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John and Rachel Egan - community solar subscribers to the Connexus Energy SolarWise program
Dan Thiede
01/23/2015 - 3:24pm
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet Rachel & John Egan: Rachel Egan of Blaine, MN is a hand therapist with NovaCare, and her husband John is a primary care physician in an internal medicine private practice on the Abbott Northwestern campus. When their new neighborhood association forbade solar installations on homeowners’ roofs, they turned to community solar as an alternative. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the Connexus Energy SolarWise community solar garden? Rachel & John...
Eric Schilling and family - community solar subscribers to the Connexus Energy SolarWise program
Dan Thiede
01/23/2015 - 3:15pm
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet Eric: Eric Schilling of Ham Lake works on designs for next generation pacemakers and defibrillators as a biomedical engineer at Medtronic. He and his family are also proudly powering half of their home energy use with community solar. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the Connexus Energy SolarWise community solar garden? Eric Schilling: I’ve always been interested in minimizing my environmental impact. I had been hoping to install a solar array on the...
Attendees at the workshop learn about community solar gardens
Patrick Mathwig
01/16/2015 - 4:03pm
Community solar has been THE hot energy issue in Minnesota so far this year. In 2013 the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation that required Xcel Energy, Minnesota’s largest investor owned utility, to administer a community solar gardens (CSG) program, and enabled other utilities to administer them as well. Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers. Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Community program officially opened on December 12th, 2014. Minnesota currently has 14 megawatts of solar, but with the mandate of 1.5% solar, Minnesota’s solar capacity will increase greatly: by 2020, Minnesota is expected to have 400 megawatts of solar capacity. On December 17, 2014 the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program hosted a workshop for...
Guaranteed Energy Savings Program
Frank Jossi
01/12/2015 - 4:03pm
This interview was originally posted on Midwest Energy News. For two years, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has been showcasing a new approach to financing state and municipal sustainability projects around the state. Called the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP), the concept offers organizations a way to reduce energy costs and use the savings to help pay for projects. The state created documents to help agencies and municipalities manage the program, which involves an “Energy Services Company” that develops, installs, and provides financial assistance for the projects. It’s not an easy concept to explain even to large agencies,...
David stands in front of the WHE community solar project with his yard sign
Dan Thiede
01/12/2015 - 10:46am
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet David: David Schmidt is a research engineer at the University of Minnesota and teaches a course on renewable energy. He had already cut back on his energy use at his home in Corcoran, MN and converted to LED lights. For a long time he was intrigued by the idea of generating power from the sun, but had never taken the next step—until community solar came along. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the community solar project at Wright-Hennepin Cooperative...
The Popp Farm in Royalton, MN
Sarah Hayden Shaw
01/08/2015 - 5:02pm
In an age of disappearing small and medium size farms, Doug and Jane Popp are making their medium-sized dairy and crop operation near Royalton, MN work. After talking with them for a while, it becomes clear how. They have a passion for farming and the way of life it offers, and a keen eye for the bottom line—which includes a farmer’s frugality, as well as a creativity and willingness to seize good opportunities. Top on the list of these seized opportunities? The Popps put the wind, the sun, and energy efficient technologies to work for them!   Solar on Popp Farm   It all started in 2010, when a family member who was taking a course in renewable energy systems asked if he could use their farm to complete a solar assessment for a school assignment. Once they started looking, they realized they had a perfect spot up on the hill, just south of the wind turbine;...
Snow sits on traffic lights in the winter
Sarah Hayden Shaw
01/08/2015 - 10:34am
I heard a question recently about LED traffic signals and wanted to craft a response. Check out the question and answer below, then learn more about a Minnesota community’s experience. Question: I’ve heard LED traffic signal lights can present a problem in the northern climates. The concern is that the efficient LEDs, which put off very little heat, will need to have snow and ice removal maintenance, because the waste heat that previously melted the snow/ice is no longer there. Is this true? Answer: To find an answer to this question, I started by asking Andrea Lauer, mayor of Royalton, MN about her experience. Sarah: Your LED signals have been up for a few years now, has your city experienced any problems with this? If so, how do you address it? Andrea: We discussed the issue of possible snow/ice build up on LED lights before making the switch. We felt that if we had a...
Mayor Peter Lindstrom speaks about Falcon Heights
Sarah Hayden Shaw
01/08/2015 - 8:03am
Nearly two dozen city officials and engaged community members gathered in Little Falls on December 11, 2014 to receive hands-on training on how to drive sustainability in their area through the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program. Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. This free continuous improvement program, managed by a public-private partnership, is based upon 28 best practices. Each best practice is comprised of actions. These actions are tailored to all Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings and energy use reduction, and encourage civic innovation. The program has expanded rapidly since its inception in 2010 with 75 cities currently engaged. Speakers at the event hailed from three Minnesota cities. Royalton: Participants heard from Andrea Lauer, mayor of...
USDA Rural Development
Alexis Troschinetz
01/07/2015 - 4:28pm
The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) from USDA Rural Development is a great opportunity for Minnesota farmers and rural businesses to save energy with efficiency work and add renewable energy systems. Grants can cover up to 25% of eligible project costs, and loans can cover up to 75% of eligible project costs. The funding has just been opened for 2015, and there is twice as much money available as usual (which may mean you have an even better chance of being funded). There is also a shorter application that can be completed without the help of a grant writer for smaller projects. See details below!   What is REAP all about, and how can I learn more?   The Basics: This year there will be two application windows for the renewable energy or energy efficiency grants: April 30 and June 30 Projects requesting grants of $20,000 ($80,000 total project cost) or...
Counties with community solar applications (larger map below)
Abby Finis
01/07/2015 - 1:51pm
To quote a recent article by David Shaffer at the Star Tribune, “Xcel Energy said that 427 applications have arrived from energy developers, a much bigger response than anticipated. The Minneapolis-based company said the applications propose a total of 420 megawatts of solar output, or the equivalent of a sizable power plant. A megawatt is 1 million watts.” Xcel Energy provided a list of each county and their number of proposed community solar projects on their Solar*Rewards Community webpage. But I thought, why not make a map so we can better visualize where they are? Who can subscribe? People can subscribe to projects in their own or an adjacent county, as long as they are in the...

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