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The Eco-Affordable Home was featured during the 2014 Sustainable Places Tour sponsored by the Bemidji Sustainability Committee
Anna Carlson
05/28/2015 - 11:13am
After a July 2012 storm devastated a cabin on Judith Nelson’s property outside of Bemidji, her insurance company provided a frugal replacement cost. Rochell Carpenter, carpentry instructor at nearby Leech Lake Tribal College, embraced the project of building a two-bedroom home on a thrifty budget. With her carpentry class, she designed and constructed an eco-affordable home, sustainable in both energy consumption and price. Carpenter minimized the home’s footprint and maximized its sun exposure. She chose local wood and stones, raised the ceiling, and installed an open floor plan. To combat our extreme climate, Carpenter recommends absolute airtightness and plenty of insulation. This combination reduces the need for both air conditioning and heating. Highlighted on the Bemidji Sustainability Committee’s 2014...
PACE in southern MN
Annette Fiedler
05/28/2015 - 9:47am
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a new way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to the buildings of commercial property owners in cities and counties that allow it. 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. We spoke with Richard Otten, a Certified Energy Manager (CEM), to learn more about the energy audits of businesses he provides, some of which are done for the Rural Minnesota Energy Board (RMEB) commercial PACE program. CERTs: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business. Richard Otten: My name is Richard Otten. I have been a CEM (Certified Energy Manager) since 2011. The Association of Energy Engineers provides this certification. I...
Map of community solar programs in Minnesota
Dan Thiede
05/21/2015 - 4:04pm
Interest in community solar gardens has been exploding in recent months, and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) has been busy keeping up with the demand for information and technical assistance. Minnesota has nearly two hundred utilities that can be categorized as investor-owned, cooperative, or municipal. To help people visualize where in Minnesota community solar garden programs are available, CERTs published a map that is publicly available at http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/solargardens#current. The map allows people to see which where each utility’s territory extends and which utilities are currently offering community solar programs. Electric Utility Service Areas layer is public and provided by MnGEO. You...
Gary Hoffman is saving a lot of energy on his dairy farm with efficiency measures
Fritz Ebinger
05/19/2015 - 11:38am
“I’ve always been for anything that would save,” says Gary Hoffman of Hoffman Farms, a 300+ head dairy with 800 acres just west of Chatfield, MN. Hoffman Farms recently saved energy and money on dairy technology through People’s Energy Cooperative energy savings rebates. Hoffman Farms first began with an on-farm energy audit in cooperation with Dairyland Power (wholesale power generator for People’s Energy Cooperative) to better understand the energy costs in their milk production and identify the most cost-effective technology upgrades. In the months following the energy audit, they met People’s Energy Cooperative Energy Advisor, Brandon Johnson, and started seeing rebate offerings for energy savings equipment in People’s Energy Cooperative’s Highline Highlights...
Minnesota GreenCorps Program
Dan Thiede
05/19/2015 - 10:55am
Minnesota GreenCorps is recruiting the next generation of environmental leaders… do you know someone who has what it takes? Minnesota GreenCorps helps communities across Minnesota prepare for a strong and resilient future by using environmental best practices that achieve results. GreenCorps members are matched with host organizations like cities, school districts, or nonprofits to work on a specific focus area. From September 2015- August 2016, members contribute 1700 hours of service and receive professional development, mentoring, a living stipend of $12,530 and an education award of $5,730. What’s life after GreenCorps like? 8 in 10 alumni report that Minnesota GreenCorps helped them get their desired jobs, and 9 in 10 alumni are employed or in school. Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program coordinated by the Minnesota Pollution Control...
Minneapolis Neighborhood Leaders Gathered at Mayflower Church on April 30th
Trevor Drake
05/18/2015 - 8:36am
Over 70 neighborhood leaders gathered at Mayflower Church in Minneapolis on Thursday, April 30th to learn about community solar gardens, including key considerations and specific roles for neighborhoods. Setting the Stage The event was co-hosted by the City of Minneapolis and Metro CERT, and was the result of a several-month planning process in which a group of eight neighborhood leaders provided their input and expertise in designing this workshop. Gayle Prest, Sustainability Director with the City of Minneapolis, welcomed attendees by telling them, “Don’t sweat it.” She encouraged them to get excited, explore this emerging opportunity, and know that this workshop is intended to be just the beginning of learning about solar gardens. What Role to Play? Lissa Pawlisch, CERTs Statewide Director, provided a basis of understanding on solar gardens (see here for...
The Villella household utilizes several technologies, including geothermal, Solar PV and electric vehicles.
Stacey Pederson
05/13/2015 - 3:05pm
Many Minnesotans are adding solar to their homes, and some folks are doing even more. Sam Villella and his family are a few of those over achievers: in addition to solar PV on their roof, they heat and cool their home with geothermal and get around in two electric vehicles. Stacey Pederson recently spoke with Sam to learn more about his experience and lessons learned when implementing energy efficiency measures and renewable energy projects. Stacey Pederson: Can you tell me about how you became interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy? Sam Villella: I never gave it much thought at all until I had children. They were certainly the spark that made me think about things. I am also conservative by nature and the dollars and cents of efficiency certainly made things attractive. Stacey: What all did you do? Sam: The first major thing I did was install a small 2.2 kW...
Excelen is saving major energy through improvements financed by PACE
Anthony D'Amico
05/13/2015 - 1:43pm
Excelen is an independent, nonprofit research and education organization that educates and assists orthopedic researchers as they develop innovative surgical and rehabilitative techniques. Located in downtown Minneapolis, with over 10,000 square feet of floor space, Excelen is currently one of the fastest growing research labs in the Twin Cities. To assist in this growth, Excelen recently used PACE to double its investment in new mechanical equipment and building controls. The center’s executive director, Tom Mowbray, called PACE “an incredible tool for companies who want to complete energy-related projects. We already have 25 percent energy savings showing up our electric bill.” Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a new way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to the buildings of commercial property owners...
Students touring Saint Paul EcoDistrict
Patrick Mathwig
05/13/2015 - 1:00pm
On April 9th, 85 environmental studies students from Saint Paul’s Central High School headed to downtown Saint Paul for a special day-long tour. The tour took the students through the new Saint Paul EcoDistrict: the Science Museum of Minnesota, the RiverCentre parking ramp, inside and on top of the RiverCentre and the Saint Paul District Energy plant. The Central High School Clean Energy Field trip came about after Lisa Houdek, a science teacher at Central High School, approached the Metro region of the Clean Energy Resource Teams (Metro CERT), a program of the Great Plains Institute, for help in setting up a field trip for her Environmental Studies classes. Houdek teaches about clean energy technologies and sustainability, and wanted her students to be able to see projects being deployed in their own...
L to R: Laurel Johnston, Cavan Wagg, Patrick Huelman, Peter Schneider, and Collin Coltman
Sam Lounsbury
05/13/2015 - 12:43pm
The University of Minnesota won the grand prize at the Second Annual Department of Energy Race to Zero Student Competition. The winning group, team OptiMN, was made up of fourteen students from four different colleges that beat out 27 other colleges from the United States and Canada for the top prize. Four presenters, Collin Coltman, Laurel Johnston, Peter Schneider, and Cavan Wagg went to Golden, Colorado to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to present their Impact Home. The Impact Home, which has 3 bedrooms & 1.5 bathrooms, provides the homeowner with excellent thermal insulation and deliberate vapor control. The house would be outfitted with the best of energy efficient appliances and technology, including solar panels on the roof. Nothing is wasted with the...


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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