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Harnessing the Power of Alternative Energy

Winter 2010 | Archives

Solar and Alternative Fuels Set to Energize State Economy

Solar panels 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 alternative energy."

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.

Natural Gas Vehicle 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 much.

"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 solutions."

The Green and Clean Economy



MCC takes a comprehensive approach to sustainable practices on campus, in the classroom and in the community.

Opportunities include:

Green Living: Noncredit classes cover topics such as container vegetable gardening, home weatherizing or water-conscious landscaping.

Training: Credit classes explore solar, biofuels and commercial building energy efficiency.

Service: Students in the MCC Cares project implement energy efficiency measures in low-income homes, reducing energy costs.

 
 
 
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