10/22/2014 - 1:53pm
While soaring propane prices last winter helped build interest in solar thermal systems, results from a Minnesota rebate program show the market is still lukewarm.
The state’s Department of Commerce has enough rebate money left over to fund dozens more solar hot water or solar thermal projects through its Made in Minnesota (MiM) program. Meanwhile, a much larger pool of money for PV has been exhausted.
Although the deadline for rebates has formally passed, MiM’s coordinator Kim Havey said the department has extended the program until the end of the year. Solar thermal could be particularly attractive to rural customers using propane, which may be in...
10/03/2014 - 4:08pm
Looking for a project example that educated students and the greater community about energy efficiency AND reduces costs AND improves the lighting quality? Look no further than the Madison, Marietta, Nassau Elementary School!
Madison, Minnesota (pop. 1,551) is located in west central Minnesota. The gymnasium at the elementary school was in sore need of better lighting, and the students were primed and pumped for the retrofit. “The school had completed a partnership with the City of Madison Bright Energy Solutions – an energy saving education program – for the 4th grade class that school year,” says Principal Kipp Stender. “The program taught students about the importance and ways to implement energy efficiency savings with their parents at home. The lighting retrofit at the school was an additional way to show the students how energy savings could be implemented at a...
10/03/2014 - 3:03pm
Two federal funding programs are on the near horizon for turkey producers and other farmers to access funds to make energy upgrades on Minnesota farms.
See below for more info on each of the programs, as well as an opportunity through the Clean Energy Resource Teams to get help navigating each of the opportunities.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helps farmers evaluate energy saving opportunities and provides financial assistance to help make energy upgrades happen. EQIP requires an audit first (the program pays for most—if not all—of it). After the audit, you can apply for financial assistance for a lighting project or any other recommendations in the audit.
Applications for this program are accepted on a continuous basis and there are three...
10/03/2014 - 12:05pm
The Minnesota Retiree Environmental Technical Assistance Program (RETAP) employs skilled, retired professionals to provide facility assessments and community sustainability assistance to small businesses, institutions, and communities in Minnesota.
Recommendations may be simple behavior changes, maintenance improvements, or more complicated retrofits. While you are under no obligation to implement the recommendations, a high percentage of surveyed clients do. Average savings from RETAP recommendations implemented in 2012 was over $2,000 per client.
To find out more or to request a free assessment: Visit the...
10/02/2014 - 11:58am
CERTs is excited to announce our newest staff member, Erin Smith, who started this summer as our West Central CERT Coordinator!
We realize we’re a little late introducing her to everyone, but in case you have not met her yet, please continue reading to learn more about her and grab her contact info to say hello!
Erin Smith is the West Central CERT Coordinator and is a Community Development Planner at the Upper Minnesota Regional Development Commission. Erin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban and Regional Studies from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and a Master’s in Urban Planning from Minnesota State University, Mankato with an emphasis on environmental planning. She is a LEED Green Associate and has experience working with in the non-profit realm through an internship with Habitat for Humanity during her time in Mankato. Erin has worked with GreenStep Cities and is...
10/01/2014 - 9:24am
The story from Lake Crystal shows that leadership must not necessarily come from the top; interns can do a great deal of directing positive change in a city. With AmeriCorps member Joan Van Grinsven at the helm, the city has reengaged with B3 Benchmarking in the past year and is making improvements based on the results.
Joan directed the updating of meter readings and building information in B3 Benchmarking and examined the analyses provided by the program for both the city and school district. “To the surprise of many, the city’s building’s fell all across the spectrum of performance, with the newest building on the poorer performing side.”
She then considered the next-step options available for the city saying, “Since Lake Crystal couldn’t go forward with the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program due to budget constraints, we prioritized the Lake...
09/19/2014 - 4:08pm
You might remember seeing a survey in February asking a few questions about Community Solar Gardens (CSGs).
CSGs are a way for Minnesotans to subscribe to a portion of a large solar project and receive credit on their energy bill for their portion of the project’s electricity production—just as they would if the panels were on their own roofs.
CERTs is continuing its work with researchers from the University of St. Thomas to better understand which aspects of community solar are most important to you and which factors would most influence your decision to subscribe to a project. We’d love to include your insights in a follow-up survey, which should take about 10 minutes to complete.
The results of the survey will be shared in a report in early 2015. Your responses will be kept confidential and will not be associated with your name.
09/19/2014 - 12:28pm
A pilot project in Minneapolis is testing the idea that business advocates might be the key to unlocking energy efficiency in the small business sector.
Energy efficiency advocates often look for where the highest efficiency gains can be achieved for the lowest amount of cost and effort. In looking at commercial energy efficiency, that mindset leads to a focus on large commercial and industrial buildings. While those customers certainly do have the potential for great gains, small buildings are also vitally important to our economy and to our efforts to become more efficient with energy usage.
The U.S. Department of Energy did a good job of making this case in an article it released in June of 2013, backing its investments in small commercial energy efficiency:
In the United States, the commercial building sector — of which more than 90 percent...
09/18/2014 - 9:26am
The big National Drive Electric Week event is coming up this weekend—Sunday, September 21st from 1:00 to 4:00pm at the State Capitol Mall.
To learn more about the event and electric vehicles (EVs) in general, we spoke with Matthew Blackner, Founder of ZEF Energy.
Joel Haskard: Who should come out to this event?
Matthew Blackner: Ever wondered what the fuss was all about? Want to cut through the marketing guff and ask ACTUAL owners what the limitations are and how to deal with them? Then this event is for you! If you like what you hear, or want to feel what it is like to drive a car with instant torque, there is a test drive of a fleet electric vehicles round a track on the Thursday afterwards.
Joel: What is something surprising folks might not know about EVs in...
09/18/2014 - 9:22am
More and more electric vehicles (EVs) are entering the national marketplace and hitting Minnesota roads. CERTs is doing a series of interviews with EV drivers to learn about their experiences.
Meet Jim: Jim Beecher of St. Louis Park drives an EV (Nissan Leaf 2013) because he decided he didn’t want to buy gasoline anymore. He previously drove a Ford Fairmont which he converted as well as a converted 1964 Volkswagen Bug.
Joel Haskard: Why did you decide to get an EV?
Jim Beecher: After the 9/11 attacks and the mounting evidence of global climate change, I decided I didn’t want to buy gasoline anymore. In 2003 I was able to get a hold of a partially-converted Ford Fairmont, which I finished and drove for three years. I wanted to do another conversion, and this time I refurbished and converted a 1964 Volkswagen Bug. I drove that car through 2009, when a charger mishap...