Teamwork leads to successful solar PV project at Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm

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Solar installation at Minnesota Discovery Center

Since it opened its doors in 1977, the Minnesota Discovery Center (MDC) has been an important presence in educating Minnesotans about the history of the Iron Range and Minnesota. Today, the MDC is taking steps to educate Minnesotans about our energy future. With support from Minnesota Power, Silicon Energy, and of course, Northeast CERT, the MDC was able to bring their educational Solar PV project into reality.

Although the MDC was able to ultimately receive assistance from multiple partners, it was not a project that was completed overnight. In fact, it took years (four and a half to be exact) of planning, communicating, and network building in order to make it happen. “The diligence to see this project from concept to completion was essential.” Said Jim Paulsen, who was the lead staff for the solar project.

The goal was to not only reduce their own carbon footprint and save money, but also to help educate the Chisholm community about the benefits that solar energy has to offer. “We are engaging the community by having the system at our main entrance.” Mr. Paulsen stated. Rather than putting the solar PV system on the roof, it was decided that they would instead place the array right by the entrance, so that visitors would be able to see it up close, ask questions, and learn even more from their visit.

So far the solar PV system has been a success, and Paulsen and the MDC plan to expand its size in the future. This would not only further reduce the energy costs at MDC, it would also strengthen their position as a role model for renewable energy within their community. When asked to give advice to other communities who may be struggling to bring their energy projects to reality, Mr. Paulsen gave a word of encouragement: “I would tell them to talk to a wide variety of people, gain insight, ask questions, put together a plan, and then communicate. Finally, I would tell them not to give up. We spent 4.5 years getting our project from conception to reality. It can be done.”

 

Project Snapshot

  • Project: Installing a solar PV array for educational purposes
  • Location: Chisholm, MN
  • Activity: Implementation, Outreach
  • Technology: Solar PV
  • Benefits: Used partnerships to bring the project from concept to reality to show the public how energy can be made today
  • Total Project Cost: $15,350
  • Northeast CERT Seed Grant: $3,000
  • Annual Energy Savings: 2,426 kWh
  • People Involved: 3
  • People Reached: 26,000
     


CERTs awards seed grants to community groups for energy efficiency and clean energy projects across Minnesota. We’ve awarded over $1 million in Seed Grants since 2006. Click here to see more Seed Grant blog posts or click here to see more past funded projects.

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    CERTs Partners:

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