LINCOLN - Robert Byrnes wants to put renewable energy into the hands of common folks.
Byrnes drove to Lincoln on Thursday from his farm near Oakland, Neb., in a 1986 Ford Escort that was powered by biodiesel fuel he makes from oil seeds he grows and from ethanol he brews.
Byrnes and other enthusiasts of renewable energy announced at the State Capitol that a new grass-roots association has been formed to help people use renewable energy on the farm and at home.
The Nebraska Renewable Energy Association was formed to provide information and education on all sources of potential renewable energy.
Byrnes said the nonprofit association will serve as a clearinghouse for information to help individuals use renewable energy daily. Nebraska is a leader in ethanol production but lags in some other forms of renewable energy, he said.
Byrnes is the group's first president. Ed George, an agronomist and a former University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension educator, is vice president.
Other board members are Dave Tobias, a Pilger, Neb., farmer; Lori Stout, a Lincoln attorney; Loren Isom, a technical coordinator at UNL's Industrial Ag Products Center; and Deborah Ward of Craig, Neb., whose career as a paralegal has included work with utilities, regulatory agencies and government.
Pat Ptacek, executive director of the Nebraska Grain and Feed Association, will be administrative manager of the new organization.
At Thursday's press conference, Byrnes read a letter of support from Gov. Dave Heineman.
Byrnes, a chemical engineer who farms and consults on energy projects, began more than two years ago to become self-sufficient in energy use. He created a wind turbine and a hand-started, ethanol-powered generator before removing his farm operation from the public power grid.
He now uses his homemade biodiesel processor to make fuel for his pickup and car at a cost of about 50 cents a gallon. Some of the biodiesel he makes is then used to power the processor.
The state needs an association to help people take advantage of renewable energy opportunities and to gradually reduce the amount of oil needed from the Middle East, Byrnes said.
"This organization is focused toward the average Nebraska citizen," he said. Annual membership dues are $25 for individuals and $50 for businesses.
The group's Web page is
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