Solar Thermal Blog Posts
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Wed, 11/30/2016 - 4:30pm
Austin Utilities is a community-owned, not-for-profit electric, water, and natural gas utility, serving more than 12,000 customers within a community of over 23,000 people in Austin, MN. The utility officially opened its new, energy-efficient 105,000 sq. ft. Service and Operation Center at the end of July. We interviewed General Manager Mark Nibaur to learn more. Tell us a little bit about the new building. Mark Nibaur: The building allowed Austin Utilities to consolidate departments operating out of seven different buildings and three properties. The new facility has all operations from customer service, administrative, gas/water/electric construction, meter shops and labs for all three utilities, warehouse, vehicle storage and fleet repair. The new building would be labeled as a “Typical Midwest Utility and Public Works” style. The facility incorporates an...
Sarah Hayden Shaw
Wed, 09/28/2016 - 4:40pm
I have always wanted a space of my own to work on my varied and numerous projects—everything from painting to furniture restoration to various excuses to use all of my power tools. A need to store work equipment and tools helped push me to action, so three years ago I finished half of my detached two-stall garage in order to create this space. Introducing the Shopfice I super-insulated the walls and attic and added a patio door inside the garage door to create a weather-tight envelope that lets lots of light in, but was camouflaged as a mild looking garage when not in use. It was a fun project, and one I loved the results of. I work much of the time from home, and started spending many of my days working in what I began to call my “Shopfice.” My first attempt at renewable heating I also installed in my Shopfice the smallest and most efficient...
Sarah Hayden Shaw
Fri, 08/05/2016 - 3:22pm
The U.S. Military and National Guard have been leaders when it comes to adopting clean energy, and Camp Ripley in Little Falls is ahead of the pack in Minnesota. What are they doing? That’s what 50 Minnesotans recently found out! On Tuesday, August 2nd, the Minnesota National Guard Camp Ripley Training Center opened their doors to the public for a Central CERT tour to show off their amazing work to make their facility a national leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy production, and energy security. We started off with a lineup of great presenters Marty Skoglund, Environmenal Program Manager for the Minnesota National Guard: Marty started out by telling us about the incredibly biodiverse setting the Camp is located in and their efforts to protect and preserve this unique wilderness. He then...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Sun, 06/26/2016 - 12:17pm
Does your home or business get enough sun to generate solar power? You can now get an answer—quick, easy, and free—with a convenient online mapping tool called the Minnesota Solar App. Simply by typing in your address, you can get an instant analysis of the solar energy potential of your property. The app is available at http://mn.gov/solarapp and can be used on a computer, tablet or smartphone. “The Minnesota Solar App is a user-friendly tool that can help Minnesotans decide whether a solar power installation is right for them,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Solar is already a bright spot in Minnesota’s energy picture. It will only get bigger and brighter in the coming years. This app makes it even easier for more Minnesotans to go solar.” The typical single family home...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Sat, 06/25/2016 - 2:26pm
Affordable solar thermal systems are now within reach for more Minnesota homes and businesses. The Commerce Department announced that it will offer rebate opportunities beginning March 30, 2016 to all residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government entities as part of its Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program. Applications will be reviewed and funded on a first-come, first-served basis until funds have been fully reserved. Minnesota families may save up to $2,500, while businesses may save up to $25,000. “Solar thermal technology can take some of the unpredictability out of heating costs by adding renewable energy as a complement to current heating sources,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “The rebates will now help make installing solar heating a more affordable option for Minnesota businesses and residents.” The state’s solar incentive program, signed in to law by...
Thu, 06/09/2016 - 7:08am
There are a lot of communities with outdoor swimming pools in Minnesota, and many of them struggle with the high costs of keeping them heated. Kelly Fischer, who just completed her work as program assistant with the University of Minnesota’s Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, created a step-by-step manual to help folks use a free software system and figure out the payback for a solar thermal system installed at their community swimming pool. We caught up with Kelly to learn more. Can you tell us a little bit about RETscreen and the user manual you have created? Kelly Fischer: RETScreen is a free software system that assesses the feasibility of projects in the areas of renewable energy and sustainability. By entering numbers based on the...
Thu, 05/26/2016 - 6:55am
Deep Portage, a nonprofit Environmental Learning Center located near Hackensack, Minnesota, has a powerful story to tell of how they are building a sustainable energy future in Central Minnesota. Clean energy work has made Deep Portage stand out as a leader in energy efficiency and environmental responsibility. In 2011 Deep Portage turned on its first solar electric array with a rated capacity of 8 kW and a 10 kW wind turbine. By the end of 2015 Deep Portage had expanded its electricity clean energy from the original 18 kW to 58 kW, which has resulted in clean electric power generation rising from 5,755 kWh in 2011 to 57,284 kWh in 2015. In addition, Deep Portage purchases green credits valued at 226,800 kWh annually of clean energy. In 2015, through its own renewable energy production and purchase of green credits, 100% of Deep...
Tue, 05/24/2016 - 6:57am
USDA Rural Development State Director recently announced funding to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers conserve energy and develop renewable energy systems. “This funding will allow local rural small businesses and ag producers the opportunity to invest in improvements that will reduce energy usage or use energy more efficiently,” Landkamer said. “It also empowers rural America to pave the way to our nation’s energy independence.” Southwest Regional Development Commission (SRDC) will receive a $70,060 grant to assist approximately 67 rural small businesses and agricultural producers in Southwestern Minnesota by coordinating and promoting energy audits in over 18 counties through its Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Energy Audit Assistance program. Energy audits can help recipients determine the most effective ways to...
Thu, 04/14/2016 - 2:38pm
With the Made in Minnesota solar thermal rebate still available, we spoke with Jason Edens, Director of the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL), to learn about an eligible technology, SolarWall. While other solar thermal technologies are still available in Minnesota, SolarWall is the only one that is actively being manufactured. All others are simply drawing down existing inventory. Can you tell me a little about SolarWall? Jason Edens: SolarWall is a solar thermal technology designed to pre-heat ventilation make-up air in commercial, industrial and agricultural applications. Ventilation make-up air? What’s that? Jason Edens: Our buildings must breathe or exchange air...
Dept. of Commerce
Wed, 03/30/2016 - 11:33am
Affordable solar thermal systems are now within reach for more Minnesota homes and businesses. The Commerce Department announced that it will offer rebate opportunities beginning March 30, 2016 to all residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government entities as part of its Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program. Applications will be reviewed and funded on a first-come, first-served basis until funds have been fully reserved. Minnesota families may save up to $2,500, while businesses may save up to $25,000. “Solar thermal technology can take some of the unpredictability out of heating costs by adding renewable energy as a complement to current heating sources,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “The rebates will now help make installing solar heating a more affordable option for Minnesota...
Tue, 02/23/2016 - 5:45pm
Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are springing up all across the state, with Minnesota poised to go from roughly 35 MW of installed capacity to upwards of 400 MW by the end of 2016. Whoa! With all that excitement, sometimes the world of solar thermal is woefully overlooked. With cheap natural gas and low delivered fuel prices, it has been a hard year for Minnesota’s solar thermal manufacturing and installing community. We spoke with one of the early manufacturers, Ron Anderson, to hear about a solar thermal collector that he manufactures up in Northeast Minnesota. Tell us a little bit about the Solarway 6000. Ron Anderson: The Solarway 6000 is a light, strong air heating solar panel, weighing in at only 75 pounds, 4’ x 8’ and only 4” deep. The glazing is .040 reinforced fiberglass poly and is resistant to hail, rocks, and the...
Wed, 02/03/2016 - 10:22am
What is REEGP? The Renewable Energy Equipment Grant program (REEGP), provides Minnesota Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) providers grant funding to install renewable energy equipment in low-income households. The statute that appropriates these funds specifically calls for the installation of renewable energy equipment in households; however, historically, the state provided funds to help make heating systems more efficient (the first program retrofitted oil burning furnaces). In keeping with the original intent, REEGP was designed to provide supplemental heat through the installation of renewable energy technologies in eligible households under Minnesota’s WAP. Initially, solar air heating and high efficiency wood boilers were approved by REEGP as a direct source of supplemental heat. As solar photovoltaic and direct solar photovoltaic-thermal technology costs have...
Wed, 01/06/2016 - 10:35am
The Clean Energy Resource Teams are excited to announce 39 Seed Grant awards to organizations in the seven Minnesota CERT regions. Each region awarded around $20,000 worth of grants, catalyzing energy efficiency and renewable energy across the state. CERTs has awarded over $1 million in Seed Grants to 269 projects since 2006. Continue reading to explore a map of projects and see details about each of the grants. To learn more about past funded projects, visit our CERTs Seed Grants page. New Opportunity: The Southwest CERT Region has seed grant funds still available that they are dedicating to focused project support. Click here to learn more about the SW Clean Energy Accelerator....
Dept. of Commerce
Wed, 01/06/2016 - 9:00am
The Minnesota Legislature established the Made in Minnesota (MiM) Solar Incentive Program in 2013 to help our state meet its solar electricity standard and to catalyze the solar industry. MiM is a solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal incentive program for consumers who install PV and solar thermal systems using solar modules and collectors certified as manufactured in Minnesota. The program is administered by the Department of Commerce with an annual budget of up to $15 million for 10 years, including $250,000 per year for solar thermal rebates. Solar PV projects must be located in one of three participating electric investor-owned utility (IOU) service territories and tied directly to an electric meter at the home or business of the host customer of the solar PV installation. Customers of Xcel Energy,...
Tue, 11/17/2015 - 12:39pm
During the month of October, 2015, folks in Mankato, Staples, and Grand Rapids had a chance to share their input on the Minnesota 2025 Energy Action Plan. CERTs hosted these three events (as well as an event in St. Paul) to gather feedback, with attendees participating in small group discussions on two of these five topics: Energy planning Industry & agriculture Buildings & energy efficiency Mobility, transportation & fuels Energy supply & grid modernization “It was great getting input from such diverse stakeholders across the state,” said Lissa Pawlisch, CERTs Director. “Folks in every region noted the need to scale up energy efficiency in existing buildings, and there was real interest in distributed energy systems with the recent boom in solar, continued growth in wind energy, and opportunities for greater use of biomass.” We want your input, too...
Fri, 10/30/2015 - 1:08pm
Interest in solar energy and community solar gardens has exploded this year in Minnesota, and people are hungry for tools that can help them move forward. To meet the demand, the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) has relaunched the Clean Energy Project Builder website, which helps people find companies that can help them plan, implement, and manage clean energy projects (and now much more). The most exciting new feature on the website is a directory of the available Community Solar Gardens (CSGs) in the state. People can visit the website and choose their electric utility and county to see the gardens available to them for subscription. There are already 27 community solar gardens on the website, with more being added every week....
Mon, 09/21/2015 - 2:00pm
Minnesota is the nation’s number one turkey producer. A CERTs Seed Grant helped research ways to further reduce energy costs in turkey barns and strengthen these core Minnesota businesses. Turkey production facilities have high ventilation make-up air loads and therefore high heating loads. Turkey production operations are often far from the natural gas grid and dependent on expensive delivered fuels. With that in mind, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) set out to prove that transpired air is a low-cost, effective solar technology designed for ventilation make-up air loads and offers the massive Minnesota turkey industry an opportunity to dramatically reduce and stabilize energy costs. “The goal of the project was to design, construct, and commission a transpired air system at a turkey production facility to create awareness for the use of this...
Fri, 09/11/2015 - 3:12pm
The Made in Minnesota (MiM) Solar Program is a lottery-based incentive available to Minnesotans who install solar equipment that is made in Minnesota. Metro CERT Director Diana McKeown sat down with Kim Havey, Made in Minnesota Solar Program Coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, to learn more about the program and how it’s working in the state. Diana McKeown: How do you describe the Made in Minnesota Solar Program to people? Kim Havey: Made in Minnesota (MiM) is a program designed to grow jobs within the solar industry in Minnesota and support the installation of solar PV and thermal for residents and businesses. The program is ideally designed for residential and business rooftop solar installations but also can be used for ground mounted installations, which is ideal for farms. Legislation in...
Wed, 09/02/2015 - 4:54pm
There are now ten new solar thermal units installed on White Earth tribal members’ homes on the reservation, providing indoor space heating from the sun. “Our tribal community suffers from rampant fuel poverty and a high drain of our energy economy,” says Tom Ferrarell, project coordinator of the White Earth Solar Thermal Install and Training project. “One quarter of our tribal income is spent on energy, and since our community has the poorest county in the state of Minnesota, it is critical that we address this through two mechanisms—efficiency and local control over energy. This project integrates valuable green job skills for our tribal members and heating cost relief for our residents.” With help from a NW CERT Seed Grant, Tom worked with local newspapers and KKWE Niijii Radio to recruit ten local residents’ homes and a cadre of trainees: Robin Davis, Melvin Mannypenny, Rob...
Tue, 09/01/2015 - 5:40pm
The Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES), a non-profit that promotes solar energy in Minnesota through education and the demonstration of practical application, has been conducting the Minnesota Solar Tour for about 14 years via volunteers or staff located in the Twin Cities area. The goal of the tour is to increase people’s confidence that they can make improvements to their own homes or businesses by giving them a “hands on” experience with working products and a friendly interaction with someone who is an owner and user, rather than a sales person. MRES has found the Greater Minnesota portion of the tour to be consistently lagging behind in media attention and attendance. Hoping to rectify that, the strategy for 2014 was twofold: First, to separate the Twin Cities Metro Solar Tour...