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Community Solar Garden
Joel Haskard
01/20/2017 - 3:33pm
Although still in the early stages of planning, there is an exciting model brewing to help residents of the Hillcrest Community Cooperative reduce their energy costs and power their manufactured homes with community solar. We spoke first with Timothy DenHerder Thomas, the General Manager of Cooperative Energy Futures, to learn more, and then with Kevin Walker, Director of Business Development with the Northcountry Cooperative Foundation. Why is this partnership meaningful to you?   Timothy DenHerder Thomas: As a co-op that exists to help everyone build community wealth through clean energy, CEF is excited to work with Northcounty Cooperative Foundation (NCF) to help residents of manufactured housing co-ops grow community...
Solar PV on top of Timm's Trucking in Morristown, MN
Chris Meyer
01/17/2017 - 10:55am
Electricity at Timm’s Trucking in Morristown is now provided by the company’s new 30.5 kW Solar PV array, locking in today’s energy costs for years to come. Business owner Randy Timm described the double benefit of installing a renewable energy system that was “not only good for the environment, but saved money on my electric bills and improved my bottom line.” “I’d been looking at different ways to save money on some of our utility bills and solar seemed like a natural option,” said Timm, who knew there was money to be saved on this deal. “It just made sense. It adds value to the business and our building site.” The solar project was financed through an innovative new Minnesota program called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE. PACE is designed to advance adoption of energy...
City of Farmington
Katie Hosch
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
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...
Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive
MN Dept. of Commerce
01/12/2017 - 1:47pm
Applications for the fourth year of the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program will be accepted beginning on Jan. 1, 2017, and ending Feb. 28, 2017. The 10-year, $150-million program helps fund new solar electric and solar thermal systems for Minnesota residents, businesses, and communities. The program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. In its first three years, the Made in Minnesota solar initiative has catalyzed the state’s rooftop solar market and helped put Minnesota on track to meet its renewable electricity and solar electricity goals. The program has boosted Minnesota’s clean energy economy, making solar more affordable for homeowners and businesses, helping to create more clean energy jobs and diversifying the state’s renewable energy portfolio. Applicants of Made in...
The Groom Room in Hawley, MN with solar array in distance
Sophie Lutz
01/11/2017 - 3:49pm
The Groom Room dog boarding and grooming in Hawley, MN is one example of a small business reaping the benefits of renewable energy. Inspired by another local business, owner Jane Anderson recently installed 72 solar panels to cover her electricity needs. For Anderson, the switch to solar will help her invest in her business: “If I save money on my electric bill, the fun thing is that I can put it back into my business and upgrade things,” she said. Since she’s locking in her energy costs for the next 25 years, Anderson is also excited to do away with her utility bill once the system is paid off and she’s looking to retire. “I think it’s kind of like a secret weapon towards retirement costs,” she said. It was Anderson’s friend Randy Behrens who convinced her to take another look at solar now that prices have come down so much in recent years. Randy...
Sophie Lutz
01/11/2017 - 3:48pm
St. Olaf College, located in southeast Minnesota, is taking energy matters into their own hands and making the leap toward 100% renewable energy. This great feat has taken commendable initiative in order to completely relinquish dependence on non-renewable electricity sources. According to Pete Sandberg, St. Olaf Assistant Vice President for Facilities, “The role we’re playing in bringing more renewable energy resources online is something we can all be proud of.” Accompanying the wind turbine located on campus, the school of about 3,000 students has allocated acreage of College-owned land toward the implementation of five one-megawatt Community Solar Gardens. This combined with subscriptions to other community solar gardens and Xcel Energy’s Windsource program is all coming together to make the College’s carbon-neutral dream a reality!...
Diana McKeown with Metro CERT talks to a Chisago business owner about energy efficiency
Diana McKeown
01/10/2017 - 4:01pm
On December 1st, a small team of community members and folks from the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) went out in pairs to doorknock in Chisago City and the City of Lindstrom to encourage small business owners to participate in a free energy and/or solar assessment of their business through the Chisago Clean Energy Hub. What is the Clean Energy Hub, you ask? It is a partnership between Chisago County HRA-EDA, Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (Metro CERT), Chisago Lakes Chamber, Eutectics, and the America’s Best Communities committee. The program provides technical assistance, pre-qualified clean energy contractors, and professional guidance from start to finish on all qualified projects in the Chisago Lakes Area (Chisago, Lindstrom, Center City, Shafer, Taylors Falls). It is one piece of many to help the Chisago Lakes Area win the...
LED holiday lights - More merry and less money
Dan Thiede
12/22/2016 - 1:53pm
Are you still stringing the same old incandescent decorative lights for the holidays?   For many Minnesotans, the house, porch, shrubs and trees are donned with holiday lights. Depending on one’s holiday lighting enthusiasm, a home can save between $10 to $250 each holiday season by switching to LED holiday lighting. This is because, according to the Department of Energy, LED holiday lights save up to 90% of the energy used by traditional incandescent holiday lights. LEDs are also safer, sturdier, longer lasting, and easier to install. Fill your stocking with energy savings: For every old holiday lighting string recycled and replaced with more efficient LED holiday lighting, 19 kilowatt-hours of electricity are saved over the course of the holiday season. This is the same amount of energy as a common CFL household light bulb would use if left on for 24 hours a day for 2...
Solar Tree by Asia Ward at Franconia Sculpture Park
Joel Haskard
12/21/2016 - 2:26pm
When you visit the Franconia Sculpture Park between Shafer and Taylors Falls, MN, a brightly-lit tree sculpture stands out, far away from any buildings. Ever wonder, like us, what it’s all about? We interviewed the sculptor, Asia Ward, to learn more.   How did you come up with the Solar Tree?   Asia Ward: My landscape sculptures use diorama-like layers to create artificial depth and perspective. I find that the viewer automatically fills in the spaces between the layers, rounding them out, in order to complete the landscape. I knew the location for the sculpture at Franconia Sculpture Park, and was inspired by the oak savanna nearby. The shape of the sculpture became a stylized oak tree, built especially to be solar powered. That is why there is a 15 degree slant on the canopies, facing south. I...

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Minnesota Department of Commerce Division of Energy Resources University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission