December MPower: Monthly Power News from CEP

6 years ago | Dec 16, 2013
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Supporting statewide clean energy policy continues to be an important piece of our work.  In January of 2013, it became readily apparent that the defense of the RPS would require an "all hands on deck” approach! CEP’s successful appeal to the Blue Green Alliance and the Energy Foundation resulted in generous funding to organize and support the Kansans for Clean Energy Coalition.

Coalition partners include The Climate + Energy Project, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, Kansas Natural Resources Council, Kansas Rural Center, and the Kansas Sierra Club. The group represents thousands of members who support renewable energy.

Focusing on job creation, rural prosperity, and a wise use of Kansas’ natural resources, Kansans for Clean Energy quickly mobilized supporters across the state in a successful defense of the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standards from an attempted repeal.  
Highlighting the economic benefits of the Kansas wind economy, we hosted a series of energy roundtables across the state in partnership with the Wind Coalition, Kansas Energy Information Network, and energy experts Polsinelli/Shughart.

In an enormous show of support for renewable energy, over fifty supporters met with thirty Kansas legislators (30-R, 2-D) for a CEP coordinated luncheon at the Capitol to discuss wind energy.

Wind Works for Kansas

In September, CEP coordinated the Wind Works for Kansas campaign at the Kansas State Fair in partnership with Kansans for Clean Energy, The Wind Coalition, and Kansans for Wind Energy. Volunteers from most of the partner organizations spent 10 days talking to Kansans about the positive benefits wind energy brings to the state.

Kansans signed postcards of support and added their pictures to the "Faces of Wind Energy” exhibit, which will be displayed at the capitol next year. CEP took the show on the road and continued to collect postcards and pictures at the Mother Earth News Fair, Concert for the Climate, Kansas Energy Conference, and the Kansas Rural Center Conference.

Heartland Alliance for Regional Transmission

In 2013, CEP continued to coordinate the Heartland Alliance for Regional Transmission. HART members support a clean energy future through increased renewables, better transmission lines, improved energy efficiency policies, and demand response opportunities.

CEP developed HART Fact Sheets for partners to disseminate through peer networks. HART members attended Southwest Power Pool meetings to better understand the energy generation decision-making process and to develop relationships with the regulators and utility decision makers. CEP hosted regular calls and webinars to strengthen this diverse coalition. HART stakeholders delivered petitions supporting extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and were critical in the successful defense of the RPS serving as a testimony to CEP’s innovative approach to find common ground.
Water + Energy Progress

Every drop of water saved in the United States saves energy. Agriculture accounts for approximately 80 percent of consumptive use of ground and surface water in the United States, according to the US Department of Agriculture. CEP created the Water + Energy Progress Awards to bring attention to water and energy in Kansas.  This program recognizes successful innovators and strengthens networks across the state.
A diverse steering committee collaboratively identified what constitutes an innovative practice. In early 2014 nine exemplary farmers will receive the Water + Energy Progress Awards for leading the way in water and energy usage.  We believe sharing their successes via a new website with videos, blogs, and presentations will encourage further innovation and create a new conversation about how we’re using water and energy on our farms and ranches.  We’re excited to recognize these farmers and ranchers as responsible stewards and leaders in water conservation and energy efficiency.

Take Charge Challenge

In 2013, CEP worked with a development company to create a Take Charge Challenge Package as a way to engage and empower businesses, organizations, and communities to make a lasting change in the way they use and understand energy.  

Based on the nationally recognized Take Charge Challenge, we’ve added a Results Model, four elements that create the framework for participants to utilize all of the available information, resources, and tools.

The package contains a customized challenge website able to capture real-time results, an implementation guide to help leadership teams plan and coordinate a successful challenge as well as a participant guide to help competitors get started.  The package is full of resources for both the leadership teams and participants.

Building Relationships

One of the questions we are often asked is "how do you get so much done with so few people?” Well, here’s the secret:  we focus on building relationships.  There is so much to do that no organization can cover it all. As we are implementing new programs, we continuously focus on strengthening networks, making connections, and bridging divides.  

These relationships continue to be fundamental as we work to build a culture of energy literacy across the region. Our reputation as a group that works with good people regardless of party affiliation enables us to immediately get to work on new programs.  This approach is ultimately what makes CEP work so well.  We find common ground, work together, and get things done.  

We appreciate your support as we focus on finding practical solutions to a clean energy future.


2013 was a year of changes for CEP including new staff, a new office, new programs, new board members, and a changing financial landscape.

We welcomed Program Director, Cassi Reimer, and two new Board Members, Kimberly Gencur Svaty and Mary Treaster. We rolled out our newest program Water + Energy Progress and moved into an office at 128 North Main St, Suite C, in Hutchinson.
We’ve accomplished a lot in the past year including:
  • successfully defending the state’s renewable portfolio standard,
  • adding new members and coordinating the Heartland Alliance for Regional Transmission,
  • reducing barriers for clean energy at the Southwest Power Pool,
  • creating a new version of the nationally recognized Take Charge Challenge which adds a water savings component, and
  • launching a new program to recognize innovators in water and energy savings on farms and ranches.
As you read through our "Year in Review,” I hope you will take a minute to consider supporting our work with an end of the year tax-deductible gift.  We don’t usually ask for financial support from individual donors. Nevertheless, diversifying our funding is a part of the changing financial landscape.

From the beginning, CEP has received the majority of our funding from private foundations from across the country, and we are deeply grateful for their support.  We have had a few individual donors over the years (thank you) and an occasional Department of Energy grant, but by and large, foundations have funded the vast majority of our program work. They rarely, however, fund daily operations or any kind of staff or board development.

In order to reach our goal of financial stability, we need to diversify our funding. That is where supporters like you come in.  If you like the work we are doing and appreciate our approach, please send your tax-deductible gift to Climate + Energy Project, P.O. Box 1858, Hutchinson, KS 67504-1858 or donate online at
While your money is important to our future viability, we also want to hear your thoughts about our work as well. Please take a minute to complete a short survey, which will help guide, our work in 2014.

Wishing you a warm and happy holiday season,
Dorothy Barnett, Executive Director


When we put out a call for interns to help with the Water + Energy Progress initiative, we hit the jackpot with Chavis Lickvar-Armstrong.  Chavis brings a broad understanding of environmental studies with a focus on ecology and policy.  

A 2007 graduate of the University of Kansas Environmental Studies Program, Chavis is currently a postbaccalaureate Biology (BS) student at Washburn University. During her time at KU, she took great interest in field ecology and waste management practices and was fortunate to participate in a study abroad program that looked at waste management practices in Freiburg, Germany.  

Chavis believes her love for science fuels a passion for policy. She explains, "I understand that what is best for one is not always the most desirable for another and that simple truth can be seen from a biological perspective as well as a social and cultural perspective.”

After graduation, Chavis worked with children planning science and social studies based after-school activities, spent summers as a camp counselor and volunteered at Operation Wildlife until she was offered the opportunity to work with animals full-time at a veterinary ophthalmologist clinic.  

In 2012, she returned to school to pursue a BS in Biology with an anticipated graduation in 2015.  Her research focus has been microbiology and soil health, specifically looking at microbial metabolism and the role it plays in the biodegradation of environmental pollutants.

Before coming to CEP, Chavis worked as an intern at the Kansas Health Institute with Barbara LaClair, M.H.A.  With agricultural legislation changing in Kansas, LaClair directed Chavis to research the impacts of agricultural practices on public health and present her findings the analysts at KHI.  Chavis recalls, "Having the chance to build bridges between issues like local, national and international legislation dictating commodity crop pricing, the rights and occupational health of Ag producers, poverty and food scarcity, and the effects of different scales of food production was thrilling to a "big picture” thinker like me.  It was also what pushed me to focus my studies on agricultural sciences.”

Chavis plans to continue conducting individual research geared towards soil ecology and the important role that microbes play in maintaining healthy agricultural soils with the goal of eventually combining her science and policy background to influence policy on the state and national level.  

A skilled writer and researcher, Chavis is a great asset to the Water + Energy Progress initiative.  Her recent blog on foraging grasses and carbon sequestration, illustrates the unique perspective and skill set she brings.  She seems pretty excited to be a part of this work, too, "I’ve only been at it for a few weeks now and I have already learned so much! I truly believe that this experience will not only facilitate the research that I do in the future, but will also fuel my fondness of soil, agriculture, biology, the people of Kansas, and the Earth as a whole. It feels good to be on this path.”
We expect great things from Chavis!


Dale Strickler started the new millennium with a big idea. "I wanted to improve my soil. I wanted to improve the wildlife, reduce the amount of fossil fuel. I wanted more of a regenerative type of enterprise.”

On January 1, 2000, he took ownership of 136 acres in Cloud County and began the long process of transforming a furrow irrigated corn and soybean farm into a subsurface drip irrigated intensive pasture farm.  While subsurface drip irrigation is very water efficient, reduces runoff and evaporation, and improves flexibility in plantings, it is also an extremely energy efficient practice.

Integrating perennial grasses and cover crops into an intensive pasturing system improves water infiltration, water quality, and soil health. While perennials and cover crops help to improve the soil and reduce the needs for chemical inputs and, therefore, reduce fuel expenses, Dale explains that the biggest energy reduction is not feeding hay by sequencing grazing.

Carbon sequestration shows up a lot in this case study. No-till is a well-known means of carbon sequestration, but the deep root system of Eastern Gamagrass works just as well. Eastern Gamagrass thrives in hot weather, can survive through drought, and apparently sequesters even more carbon as the temperatures increase. Even the small players on Dale’s farm work in unique ways. Dung Beetles not only clean up manure piles, they burrow deep into the soil to bury it which also provides a means of carbon sequestration.

Using SDI to maintain intensive perennial and annual crops and managing pastures with sequenced grazing saves water and energy and presents a unique path for the future.

January Preview: Darrin Unruh

Balancing annuals with perennials and incorporating livestock into no-till systems seem to be great ways to reduce energy usage and conserve water, as we see again in the January case study with Darrin Unruh.

Darrin Unruh’s 480 acre farm near Pretty Prairie has what he calls the "unfair advantage” of being located in the Cheney Watershed. Through collaboration with the watershed, Darrin has worked to distribute grazing, increase diversity, and focus on water quality and soil health. Using solar watering pumps and no-till, Darrin explains, "If we concentrate on soil structure and soil health, that will conserve water and make it more productive. It’s a win win situation.”

With the help of Lisa French at the Cheney Lake WRAPS (Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy), Unruh implemented a plan to create reliable water sources for rotational grazing practices. Focusing on the soil, Unruh successfully utilizes rotational grazing on both native pasture and crop ground. As we’ve seen in several WEP case studies, no-till with cover crops yields many positive benefits for water and energy conservation. Unruh has improved both the water quality and soil health on his property which saves water, improves water quality, and reduces energy-intensive chemical applications.

One of the biggest setbacks to incorporating livestock into farming operations is having a reliable water source. Often, running power lines can be cost prohibitive, and many producers look to solar energy as an attractive alternative both economically and environmentally. Darrin uses solar panels to charge batteries running a 24V DC motor that pumps compressed air to a water pump. It has worked well.  He explains, "with the solar batteries, on a good sunny day, I can get over 2,000 gallons a day.”  
A true model of innovation and collaboration, Darrin Unruh will be featured in the January Water + Energy Progress case study.  Don’t miss it!


On Tuesday and Wednesday, November 12th and 13th, Heartland Alliance for Regional Transmission had a very successful Annual Meeting in Lincoln, NE.

Sixteen Stakeholders gathered for dinner on Tuesday evening to connect, network, and share valuable information. Remarks from each person were given to the group highlighting why he or she found value in HART. Many found HART helpful in bringing back information to their board of directors and to the state organizations they works with.
Twenty-three people, representing five states including KS, NE, OK, MO, and NM, attended Wednesday morning’s meeting. Guests from Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s office, Center for Rural Affairs, and Saline County Wind Association joined us to hear presentations from four distinguished presenters.

John Feehery, from Red State Renewable Alliance based in Washington, D.C., joined us via webinar to talk about the success of renewable energy in traditionally conservative areas of the country.

Will Ruder from Senator Moran’s office also joined us via webinar from Washington DC to talk about the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act.  David Weiskopf from Natural Resources Defense Counsel spoke on the EPA regulating carbon based on section 111d of the Clean Air Act. Over lunch, Jon Sunneberg from Nebraska Public Power District educated everyone on the new Integrated Market in SPP.


Tis the season for conferences! Program Director Rachel Myslivy and her work on Water + Energy Progress brought CEP to the Kansas Rural Center Conference. As exhibitors, we were able to share information about CEP and WEP with all attendees. Rachel Myslivy presented the Water + Energy award winners over lunch, recognizing those award winners who were present, and encouraging attendees to nominate a farmer or rancher saving water and energy for the 2014 awards.

This year’s conference theme was "Farming as if People Matter: How to Feed Ourselves, Build New Farms and Adapt to a Changing World.” Farmers, ranchers, community food organizers, conservation and wildlife enthusiasts, landowners and others interested in farming practices and our local food system all gathered  in Newton, Kansas on Saturday, November 2nd.

The conference featured keynote speaker Wes Jackson, founder and President of the Land Institute, Salina.  Jackson and the Land Institute’s primary work has been to develop a perennial polyculture using nature as model.

The conference offered 14 workshop sessions that covered topics including family farm transitions; farming with limited access to land, credit and capital; pricing of farm products for local markets; encouraging pollinators; Farm to School; emerging policy issues in Kansas; building soil health; crop insurance for specialty crops and organic; establishing community gardens and more.

The Kansas Rural Center is a non-profit organization that since 1979 has promoted the long-term health of the land and its people through research, education and advocacy that advances economically viable, ecologically sound, and socially just food and farming systems.


As our season of conferences continued, CEP traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, to attend the sixth annual Nebraska Wind Conference. CEP hosted the HART annual meeting prior to the conference. HART stakeholders joined members from state agencies, Nebraska utilities, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, farm and ranch organizations, and private entities to learn about the state’s wind resources.

390 people gathered for the two and a half day conference on November 13th. This year’s conference theme was "Harvesting Nebraska’s Potential.” Nebraska has the 3rd best wind resource out of all 50 states, but ranks 23rd in MW produced with 3.7% of its electricity from wind which is below the national average. Nebraska is utilizing 1% of its wind energy potential. Needless to say, Nebraska has the wind potential; now it’s time to harvest it.

During a session on Nebraska’s Competitive Position for Wind for Export, Derek Sunderman from TradeWind Inc said "state policy is the number one driver for wind development.” Although Nebraska doesn’t have a Renewable Portfolio Standard, legislation recently passed LB104 which provides tax incentives for renewable energy projects under the Nebraska Advantage Act. Michael Degan from Husch Blackwell said that "Nebraska has matched Kansas in state policy with LB104.”

Omaha Public Power District announced their plans to develop over 600 MW of wind energy in Nebraska in 2013, compared to Kansas’ plan not to develop any wind energy in 2013 and Oklahoma’s plans to develop 1,500 MW in 2013. Although Nebraska ranks 23rd in MW produced, I don’t think they will remain at that ranking too much longer if they keep capitalizing on policy and plans to harvest their wind potential.

Keep your eye on what Nebraska is doing with renewables in the heartland, and attended the 2014 Nebraska Wind Conference on October 29-31 in Omaha.