columbus-Dan Laska 402-564-0506
Ainsworth-Mary Gambill 402-387-2242
Scottsbluff-Tim Brooks 308-632-2195
North Platte-Roberta Mues 308-534-2360
Kearney-Karissa Berks 308-237-3118

Permits for wind towers are handled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Form 7460, “Obstruction to Air Spaces”
Department of Aeronautics
PO Box 82088
solar roof Lincoln, NE 68501

Permits for connecting to the electric grid by the Power Review Board
Tim Texel
Power Review Board
PO Box 94713
Lincoln, NE 68509

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Contact:
Kenneth E. Noonan 402-437-4106
NPPD Wind Expert – Dave Rich 402-563-5477

There may be other federal grant opportunities in the future. Information about financial opportunities from the federal government is available at www.grants.gov. Sign up for email notification is available at the web site.

Today, most grants for renewable energy are for research and development and very few are for project installations. Years ago, there were grants for measuring wind resources in the states. Most photovoltaic grants today are for the development of next generation solar cells, since current technology converts only 15- 20 percent of the power available. Scientists hope to obtain an efficiency in solar cells near 70 percent, so there is much room for improvement in this area.

You may also wish to check grant listings on the Nebraska Department of Economic Develoment’s web site.

If you can find an economical system, it might be eligible for a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan, which are offered by participating Nebraska lenders. For these type of loans, the cost of the total project would need to show a ten year payback. You need to consider all materials and installation costs, and compare that to the actual payback you would receive, interest not included. You can download the forms for this type of loan from the Energy office web site. The forms you would need would be Steps to Obtain a Low Interest Loan Using an Energy Saving Improvement Analysis, Form 32 – Energy Saving Improvement Analysis, and Form 33 – Energy Billing History. These forms comprise a technical analysis. You will need to substantiate any energy saving claims using wind and solar data from independently recognized third party sources, such as the American Wind Energy Association, or the United States Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and manufacturers’ technical data. A word of caution: To date, analyses such as these have not shown these types of projects to be cost effective. But costs on these types of projects are declining, and as costs decline for wind and solar systems, they will become eligible for a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan.

I need to replace my roof, and am not sure what type of roofing material qualifies for a loan rebates? energy star roofing Energy Office staff is unaware of any rebates for roofing. However, Dollar and Energy Saving Loans finance roofing projects, but only if an additional R-30 of insulation is added to the existing attic insulation. If the current insulation is damaged, and all of the insulation is being replaced, then a total of R-49 must be added. Roof repair or replacement can be financed with a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan, but only if the existing roof is leaking and the insulation is added as outlined.

Some roofing products are ENERGY STAR®rated. ENERGY STAR® roofing products must have a reflectance of 0.65 or greater for lesser sloped roofs, and a reflectance of 0.25 or greater for steep roofs. The Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® web site maintains a list of products that meet ENERGY STAR® standards.
As of December 31, 2007: 24,113 loans for $194.75 million
Questions and Answers...
5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans
The Nebraska Energy Quarterly features questions asked about 5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans.
Loan forms may be obtained from participating lenders, the Nebraska Energy Office, or the agency's web site by clicking on the “Loan Forms” button above.
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