2010 | Archives
Solar and Alternative Fuels Set to Energize State Economy
Imagine Nebraska's rooftops covered in solar panels. Cars that
fill up at natural gas stations. Homes that lose minimal energy
during even the harshest winters.
Michael Shonka, Solar Energy instructor at MCC, thinks it's
possible. "Nebraska is one of the top ten states in the nation for
solar and wind energy potential," he said. "We've got all of the
natural resources we need to get on board with renewable and
A slew of new programs stand to make MCC a leader in renewable
energy and energy efficiency training. Since summer 2009, MCC has
received sustainability-related grants totaling more than $1.5
million. The highly trained workforce MCC produces will spur
economic growth in renewable and alternative energy technologies
in Nebraska—creating jobs, lowering energy costs and
reducing our environmental impact.
The Power of the Sun
Eight gleaming solar heat collectors stand next door to the Fort
Omaha Campus greenhouse, reducing heating costs through radiant
tubing all winter long. Installed in November, these solar
collectors form a learning laboratory that is part of a $318,000
grant from the Nebraska Energy Office to grow new courses,
curriculum and training labs in sustainable energy.
Solar technology is a perfect fit for Nebraska—the state boasts
an average of 300 sunny days per year, according to the Natural
Resources Defense Council. That represents a huge opportunity for
the state to capture energy with no fuel costs, said Daniel Lawse,
Coordinator of Sustainable Practices at MCC. Solar saves
money—utilizing solar heat collectors in a home or business can
reduce costs of hot water heating by 50 to 80 percent and reduce
space heating costs by 30 to 50 percent, Shonka said. Next year,
solar classes will take place in a new solar training lab at the
South Omaha Campus, slated for completion in 2011. A second
portable solar training lab will provide additional hands-on
training at multiple MCC locations.
Natural Gas-Powered Vehicles
A recent addition to the MCC vehicle fleet now runs solely on
natural gas, the cleanest burning alternative transportation fuel
available today. Students converted the Chevrolet Express
commercial van from a gasoline-powered vehicle to a clean-fuel
compressed natural gas vehicle, the result of a $33 million
regional partnership to boost the number of natural gas vehicles
on the road and build public Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling
stations in Nebraska and the Midwest.
The van is part of MCC's collegewide goal of reducing
transportation emissions. Exhaust emissions from a typical NGV
(Natural Gas Vehicle) are much lower than those from
gasoline-powered vehicles. NGVs produce up to 20-30 percent fewer
greenhouse gas emissions than diesel and gasoline and cost half as
"MCC takes a comprehensive approach to sustainable practices on
campus, in the classroom and in the community," Lawse said. "We
are committed to reducing our negative impact on the environment,
and the natural gas-powered van is another way we are reducing our
emissions by seeking and implementing lower-cost, cleaner
The Green and Clean
MCC takes a comprehensive approach to
sustainable practices on campus, in the classroom and
in the community.
Noncredit classes cover topics such as
container vegetable gardening, home weatherizing or
Credit classes explore solar, biofuels and
commercial building energy efficiency.
Students in the MCC Cares project implement
energy efficiency measures in low-income homes,
reducing energy costs.