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New solar-powered LED lit signs welcome people to Slayton
Annette Fiedler
Wed, 07/12/2017 - 12:46pm
Three signs welcoming people to the City of Slayton are now illuminated using the power of the sun. The new entrance signs use solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to power energy-efficient LED light bulbs. The signs are backlit with LED lights. A 280-watt solar panel was installed to power each of the three signs, and battery systems are used so that the signs can remain off the grid, avoiding expensive connections to electric lines. Josh Malchow, Slayton’s City Administrator, reported that “After considering the overall cost of running power to the sites or using solar, the city felt that choosing solar power was the best option.” The City of Slayton received a $2,025 Seed Grant from the Southwest Clean Energy Resource Team (SW CERT) to install the signs. Annette Fiedler, SW CERT Coordinator, said that “the SW CERT Seed Grant funds were used to help offset the labor cost to install...
First solar installation at Ney Nature Center
Joel Haskard
Mon, 06/19/2017 - 4:38pm
Located in southeast Minnesota in Henderson (pop. 866), the Ney Nature Center is great place to visit for bird watching, hiking, cross country skiing…and learning about solar energy! To learn more about their Southeast CERT Seed Grant project we chatted with Becky Pollack, Ney Nature Center’s Executive Director.   Tell us a little about this project.   Becky Pollack: The Ney Nature Center partners with the Youth Energy Summit (YES!) Program and hosts a YES! Coordinator as staff within our office. Discussion on steps to reduce the Ney Nature Center’s carbon footprint began amongst staff as a way to model behaviors or habits to the general public that we would like to see others facilitate. These...
Speakers Morgan and Olya from CCLEP efficiency event
Marcell Mikkelson
Mon, 06/19/2017 - 4:36pm
Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) is a community organization located in Grand Marais with a goal to educate people of all ages about energy efficiency and renewable energy. With help from Northeast CERT, CCLEP was able to host a series of events called Energy Efficiency Evenings aimed at educating people about ways to reduce energy consumption at home, and even think about their renewable energy options. There were four events in the Energy Efficiency Evenings series, all with different topics: The first event was a screening of Chasing Ice, a documentary highlighting the work of climate change photographer Jim Balog. The second and third events focused on increasing energy efficiency at home and information on solar PV systems, respectively. Guests were informed of simple ways that they could reduce energy use...
Solar installation at Minnesota Discovery Center
Marcell Mikkelson
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 2:42pm
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...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Thu, 06/01/2017 - 3:24pm
On a bright, sunny Minnesota spring day, with solar panels in the background, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced that the state is enjoying dramatic growth in solar power, adding nearly as much new solar capacity in just the first three months of 2017 as in all of 2016. Rothman announced the latest solar statistics at the Schneiderman’s Furniture store in Plymouth, a Twin Cities suburb. The local family-owned furniture retailer has installed rooftop solar power systems at its Plymouth, Woodbury and Duluth stores, with support from state solar incentives. The solar projects were developed by Ideal Energies, a Minnesota-based commercial solar energy developer with over 140 commercial systems in operation. “Solar is already a bright spot in Minnesota’s energy picture, and it’s getting even bigger and brighter,” said Rothman, whose agency includes the state energy...
Project partners pose for an award photo
Trevor Drake
Fri, 05/26/2017 - 10:51am
The Metropolitan Council, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), and their partners are being awarded for their innovative solar garden work at the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards. The awards program, hosted by the nonprofit Environmental Initiative, annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary outcomes by harnessing the power of partnership. The project is being honored in the Community Action category. The Governmental Solar Garden Collaborative is a joint effort by and for 31 local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region to procure solar garden subscriptions from a single Request...
Touring the solar array that powers the Hutchinson wastewater treatment plant
Kristi Fernholz
Fri, 05/19/2017 - 4:19pm
On Tuesday, April 18, 2017, over 20 people gathered at City Hall in Hutchinson, Minnesota, to take a driving and walking tour of the many clean energy and sustainability projects that the city has engaged in over the years. They were greeted by Mayor Gary Forcier, City Administrator Matt Jaunich, Facilities Manager Jeremiah “JJ” Verhey and GreenStep Cities Coordinator and Project, Environmental, and Regulatory Manager John Paulson. The three spoke about some of the energy efficiency upgrades (LED lighting, lighting times/motion sensors, variable frequency drive motors) that have reduced energy costs across the city’s buildings. “We’re doing it for multiple reasons—economic and environmental—and then we are benchmarking so we can show people where we are saving money,” noted Mayor Forcier. The city even created its own composting program to process and sell the compost it collects...
Solar installation at Bridgeview Farms
Fritz Ebinger
Mon, 05/01/2017 - 11:36am
The cattle pasture on the southern side of Bridgeview Farms is now home to 32 solar PV panels providing 88% of the average annual electricity needed by Tim and Marie Mack’s farm and home. A family owned and operated farm, Bridgeview in Zumbrota, MN offers traditionally-raised beef sides and quarters, as well as corn, soybeans, hay, straw, and pumpkins. By covering the majority of the farm’s energy use, the solar installation will help keep electricity costs predictable and save the farm money as energy costs rise over the coming years. The farm’s new solar array consists of 32 Heliene modules that are made here in Minnesota and a 10 kW Fronius inverter. The 9.92 kW system is estimated to produce 12,500 kWh every year. The farm worked with Fritz Ebinger at the Clean Energy Resource Teams to...
Solar installation at Ronningen Dairy Farm
Fritz Ebinger
Mon, 05/01/2017 - 11:16am
A 39 kW solar PV array is the newest piece of equipment on Ronningen Dairy Farm in West Concord, MN in rural Goodhue County, and it’s pumping enough energy into the grid to cover about 50% of the dairy’s electricity needs. With over 100 head of Brown Swiss and Holstein dairy cows, Kurtis and Kelly at Ronningen Dairy Farm are keeping plenty busy, and always looking for ways to help their family business to be more economically sustainable. The decision to install 39 kW of solar will save the dairy a considerable amount of money on their energy bills by avoiding the rising costs of electricity. The farm worked with Fritz Ebinger at the Clean Energy Resource Teams to get project planning support through the Renewable Energy for Greater Minnesota program. They came to Fritz from Curt Shellum at Solar Connection, a Rochester-based solar...
Ron and Kathy Gray, front right, along with (left to right) their daughter Miranda, son-in-law Scott, and grandchildren Murdock and Gwendolyn, pose with their rooftop solar energy system. Llamas from their family business join in the fun.
MN Dept. of Commerce
Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:11pm
Solar is a win-win-win for incentive recipients, economy and environment   Ron and Kathy Gray of Kellogg, Minn., applied for the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program in 2015 and were selected to receive the incentive. They had a 9.9 kW rooftop solar system installed on their house, just off Highway 61 in southeastern Minnesota. The system was installed in September 2015 for $40,000. They have been pleased with the performance of their new clean energy system, which provides about 85% of the electricity needed annually to power their home. They will receive an incentive payment of about $2,250 each year in June for 10 years, based on the electric generation of their system in the previous calendar year. With a 30% federal tax credit and the incentive payments, they can see the financial and environmental benefits. “The panels are guaranteed for 25 years, so we will be...
Diana McKeown chats with local business owner
Diana McKeown
Sat, 04/22/2017 - 2:25pm
Over the past year, Metro CERT has supported the energy conservation and development aspect of the Chisago Lakes Area’s community revitalization plan for their entry into the America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition they have been participating in for nearly two years. The Chisago Lakes Area includes the communities of Chisago, Lindstrom, Center City, Shafer, and Taylors Falls. In the end, they were one of eight communities (out of 350 originally) with a chance to receive one, two, or three million dollars. On April 19th the winners were announced and sadly, Chisago Lakes didn’t win. Though they are still winners in our eyes!   Metro CERT support   Metro CERT supported the energy conservation and development plan in a number of different ways. In December...
8.5kW Winona residential solar installation by Innovative Power Systems in 2010
Chris Meyer
Mon, 04/10/2017 - 11:47am
Over sixty Winona county residents crowded into the Winona City Hall on a recent brisk March Saturday morning to learn the “Seven Steps to a Solar Ready Home.” Because every dollar spent on energy efficiency reduces the size of a needed solar electric generating system energy, efficiency can actually reduce a homeowner’s cost for a solar system by three to five times. Getting ready for a solar system is all about energy efficiency! The event was a partnership of CERTs, Sustain Winona, and the Jefferson Center as the first of a number of events to raise awareness about energy and water use in the region. Networking with local solar electric system installers and local electric utilities (Xcel and MiEnergy) was also available at the event. Step 1: Get an energy audit To know what needs improvement a homeowner has to know how their house is currently performing, so...
Mayor Peter Lindstrom shows off solar panels atop Falcon Heights City Hall
Trevor Drake
Wed, 04/05/2017 - 10:30am
Community solar programs are gaining increasing interest from electric utility customers across the nation. Unlike individual solar PV systems, community shared solar systems, also known as Solar Gardens, create an opportunity for multiple individuals and organizations to receive the benefit of a larger solar installation without requiring it to be located on-site. For local government entities, these benefits include supporting clean energy and its positive local economic impacts, saving on energy bills for public facilities, and hedging against the future price volatility of electricity. A new report released by the Clean Energy Resource Teams, a partnership of organizations working with communities on clean energy projects in Minnesota, highlights the unique ability for community...
Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive
Lissa Pawlisch
Wed, 04/05/2017 - 9:30am
The Minnesota Department of Commerce just announced their 2017 Made in Minnesota Solar PV Incentive Program lottery results. This year the program will support 679 new projects and 10.23 MW of capacity—that’s a lot! Minnesota Power’s SolarSense Program also expanded this year. A random selection of applicants for the 2017 Made in Minnesota Solar PV Production-Based Incentive Program was completed on March 22, and 679 new residential and commercial solar electric (PV) systems were chosen to receive funding in the fourth year of the 10-year program. The random selection process was conducted by a third-party vendor. Applicants to the 2017 PV incentive program will be notified by the Minnesota Department of Commerce through...
2017 Midwest Farm Energy Conference
Dan Thiede
Tue, 04/04/2017 - 3:25pm
Interest in reducing the energy consumption of livestock has certainly grown, not only from a consumer’s perspective, but also from producers—for both cost-saving and environmental reasons. For example, within swine facilities, electricity is used in two major areas. First, for delivering feed and water, and secondly, for removing heat in the summer and providing heat in winter. This raises the question—are there things producers can do in the summer to lessen the need for electricity and make facilities more efficient? Similarly, are there things producers can do during the winter months to reduce the use of propane? Researchers at the U of MN West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), Morris, have been working to address these challenges by developing optimized and cost-effective energy systems for both swine and dairy production systems. The Midwest Farm...
Credit: Gerry Machen
Frank Jossi
Tue, 04/04/2017 - 10:08am
Later this year the nation’s first “integrated” wind and solar hybrid project will begin producing power outside a small city in northwest Minnesota. Developed by Juhl Energy, Inc., the Red Lake Falls Project combines two 2.3 megawatt (MW) General Electric 116-meter rotor turbines with a 1 MW solar photovoltaic installation. Dan Juhl, the company’s founder, said it will be the first project in the country to use wind integrated solar energy (WiSE) allowing turbines and panels to share a converter, which transforms electrical direct-current voltage for use on the grid. Each turbine is designed to allow 500 kilowatts of solar energy to be processed through the converter, he said. Typically, converters cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Juhl said, so the savings are substantial when deploying a hybrid. “It reduces the capital costs because you don’t have to have duplicates,” he...
University of Minnesota researcher Samantha Ehrenberg uses a plasma reactor to create silicon nanoparticles that are the key ingredient in the solar concentrators. Credit: Patrick O'Leary, University of Minnesota
Joel Haskard
Wed, 03/15/2017 - 3:47pm
The CERTs statewide staff are housed at the University of Minnesota on the St. Paul campus. There is a lot of interesting research happening around here, and when we recently read that researchers were working with high-tech silicon nanoparticles to collect solar energy in windows, man, that got us pretty excited. OK, it might be a few years away, but hey, still exciting. We spoke with Dr. Uwe Kortshagen, Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, to learn more.   Have you had any window manufactures express interest in this technology?   Dr. Uwe Kortshagen: We have held this technology under wraps, until the publication of our paper two weeks ago. We have since started to reach out to one local window manufacturer, but have...
North Star Solar project
Diana McKeown
Thu, 02/23/2017 - 9:47am
This article is an excerpt of a recent story from the Chisago County Press. There is a solar boom happening in Minnesota, and with the 100 MW North Star Solar project now complete, it’s booming the most in Chisago County, which estimates that about $350,000 in tax revenue will be created by solar projects in the county. The leasing of the land has also put money in farmers’ pockets where soils were not considered to be premium quality. As Chisago County Environmental Services and Zoning Director Kurt Schneider put it, “We are experiencing the planting of a new crop.” County officials recently shared Chisago County’s experience with solar at a conference of Minnesota counties...

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