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Lake Superior Harvest Festival
Brian Bluhm
09/29/2016 - 3:36pm
The 23rd Annual Lake Superior Harvest Festival took place at Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park on Saturday, September 10th. Nearly 6,000 people attend this popular event to chat with their favorite local farmers, pick up delicious local produce, jams and baked goods, and explore local arts and crafts vendors. In addition, the Harvest Festival featured the always-popular Energy Tent! The Energy Tent was headed up by Minnesota Power, and housed a number of energy-related organizations, including: Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), Ecolibrium3, Zenergy, Northern Energetics, Comfort Systems, UMD Office of Sustainability, the Natural Resources Research Institute, Wagner Zaun Architects, the Minnesota Department of Commerce – Division of Energy Resources, Your Home Improvement Company, and the Midwest Renewable Energy...
Working on a plane in the newly insulated AirCorps Aviation shop
Anna Carlson
09/29/2016 - 12:28pm
Bemidji’s AirCorps Aviation specializes in the restoration, maintenance, and rebuilding of vintage WWII aircraft. They’re now working from more comfortable, well-lit, and energy-efficient buildings thanks to lighting and insulation improvements financed with PACE. What is PACE? Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a new way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to the buildings of commercial property owners. Energy-saving measures pursued by the owners receive project financing and are repaid as a separate item on their property tax assessment for a set period. PACE eliminates the burden of upfront costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing. To learn more about the project, we interviewed Sara Zimmerman, Business Coordinator at AirCorps Aviation.   What motivated you to apply for...
Solar air heat system on Sarah Hayden Shaw's "Shopfice"
Sarah Hayden Shaw
09/28/2016 - 4:40pm
I have always wanted a space of my own to work on my varied and numerous projects—everything from painting to furniture restoration to various excuses to use all of my power tools. A need to store work equipment and tools helped push me to action, so three years ago I finished half of my detached two-stall garage in order to create this space.   Introducing the Shopfice I super-insulated the walls and attic and added a patio door inside the garage door to create a weather-tight envelope that lets lots of light in, but was camouflaged as a mild looking garage when not in use. It was a fun project, and one I loved the results of. I work much of the time from home, and started spending many of my days working in what I began to call my “Shopfice.” My first attempt at renewable heating I also installed in my Shopfice the smallest and most efficient...
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Fritz Ebinger
09/28/2016 - 12:31pm
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson asks livestock producers to apply for a portion of $2 million in grants available for on-farm improvements. “Livestock Investment Grants help farmers stay competitive and reinvest in their industry. Last year, we had 104 livestock farmers receive grants to improve their operation,” said Frederickson.   What have farmers already done with the grant funding? Jared Franke of Hayfield constructed a new beef barn to increase efficiency and allow the next generation to enter into the family farming operation. Michael Laue of Fairmont constructed a 2,400 head swine facility to increase profitability and allow a young farmer to start farming full time. Matthew and David Hanson of Goodridge expanded and improved current dairy facilities by adding a robotic milking unit and installing equipment to improve...
Diana McKeown
09/27/2016 - 12:11pm
Metro CERT welcomes Gordy Moore to their crew for the school year! Gordy will be assisting the Sustainable Communities team at Great Plains Institute (GPI), working most closely with the Metro CERT program in addition to supporting Minnesota GreenStep Cities and the Grow Solar partnership. More specifically, he may support Metro CERT communications by writing case studies for Seed Grant projects and blogs to highlight clean energy resources for communities, among an array of other tasks. Gordy is currently a senior Geography major and Environmental Studies minor at Macalester College across the river in Saint Paul. In his time at Macalester, he has worked in Mac’s Sustainability Office and last year as the first-ever...
Katherine Hosch
Trevor Drake
09/27/2016 - 12:08pm
Katie Hosch joined the Great Plains Institute in September of 2016 as a Minnesota GreenCorps member for one year of service. Welcome! Katie will be fulfilling a unique position, working to help cities improve and maintain energy efficiency in public buildings. Katie will primarily work with the Minnesota GreenStep Cities and Metro CERT programs, helping cities take advantage of existing technical assistance and financing programs.   Before coming to GPI, Katie graduated from the University of Minnesota Morris in May of 2016 with a degree in Environmental Studies. While attending university, Katie was involved with the Office of Sustainability where she worked on assessing sustainability and assisted...
Hartley Nature Center in Duluth renovated its solar energy system and added battery backup
Joel Haskard
09/22/2016 - 4:04pm
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson proclaimed August 26th to be “Solar Storage Awareness Day” in Duluth during the commissioning ceremony of a new solar PV and battery storage system at the Hartley Nature Center. We spoke with Bret Pence, project specialist with Ecolibrium3 and co-leader on the Hartley Nature Center Solar Plus Storage Upgrade project, which can now store 14.2 kWh of energy. What was your role in this project?   Bret Pence: I was a member of the project coordination team, along with many others, including Alison Hoxie (UMD). Ecolibrium3 was perhaps the initial instigator, as we see energy storage as a big potential driver of solar installations on Duluth. In your opinion, what makes this project unique/ interesting?   Bret Pence: The partners involved, the speed in which we were able to get it on the ground, and...
Trevor Drake, Metro CERT Co-Director, speaks with event attendees
Trevor Drake
09/22/2016 - 11:46am
On September 20th, 2016 nearly 40 people gathered at the Shoreview Community Center to learn about community solar gardens and network with experts and developers. Community Solar Gardens are centrally located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that produce electricity for participating subscribers. They’re great for people that want to go solar but are unable to do so on their own. Attendees lived in an apartments, had shaded roofs at home, or didn’t have space at their organizations for solar.   Workshop Agenda: Mike Rehm from the Neighborhood Energy Connection kicked off the meeting talking to attendees about energy efficiency opportunities and programs that people should consider when going solar. Learn more about programs. Next we heard from Trevor Drake, Co-Director of Metro CERT, about the basics about community solar,...
Kicking the tires on electric vehicle charging stations in Bemidji, MN
Anna Carlson
09/21/2016 - 3:28pm
Bemidji State University was a hotbed of clean energy activity on August 31st as folks gathered for two consecutive events. First up was the Association of Energy Service Professionals (AESP) meeting, where over 40 attendees gathered to learn about clean energy projects in Bemidji. First they heard about the City of Bemidji’s $2.4 million Guaranteed Energy Savings Program project, with Jesse Robertson and Nate Mathews from the city giving an overview of the project as it has unfolded. Regarding the new LED street lighting, City Manager Mathews noted, “Downtown businesses love it because it is way better lit.” Robertson added, “For any city, I would recommend something like GESP.” Next came Sam Mason, Manager of Energy Services and Facilities at...
If your furnace looks like this it may be time for an upgrade
MN Dept. of Commerce
09/21/2016 - 8:24am
As another Minnesota winter approaches, homeowners may be looking to replace an old, worn-out or inefficient heating system with a new high-efficiency model. Most furnaces have a useful life of 15-20 years, while most boilers will last 20-30 years. If your furnace or boiler is nearing the end of its expected life, you should start planning your replacement strategy, including what to buy and how to pay for it. If you have made the decision to buy a new heating system, the Minnesota Commerce Department wants you to be aware of some options to help pay for it: Loans: The Lending Center at the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) offers the Home Energy Loan Program for Minnesota homeowners to make energy improvements. It offers secured loans of up to $20,000 (4.99% fixed rate, terms up to 10...

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