Mon, 07/01/2013 - 12:39pm
According to the EPA in 2012, “drinking water and wastewater systems account for approximately 3-4 percent of energy use in the United States, resulting in the emissions of more than 45 million tons of Greenhouse Gases annually” (Energy Efficiency in Water and Wastewater Facilities 2013).
Water and wastewater treatment, often overlooked yet large consumers of energy, can account for up to 10 percent of a local government’s annual operating budget (DOE in Energy Efficiency, 2013). Water and wastewater facilities can be among the highest consumers of energy in a community due to pumps, motors, and other equipment operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Luckily, methods of water efficiency and conservation are appearing in communities across the nation. Simple solutions such as...
Fri, 06/28/2013 - 10:53am
56 cities were recognized last week for participation in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program, a free and voluntary program designed to help Minnesota cities achieve their environmental sustainability goals through implementation of 28 best practices.
Each best practice can be implemented by completing one or more specific actions from a list of four-to-eight actions in the areas of transportation, buildings and lighting, environmental management, land use, and economic and community development. Those actions are tailored to all types of Minnesota cities, and they focus on cost savings, energy use reduction, and encouraging innovation. Cities were recognized at an awards program last week at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference in St. Paul.
Cities achieve Step One recognition by passing a resolution to become a GreenStep City. Step Two-designated cities have...
Thu, 06/27/2013 - 4:16pm
Making sure your home has adequate insulation in walls and attics, as well as being air-sealed, is a great way to reduce energy use and save money in the long run.
What is air sealing? Air sealing is filling holes, cracks, and gaps in the air barrier between the interior and exterior of your home.
What is an air barrier? An air barrier is anything that prevents air from flowing from indoors to outdoors, or vice versa.
Should you insulate or air seal first? Ideally, air sealing should be done first. Holes in your air barrier allow air to escape no matter how much insulation you have. Air sealing works to keep air you have paid to heat or cool within your home.
How to you test for air tightness? One of the most common ways to test air tightness is through a blower door (a large fan that blows air out of your house while measuring the pressure within).
What are the different...
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 3:40pm
You’ve seen those huge, white, and twirling wind turbines on the horizon before, but have you ever wondered how they actually work? Let’s break it down!
What is wind energy?
Wind energy is electricity created from a wind turbine. (Side note: a common mistake is to call them windmills; however, the proper name is wind turbine. Windmills do spin and resemble wind turbines, but windmills actually pump water from the ground—think Dutch windmills.)
How do they actually work?
When the wind blows, it turns the blades of the turbine. As these blades turn, they spin generators to create electricity. The electricity is then sent to a transformer which increases the voltage and sends it to a distribution line. Next, local transformers reduce the voltage and send it to homes or businesses.
Why are they so tall?
Wind turbines are tall due to the fact that wind increases at...
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 2:35pm
The term “wastewater” may become a misnomer—or at least the “waste” part. The City of Brainerd investigated the possibility of using its wastewater as a resource to produce energy for municipal buildings. With the help of an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) of $45,000 to conduct research on the topic of untapped energy in wastewater streams, Brainerd is now at the forefront in this field of renewable energy research.
In 2010, a research partnership between the City of Brainerd, Brainerd Public Utilities, the Brainerd School District and an area firm called Hidden Fuels looked into the potential to heat and cool schools and other public buildings by extracting energy from the wastewater stream.
Hidden Fuels is a renewable energy company providing services and products to efficiently capture and distribute unused energy from waste...
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 2:13pm
Updated July 12, 2013 with system performance and savings over the 2012-2013 winter heating season.
Located just three miles outside of Brainerd, Minnesota, the unassuming Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport has instituted a solar energy heating system that will serve as an example to the region for decades to come. Utilizing nine 4 foot by 10 foot solar thermal air heat collectors affixed side-by-side on the south wall of one of the airport’s larger storage buildings, the airport saved over $500 in heating costs in the 2011-2012 winter, and an additional $1,400 in the 2012-2013 winter.
Unlike solar photovoltaic technology, the airport’s solar thermal system has nothing to do with electricity production. Rather, the solar thermal system’s collectors heat the air inside the building by absorbing solar energy. Once sufficient heat has been collected, a simple fan system moves the...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 10:09am
Summer has barely begun, but planning has been underway for months on the Home Energy exhibit at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair. For the second straight year, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources (DER) is sponsoring and coordinating the Home Energy exhibit, with expectations of making it bigger and better than last year.
At least 10 new displays are planned to provide a showcase of energy efficiency and renewable energy for Minnesota homeowners. Once again, DER has recruited numerous partners—state agencies, utilities, retailers, neighborhood energy groups, nonprofits, trade organizations, finance agencies, and more—to implement a range of educational displays that demonstrate ways to improve the efficiency, comfort, safety and sustainability of Minnesota homes.
The design of this year’s Home Energy exhibit will give visitors a chance to view all sides...
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 10:07am
Dr. David Schmidt of the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences is practicing what he preaches. The professor of the popular Renewable Energy and the Environment course has conducted his own study on phantom power in the home.
Phantom power (also referred to as standby power, vampire draw, or leaking electricity) is the act of electrical appliances consuming power while switched off or in standby mode. Schmidt ran an in-home experiment with a Kilo-Watt meter and tested items such as laptops and phone chargers.
Schmidt began the experiment by plugging only the power cords (chargers) for 4 laptops, 2 cell phones, 2 iPads, a Nook, a Nexus, and an iPod all onto the same power strip. (See above right photo...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 9:54am
The 2013 session of the Minnesota Legislature passed an omnibus energy bill in May intended to significantly increase the generation of solar and other clean energy in Minnesota. From a solar mandate requiring public utilities to generate 1.5 percent of their energy from solar, to incentives for homeowners and businesses to acquire clean energy, the bill sends a clear message that Minnesota wants a faster track to more renewable energy. The bill, House File 729, was passed as part of a large omnibus jobs, economic development, housing, commerce, and energy bill and was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton on May 23. Articles 7-13 cover the energy portions of the bill. Articles 7-13 cover the energy portions of the bill.
A few highlights of the bill include:
A new solar energy standard that requires four investor-owned electric public utilities (Xcel, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power,...
Fri, 06/21/2013 - 2:35pm
Our Renewables section will focus primarily on district heating projects powered by renewable energy sources in the forms of biomass, solar thermal, and wastewater energy. There are four stories that we will be highlighting in three communities, the cities of Brainerd, Ely, and Franklin.
The City of Brainerd conducted two major renewable heating projects: a solar thermal air heating system at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport and a feasibility study and research partnership on the potential for wastewater district heating in the City of Brainerd.
The cities of Ely and Franklin investigated biomass district heating. The City of Franklin installed a biomass boiler district heating system which now fully heats three municipal buildings: the city hall, the fire hall, and the city maintenance shop. Meanwhile, Ely conducted a feasibility study on biomass district heating.
Not all EECBG-...