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August 13, 2013

Nebraska Solar Tour Aims to Steer Energy Priorities Toward a Cleaner Future

Solar tour 1

Lincoln is at a fork in the road when it comes to energy, and many are hoping the city chooses the right path.

Faced with a future of clean-energy investment or more-of-the-same coal burning from their utility, about 60 people from Nebraska's capital participated in a "solar tour" this past weekend. The coalition-led event was designed to urge Lincoln Electric System (LES) to adopt a "CLEAN" contract that would help boost solar for homeowners, landlords, schools, businesses, and churches. 

LES-Energy-Sources-2012LES is the most coal dependent public power utility in the state, with more than 70 percent of its energy sources coming from dirty coal transported in from Wyoming. The solar tour's message presented a better alternative: Clean energy invests locally and generates jobs. 

The tour came ahead of LES's annual budgeting process that will consider the utility's future energy portfolio. Clean-energy supporters are calling for a CLEAN contract program that would incentivize "going solar" in order to generate clean energy locally that can be bought back by LES and used to power the entire Lincoln community. The idea has backing from a broad coalition, including the mayor's office.

"CLEAN -- Clean Local Energy Accessible Now -- contract programs allow energy project owners to sell power to utilities at a predetermined, fixed price for a long period of time, cutting down on uncertainty, reducing market risk and lowering costs of installing solar, wind or bio-gas systems," reported the Lincoln Journal Star.

The tour started at the Jayne Snyder Trails Center, one of three local government buildings that have gone solar. The panels were made possible by federal stimulus funding designated for clean energy. The rest of the tour included stops at the University of Nebraska East Campus, Hyde Memorial Observatory, and a Lincoln police building. Similar successful tours have taken place in Los Angeles, Long Island, and Gainesville, Florida, a notable leader in solar production per capita.

"Increasing local clean energy can help LES reduce dependence on outdated coal plants across the state of Nebraska. Rather than sending hundreds of millions of Lincoln's energy dollars to Wyoming for coal and costly upgrades at outdated coal plants, our public power leaders should look to local energy solutions to help reduce our economic and environmental risks," said Graham Christensen, a clean energy consultant working for the Sierra Club in Lincoln.

The successful tour included the home of Mary Pipher, who said, "My husband and I had solar panels installed for many reasons, but one of them was to be part of the change we want to see in the world."

Check out this infographic and learn more at PowerLincolnLocally.com.

0460 Power Lincoln Locally Infographic 02_web
- Brian Foley

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