Staff spotlight: Nelsen knows renewable energy

Lu Nelsen is a believer in the power of conversation. Some days, he even depends on conversations to get his job done.

For the last five years, he has helped track renewable energy and infrastructure development across the Midwest and Great Plains while working as a policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs.

“I talk to a lot of people who see the potential of renewable energy development,” Lu said. “That can be everything from generating new income, to saving them money on their electric bill, or benefiting the environment.”

He also utilizes his background in campaign organizing, and says the simple act of listening to people is incredibly important in both kinds of work. Lu is very serious about his role of locating issues related to new renewable energy projects.

“It's essential that, as more development occurs, we have conversations about the concerns, and use the information from these discussions to seek out new and better practices that either addresses or avoids them,” he said. “I’m one of the staff who has the opportunity to meet with rural people, and that’s a real privilege to have those conversations with them.”

One of Lu’s favorite kinds of conversations is phone calls from people who want to know more about installing solar on their home or land.

“Walking people through the options and connecting them to resources that can get them one step closer to accessing clean and renewable energy is an experience that makes me feel great,” he said.

Lu also advocates for policy that supports the adoption of more renewable energy. He hopes to help the shift from fossil-fuel generation to cleaner renewable energy that uses local natural resources to generate power. Since he began working with the Center, Lu has been immersed in clean energy development, and has written many renewable energy reports.

“Engaging people in productive conversation and learning their perspectives on how to make new projects beneficial to local communities lets me gain valuable insight with each person or place I help,” he said. “I truly enjoy assisting individuals and communities in finding a way to be a part of a growing industry that brings many benefits to rural communities.”

Lu said with those benefits come new economic opportunities, which help build strong and vibrant rural communities. He hopes they create pathways for young people to return to rural areas.

A native of Norfolk, Nebraska, Lu returns to his hometown to judge high school speech and debate competitions. He enjoys seeing students grow into strong communicators with an ability to debate important issues.

“I grew up in a small town; I went to college in a small town; and I still live in a small town,” he said. “Rural America is in my blood, and I’m proud to call it home, and to be able to work toward bettering it with each new day.”

Lu can be reached at the Center’s home office in Lyons at 402.687.2100 ext. 1022 or