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Local Government Energy Action Series
The Local Government Energy Action series tells the stories of municipalities, counties, and schools and the results of their energy-saving efforts.

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Fond du Lac clean energy tour
Brian Bluhm
Wed, 09/20/2017 - 4:02pm
On August 9, 2017 NE CERT and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa co-hosted a clean energy tour of both Fond du Lac Band’s Resource Management Division building as well as Black Bear Casino Resort. The tour included a 1MW solar PV installation, LED lighting, a wood pellet biomass system and other clean energy technologies. Joel Haskard, Co-Director for CERTs, noted that the resource management division building was a good example of what can be done to increase sustainability and clean energy. “This building is LEED certified. Here you can see the green roof, the 12KW solar system, solar tubes for lighting, LED lighting, and even motion sensors to power down the vending machines… They also used super-insulated spray foam for the walls and a storm water drainage system that feeds into a small wetlands in back. Impressive stuff!” Bruno Zagar, Environmental Specialist and...
SolSmart
Trevor Drake
Tue, 08/15/2017 - 2:22pm
Almost every time we give a community presentation on solar, somebody asks about how the costs of the technology are changing and whether it’s best to wait to “go solar.” It’s a smart question, and indeed the costs of the physical components of solar projects are being driven down by market forces (though arguably not quick enough to warrant waiting). The trouble with this question is that it misses the target in seeing what’s most important, which is not just the cost of hardware but the final cost of an installed system. The non-hardware “soft costs” of solar, which include the costs incurred to solar developers (and passed onto system owners or subscribers) for navigating local zoning regulations, pulling permits, and providing financing options to customers, can total as much as 64% of the cost of a residential solar installation, according to the...
Glendale Townhomes in Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis
Joel Haskard
Thu, 06/08/2017 - 3:11pm
Excerpt from Finance & Commerce article by Frank Jossi: Owned by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, the Glendale Townhomes in Prospect Park have not had many updates to improve their energy efficiency since they were constructed in 1952. Later this year a pilot project will begin with an energy audit of one of the complex’s eight-unit townhouse buildings. After that, a larger weatherization program will get underway to make the lives of all tenants more comfortable, said Tim Gaetz, the authorities managing director of facilities and development. “The weatherization will make the townhouses less drafty and warmer in winter and cooler in summer,” Gaetz said. “They will have a much more comfortable indoor living environment. And any money savings for [the housing...
Project partners pose for an award photo
Trevor Drake
Fri, 05/26/2017 - 10:51am
The Metropolitan Council, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), and their partners are being awarded for their innovative solar garden work at the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards. The awards program, hosted by the nonprofit Environmental Initiative, annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary outcomes by harnessing the power of partnership. The project is being honored in the Community Action category. The Governmental Solar Garden Collaborative is a joint effort by and for 31 local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region to procure solar garden subscriptions from a single Request...
Touring the solar array that powers the Hutchinson wastewater treatment plant
Kristi Fernholz
Fri, 05/19/2017 - 4:19pm
On Tuesday, April 18, 2017, over 20 people gathered at City Hall in Hutchinson, Minnesota, to take a driving and walking tour of the many clean energy and sustainability projects that the city has engaged in over the years. They were greeted by Mayor Gary Forcier, City Administrator Matt Jaunich, Facilities Manager Jeremiah “JJ” Verhey and GreenStep Cities Coordinator and Project, Environmental, and Regulatory Manager John Paulson. The three spoke about some of the energy efficiency upgrades (LED lighting, lighting times/motion sensors, variable frequency drive motors) that have reduced energy costs across the city’s buildings. “We’re doing it for multiple reasons—economic and environmental—and then we are benchmarking so we can show people where we are saving money,” noted Mayor Forcier. The city even created its own composting program to process and sell the compost it collects...
Diana McKeown chats with local business owner
Diana McKeown
Sat, 04/22/2017 - 2:25pm
Over the past year, Metro CERT has supported the energy conservation and development aspect of the Chisago Lakes Area’s community revitalization plan for their entry into the America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition they have been participating in for nearly two years. The Chisago Lakes Area includes the communities of Chisago, Lindstrom, Center City, Shafer, and Taylors Falls. In the end, they were one of eight communities (out of 350 originally) with a chance to receive one, two, or three million dollars. On April 19th the winners were announced and sadly, Chisago Lakes didn’t win. Though they are still winners in our eyes!   Metro CERT support   Metro CERT supported the energy conservation and development plan in a number of different ways. In December...
Mayor Peter Lindstrom shows off solar panels atop Falcon Heights City Hall
Trevor Drake
Wed, 04/05/2017 - 10:30am
Community solar programs are gaining increasing interest from electric utility customers across the nation. Unlike individual solar PV systems, community shared solar systems, also known as Solar Gardens, create an opportunity for multiple individuals and organizations to receive the benefit of a larger solar installation without requiring it to be located on-site. For local government entities, these benefits include supporting clean energy and its positive local economic impacts, saving on energy bills for public facilities, and hedging against the future price volatility of electricity. A new report released by the Clean Energy Resource Teams, a partnership of organizations working with communities on clean energy projects in Minnesota, highlights the unique ability for community...
Minneapolis benchmarking report now available
Dan Thiede
Tue, 03/07/2017 - 3:58pm
A new analysis of energy use for 417 public and commercial buildings in Minneapolis reveals that they have the combined potential to save $27 million per year on energy costs by increasing their energy efficiency to reduce consumption by 15 percent. The City of Minneapolis’ Energy Benchmarking Report analyzed the 2015 energy use of 264 commercial and 153 public properties that submitted data to the City as required by the building energy benchmarking and transparency ordinance (building owners had until June 2016 to submit data). The buildings in the report include 107 million square feet of floor space and account for more than 8.1 million mmbtu (million British thermal units) of total energy use, which is the equivalent use of about 102,000 households or roughly 60 percent of the...
North Star Solar project
Diana McKeown
Thu, 02/23/2017 - 9:47am
This article is an excerpt of a recent story from the Chisago County Press. There is a solar boom happening in Minnesota, and with the 100 MW North Star Solar project now complete, it’s booming the most in Chisago County, which estimates that about $350,000 in tax revenue will be created by solar projects in the county. The leasing of the land has also put money in farmers’ pockets where soils were not considered to be premium quality. As Chisago County Environmental Services and Zoning Director Kurt Schneider put it, “We are experiencing the planting of a new crop.” County officials recently shared Chisago County’s experience with solar at a conference of Minnesota counties...
Lester-Amity Ski Trails
Peter Lindstrom
Thu, 01/26/2017 - 1:16pm
The 11 km Lester-Amity ski trail traverses moderate terrain and stunning woodlands from the confluence of Lester and Amity creeks on the north side of Duluth. This is the most popular ski trail in the city due to the easy skiing and 5 km of lighted trail (now powered by solar). The lights provide a huge benefit to the early morning or after work skier but also presented a challenge for the city to maintain. “We had to have two electricians replace the light bulbs, rent a 4-wheel drive boom lift which ripped up the trails and required park maintenance to go back in to smooth out the trails and re-groom them,” said Erik Birkeland, property and facilities manager for the city. It wasn’t unheard of for the city to spend upwards of $10,000 annually to keep the lights on and trails in good shape. The city replaced the outdated...
City of Elk River Green City Fleet Guide
Diana McKeown
Thu, 01/26/2017 - 11:30am
Cities across Minnesota and the country are working to reduce costs and fuel consumption by greening and electrifying their vehicle fleets. The City of Elk River recently produced a Green City Fleet Guide as part of a Metro CERT Seed Grant funded project that can guide other cities in taking action. The goal of the guide is to provide communities with some tools needed to create greener city fleets. The guide provides information about alternative fuel vehicles, suggestions for efficient fleets, benefits of electric vehicles, a list of electric vehicles on the market, financial incentives, global trends in fleets and additional resources. The guide also shares results of short fleet survey in some Minnesota cities. The...
City of Farmington
Katie Hosch
Sun, 01/15/2017 - 11:54am
Building operation is a huge cost that most cities, counties, and other local governments have in common. But often there’s a disconnect between building operation and energy savings, one that a new manual available to Minnesota local governments is designed to fix. It is well documented that most energy-consuming devices in buildings can perform their intended function while using less energy—but often these energy hogs go undetected. It’s important to have some sort of check to make sure that buildings are operating efficiently. The University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research (CSBR) developed the B3 SB 2030 Energy Efficient Operations Manual, which provides this type of check to the building system. “The B3 SB 2030 Energy Efficient Operations Manual...
Getting to 80% renewables in St. Cloud, MN
Joel Haskard
Fri, 01/13/2017 - 12:15pm
St. Cloud is one of eight communities in Minnesota recently recognized at the 2016 Clean Energy Community Awards sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The awards recognized communities that contribute to the state’s clean energy goals by planning and implementing programs, policies, and technologies that encourage energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy generation. We spoke with Patrick Shea, St. Cloud’s Public Services Director, to learn more. There seem to be a lot of exciting clean energy projects happening in St. Cloud. How did the city come up with its energy goals and projects?   Patrick Shea: The City has been recognized for sustainability and livability by several organizations including the State of...
Biwabik City Hall
Peter Michaels
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 1:20pm
The City of Biwabik is located in Northeast Minnesota with a population of about 1,000 citizens. As of late, this town has been actively focusing efforts on reducing their electricity usage. They decided to begin with Biwabik City Hall, which had been illuminated with 62 inefficient lights for the past 20 years. A $2,000 Seed Grant from Northeast CERT provided funding for project labor costs. Originally, the plan was to replace all 62 light fixtures in the facility, but due to the quality of lighting supplied by the new LED fixture they were able to brighten the building using only 52 fixtures. This happy surprise engendered even more savings for the city’s taxpayers. Due to the success of the project, the City of Biwabik is now moving their efforts on to improving the lighting in their Public Works garage and the City Hall parking lot....
SE CERT tours Red Wing solar projects, including this carport at City Hall
Chris Meyer
Wed, 10/26/2016 - 12:13pm
On September 26, over twenty five people joined the Southeast CERT tour of the City of Red Wing’s clean energy projects. Maintenance Shop: The tour began at Red Wing Public Works Maintenance Shop, where participants learned about Red Wing’s recycled waste oil from fleet vehicles used to partially heat the public works building, LED street lighting, and production of 87,800 kW/h from two solar arrays. The maintenance shop is net negative energy, as the electricity is provided by solar and they use waste oil from other projects to heat the shop. City Hall: Folks then carpooled downtown to see the solar installation over the City Hall Car Port, which not only generates power but has the added benefit of shading parked cars in the summer and providing cover from the snow in the winter. “People love it and try to get here early to park to the winter,” said Jay McCleary, retired Public...
Minnesota GreenStep Cities
Katie Hosch
Fri, 10/07/2016 - 12:53pm
On October, 5th, 2016 GreenStep Cities staff from across Minnesota gathered for the monthly workshop and webinar, this time to learn all about Energy, Data, and Action—Oh My! About 25 people attended the workshop in total, including those who attended in person and those who watched via webinar. Everyone who experienced the workshop had a great chance to listen to our presenters discuss a wide variety of topics.   Agenda & Presentations: B3 overview and what’s new – Cheri Schneider, The WeidtGroup Cheri Schneider from the Weidt Group, gave a presentation that covered the basics of B3 benchmarking and also discussed some of the new updates to B3. Download presentation B3 Operations Manual – Laura Millberg, MPCA and Katie Hosch, GPI Green Corps...
Attendees learn about 10MW solar PV array under construction at Camp Ripley
Sarah Hayden Shaw
Fri, 08/05/2016 - 3:22pm
The U.S. Military and National Guard have been leaders when it comes to adopting clean energy, and Camp Ripley in Little Falls is ahead of the pack in Minnesota. What are they doing? That’s what 50 Minnesotans recently found out! On Tuesday, August 2nd, the Minnesota National Guard Camp Ripley Training Center opened their doors to the public for a Central CERT tour to show off their amazing work to make their facility a national leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy production, and energy security.   We started off with a lineup of great presenters Marty Skoglund, Environmenal Program Manager for the Minnesota National Guard: Marty started out by telling us about the incredibly biodiverse setting the Camp is located in and their efforts to protect and preserve this unique wilderness. He then...
Home Energy Squad Enhanced bill insert from Richfield
Maddie Norgaard
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 9:34am
The City of Richfield has identified energy efficiency as an important way that homeowners can reduce residential utility bills, improve household maintenance and safety, and protect the environment by reducing pollution emitted from energy production. The City of Richfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority (RHRA) took advantage of a Metro CERT Seed Grant to increase participation in a home energy savings program by identifying and addressing barriers to participation within Richfield’s growing Latino community. A population that has nearly tripled since 2000, Latino households in Richfield now make up 18% of the population (according to the 2010 census). Before this project, participation by Latino residents in city-sponsored housing programs remained low. In order to implement such a project, a strategic partnership was necessary. In the winter of 2014...

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