Award-winning Energy Innovation Corridor showcases clean energy projects, builds momentum

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Energy Innovation Corridor

We recently got together with John Marshall, manager of Community & Local Government Relations with Xcel Energy, to learn more about the Energy Innovation Corridor.

Joel Haskard: Can you tell us a little about the Energy Innovation Corridor?

John Marshall: There’s so much to tell about the Energy Innovation Corridor (EIC). But I’ll give it a whirl.

The EIC is an area located along the planned central corridor light rail and is a showcase of energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation and smart technology. We have an amazing group of partners, which includes more than 20 private, public and nonprofit organizations. We have a video that serves as an excellent overview that you can watch below.

Economic Impact of Energy Innovation Corridor Together we’ve been able to post remarkable achievements. Since 2010, we’ve avoided 833,673,920 pounds of carbon (CO2) emissions and that’s just through March 2012. Our cumulative goal from 2010 to 2012 is 748,202,713 – so you can see we are totally kicking our goal! And for those who want to dig into the calculations, it’s all there on the website to review.

The results are very important and tracked, very conservatively I might add, focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energy, electric vehicles and some of our smart technology efforts. Quite frankly, developing valid metrics for some of what we do would be nearly impossible (or at least cost prohibitive) so although we are doing other good stuff, not all of it rolls up to our high-level achievements of avoided CO2. So, for things like car- and bike-sharing we count trips and reservations, or the number of electric plug-in charging stations installed.

In January, the EIC was recognized regionally receiving the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance 2012 Inspiring Efficiency Innovation Award, and just this April we were honored to be a finalist for the prestigious Environmental Initiative award in the Energy and Climate Protection category.

More of the tangibles are demonstrated via the projects, which are highlighted on our (aptly named) showcase page.

Joel: We’re big fans of case studies highlighting energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, and you have TONS of them identified in your “showcases” section. How were these compiled?

John: Thank you; we adore our fans! The case studies in our showcase are great examples of how utilizing resources and available programs are easy to do, and more important, the results are something to write home about.

The showcase items are generally developed by partners who were involved. The basics we try to glean from projects include a high-level overview of the project and benefit highlights – such as savings in regard to operations, energy and carbon. And if measurable, the community economic benefits. Of course we like to list the projects partners, to not only toot their horns, but if you like what you’ve read, you can reach out to them and find out how you can do something similar.

Map of the Energy Innovation Corridor

Joel: Beyond the website, can people subscribe to get regular updates about the EIC?

John: Yes, people can subscribe to our monthly newsletter. It includes success stories and the latest happenings, financing and energy saving programs and always links for more information. Sign up!

Joel: Do you have any projects that you want to highlight to folks?

John: There are so many worthwhile projects to highlight, but I’d like to share just a couple that have incorporated several the EIC’s focus area initiatives.

Before I tell you about them, I’d also like to remind readers that even the smallest changes are worthwhile – turning lights off when they’re not in use, making the switch to more efficient lighting, sealing leaky windows and other no-cost, low-cost actions.

Solar PV on the RiverCentre Parking Garage I’m a proud Saint Paul native so I’ll start with the Saint Paul RiverCentre – it’s a glowing example of a comprehensive sustainability plan. The City of Saint Paul staff knows the value of first implementing energy-efficiency measures, then smartly adding renewable energy. The RiverCentre’s parking ramp had more than 1,000 lights replaced with more energy efficient lighting, which reduced the ramp’s energy needs by 47 percent and saves about $50,000 in energy costs each year. The ramp is also a solar showcase with 348 solar photovoltaic panels that will generate 100,000 kWh of energy per year; enough to power nine homes for a year. And that’s not all – the ramp offers two electric vehicle charging stations. Crossing the street to the RiverCentre complex, the roof sports the country’s second largest solar thermal installation, Solar thermal hot water installation on RiverCentre which is expected to provide about 15 percent of the overall heating needs and reduces its carbon footprint by 900,000 pound of carbon per year.

On the other side of the river in Minneapolis, Hennepin County’s Minneapolis Central Library incorporated energy efficient heating, cooling and other systems which reduce carbon emissions and lower expenses of operating the building. Additionally, the use of daylight and energy-efficient light fixtures helps the building exceed Minnesota’s energy code requirements. It also has a green roof with drought-resistant ground cover that slows storm water runoff and reduces heat absorption, and rainwater is harvested and stored in cisterns for landscape irrigation. The library caters to green transportation too with a bus stop and a Nice Ride bike-sharing station directly in front of the building, the parking ramp offers electric vehicle charging and just down one block is the light rail. While you’re there, be sure to check out (literally) a Power Check meter, a tool that gauges your home energy use. Then you can use the new-found knowledge to make changes, saving both energy and money.

BOMA Kilowatt Crackdown Okay, just one more and then onto your next question. Not specifically a project, rather a contest, got businesses in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul in on the action. The BOMA Kilowatt Crackdown, in its inaugural year-long contest challenged Twin Cities area building owners to improve their buildings’ efficiency. A total of 86 buildings in the Twin Cities participated, saving over 13 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Using the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas equivalency tool, the savings equate to a reduction of more than 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide or taking 1,800 vehicles off the road. It’s also enough electricity to power more than 1,100 homes for a year. We’re in our second year and everyone is excited to see the results of the new challenge.

Joel: What big happenings are coming next along the EIC?

Rendering of Union Depot after completion of Light Rail John: We’re very excited about the work being done at Ramsey County’s historic Union Depot. It’s being transformed into a state-of-the-art multimodal Midwest regional transit hub, bringing together rail, bus, motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Its renovation will be complete at the end of 2012 and will even include the state’s first on-street electric vehicle charging stations. With all the work they’re doing to renovate you know there are all sorts of energy efficient measure being implemented!

On the program front, one that just recently launched and is unique to the EIC area is the Energy Wise Rental Rebate Pilot Program. Landlords in select Central Corridor neighborhoods can receive maximum cash rebates for the qualified energy improvements they make on their residential properties. The process starts with an energy audit and could end with some serious savings. Landlords who implement multiple advanced efficiency measures will receive an Energy Wise Rental web badge and building sign, which will help potential renters differentiate those properties from others. The Energy Wise Rental Rebate pilot program is made possible by the McKnight Foundation and is administered by the Neighborhood Energy Connection.

Earlier, I mentioned our achievements. Results like that don’t just happen, each one of our partners develops action items that they own and move forward as part of the overall EIC action plan – focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation and smart technology. We recently met and began developing our plans for July 2012 to June 2013 – so stay tuned for more…

Drive Electric Minnesota Ford Transit Connect Thanks for giving me this opportunity and all of the EIC partners appreciate your interest. Be sure to check out our website, we’ve got resources!

More from the EIC:

 
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