Southwest Blog Posts
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Tue, 06/21/2016 - 9:01am
There are now more than 100 cities in Minnesota participating in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program. Most of the cities involved are small-to-medium-sized cities where the support of a savvy intern can help staff go the extra step on accomplishing best practices. But how should a mutually-beneficial internship be structured and run? A new GreenStep Cities Internship Manual answers these questions and more! If your city is looking for the support of an intern but unsure how to structure the mutually-beneficial opportunity, then the new Minnesota GreenStep Cities Intern Manual will be a valuable resource that can help you each step of the way. The GreenStep Cities intern for the City of La Crescent was recently featured...
Mon, 06/20/2016 - 1:44pm
Minnesota is not too shabby when it comes to clean energy these days. Below are recent reports from two national organizations, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), highlighting Minnesota’s place in the solar and wind energy landscape. SEIA 2015 Report Minnesota expected to crack top 10 states for annual solar installations Minnesota is poised to climb from 25th to the top 10 states for annual solar installations in 2016, according to state solar projections. Based on utility filings and industry projections, the Minnesota Department of Commerce expects the state’s solar capacity to increase by more than 500 megawatts (MW) in 2016. This will be a 15-fold increase in the state’s total installed solar energy capacity of 35 MW at the end of 2015. If the 500 MW had been added in 2015, it would have made...
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...
Wed, 06/08/2016 - 12:21pm
If you happen to be in Worthington, be sure and stop into Mini Market Lupita for a delicious lunch in the restaurant or to shop at the attached grocery store. Owner Maria Parga has created a great place, and she has done so partly by working with economic development partners in the region to take advantage of existing programs to reduce her energy costs. Working with the Southwest Initiative Foundation and the Clean Energy Resource Teams, Parga was awarded a $20,000 grant from the USDA Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP). Mini Market Lupita had been using open-faced refrigeration stations and freezer chests for years, but with help from the grant, Parga was able to offset...
Wed, 06/08/2016 - 11:37am
Sid and Nadine Malchow own the Hi-Lo Supper Club & Catering in Lakefield, MN, and have been an important thread in their community’s fabric over the years. In fact, the Hi-Lo Restaurant & Catering has been proudly serving Southwest Minnesota and Northern Iowa with fine dining for over 65 years, and the Malchows have been providing catering services for over 25 years. Now, thanks to Property Accessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, they were able to make lots of improvements to their establishment. Among other things, they upgraded their lighting on their exterior, the main floor and the basement, installed efficient air conditioning and fan motors, and upgraded the furnaces in the main dining room and food preparation area. “PACE allowed this business to make several energy saving improvements...
Dept. of Commerce
Wed, 06/08/2016 - 8:23am
If your community is doing work on energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy and would like to be recognized for it, submit your initiatives to the new Minnesota Clean Energy Community Awards! The Clean Energy Community Awards are an acknowledgment of the work done by Minnesota communities to further the state’s clean energy goals by implementing programs, policies, and technologies that encourage energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy generation. Award recipients will receive many benefits, including recognition at high profile public events, media exposure, achievement awards, and community signage. Benefits Applicant communities will be invited to attend an event at the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair, where award finalists will be announced. Finalist communities (up to 10) will have their...
Thu, 05/26/2016 - 7:23am
If you are in Good Thunder (pop. 583) looking for a fun thrift store to update your home décor, stop into Main Street Repeats. Owners George and Maureen Spear not only have great deals awaiting the discerning customer, they also know a great deal when they see one: they recently upgraded their lights to LEDs using the Property Accessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. Located in Blue Earth County, Main Street Repeats recently worked with the Southwest Regional Development Commission utilize PACE. After an energy audit performed by Center for Energy and Environment (CEE), the LED lighting project was going to cost $9,980. They wisely turned to their electric utility, Xcel Energy, to claim the $1,728 in lighting rebates, knocked the price down to $8,252. According...
Thu, 05/26/2016 - 6:44am
Quantity Quotes, a free online marketplace for competitive quotes on EPA’s Water Sense and ENERGY STAR products (light bulbs, faucet aerators, showerheads, pre-rinse sprayers, and more). It was developed by the Department of Energy and is now managed by a local government agency in California, Stop Waste. We talked to our own Alexis Troschinetz to find out more. How does Quantity Quotes work? Alexis Troschinetz: It is a portal for buyers and suppliers to meet. You create a profile, fill out a form for the type of product you would like, and then a message automatically goes out to all the vendors that provide that product. You have your own message board in the portal, where you’ll watch for individual messages from each vendor with draft quotes for that product. Who can use Quantity Quotes? Alexis Troschinetz:...
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...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Fri, 04/15/2016 - 1:34pm
With tax day, it’s no wonder that Minnesota and the nation recognize April as Financial Capability Month. It’s a great reminder for us that one of the best ways to save money is by saving energy! There are many basic no- and low-cost measures you can take to reduce energy use, cutting your utility bill and putting more money in your pocket. Here are a few energy- and money-saving opportunities: Use a programmable thermostat to reduce your heating and cooling costs. Turn off computers and monitors when not in use. Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips and turn the strips off when equipment is not in use. Turn off lights and fans when nobody’s in the room. Close your fireplace damper when not in...
Thu, 04/07/2016 - 12:06am
Interested in experimenting with the University of Minnesota on passive solar greenhouse technology on your farm, community organization, or business in Greater Minnesota? Do you want to learn how to grow crops all year without relying on fossil fuels? Are you interested in helping others learn about sustainable agricultural production technology for year-round production? If so, then the University of Minnesota Extension’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships want to help you build a deep winter greenhouse. These greenhouses are a passive solar, low-cost, low-carbon winter food production system. The structure is built with a south-facing, angled glazing wall that captures heat from the sun. Heat is stored in an underground rock bed and dissipates into the above-ground planting area at night...
Wed, 04/06/2016 - 11:49pm
The Steve Hansen Memorial Scholarship Fund from the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) honors Steve Hansen, a brilliant educator who taught thousands of students in Wisconsin about the importance of renewable energy, environmental sustainability, and earth stewardship. The Steve Hansen Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established to honor his spirit and memory, and to help the next generation carry on his important work. It is designed to assist students who are interested in attending college, technical college, or other training courses to study renewable energy, energy efficiency, or sustainable living topics. Scholarships are awarded to students who reside in the Midwest (WI, MN, MI, IA, IL, IN, OH, MO). Students should possess a clear goal of desiring to make her or his community, environment, or world a better...
Wed, 03/30/2016 - 1:52pm
How much energy could you save just by giving business owners a face-to-face reminder of the available rebates from their local utility? CERTs and the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) decided to find out. The Plan: Over the course of 19 months, CERTs staff visited 15 of SMMPA’s 18 member municipal utilities to increase awareness about their rebate programs. CERTs went door to door across the communities speaking with the local businesses and provided each business with a letter of introduction from the SMMPA Energy Service Representatives (ESR), a letter opener that included the ESR’s contact information, a list of current rebates, a CERTs Right Light Guide customized for the utility, and a sign up form to receive information from the local utility via email. An effective partnership: “We started with five communities during 2014, and...
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...
Thu, 03/24/2016 - 4:57pm
Interest in solar energy is rapidly expanding in Minnesota, and many homeowners are looking for good ways to pay for solar installations. Traditional financing options are not always a great fit for renewable energy systems, but a Minnesota organization has a new solar-specific program. We spoke with Lending Manager Jim Hasnik to learn more about Center for Energy and Environment Lending Center’s new Solar Loan. Tell us a little bit about your Solar Financing program. Jim Hasnik: We’re excited to provide a new Residential Solar PV Loan Program for Minnesota residents. The Solar Loan from the CEE Lending Center is a financing resource specifically designed for residential solar implementation. We worked closely with local solar providers to create a program that helps homeowners bridge the gaps between up...
Thu, 03/17/2016 - 3:40pm
The Association of Energy Service Professionals, or AESP, is the premier organization for professionals dedicated to improving the delivery and implementation of energy efficiency, energy management, and distributed renewable resources. AESP members have one thing in common—the desire to advance their professional growth and development through acquiring current practical knowledge and building their network in the energy field. We spoke with Paul Bertucci of Franklin Energy, the current president of the AESP Midwest Chapter, to learn more. Why should someone consider becoming an AESP Midwest Chapter member? Paul Bertucci: If you work in or with a utility, if you are working in the energy services world, if you work in the energy efficiency or renewable energy fields…Join us! It is an...
Thu, 03/17/2016 - 9:08am
Dan Linehan with the Mankato Free Press recently published a great article about solar development in south-central Minnesota and the opportunities that landowners and local governments are finding. Excerpt: When John Frey of Mankato received an inquiry about putting a solar array on his land, he didn’t need to be persuaded on the merits. Renewable energy was already his sole focus after retiring as a dean at Minnesota State University. Solar power, he said, is a virtual requirement if we’re to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. When 40 acres of solar panels go up on his rural Lake Crystal land, perhaps this May, he’ll be looking at it as part of a global solution to climate change. In south-central Minnesota, landowners are seeing new...
Wed, 03/09/2016 - 4:28pm
Minnesota’s ethanol industry contributed $2.13 billion to the state’s gross domestic product in 2015, according to a new study by ABF Economics out this week. The study, commissioned by the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, said the industry generated $7.37 billion in gross sales in 2015 for Minnesota businesses. This, in turn, generated $1.6 billion worth of income for Minnesota households, supported 18,116 full-time jobs in the state and contributed $93 million to state and local taxes last year. “The ethanol industry continues to be a significant contributor to Minnesota’s economy and is vital to continued economic growth in the state,” said Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 03/07/2016 - 2:13pm
It might be hard to measure Janet Streff’s impact in BTUs saved, clean energy megawatts generated, or carbon emissions reduced. But it’s clear that the State Energy Office manager of the past 17 years has been a true champion of energy policies and programs that have greatly benefited Minnesota—and that rank with the nation’s best. Streff will retire on March 4 after 20 years of public service. “Janet has been the consummate professional, and no one has been a better advocate for energy efficiency and renewable energy over the past 20 years,” said Bill Grant, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, who oversees the Energy Division. “She has led an exemplary clean energy agenda and has been vital in implementing Minnesota’s energy policies and programs. As she leaves, our state is poised to meet or exceed its ambitious clean energy and energy-saving goals.”...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 03/07/2016 - 12:46pm
Looks like we’re on pace to exceed Renewable Energy Standard of 25% by 2025! Minnesota generated 21 percent of its electricity from renewable energy in 2015, up from just six percent a decade ago, putting the state well on pace to exceed its Renewable Energy Standard of 25 percent by 2025, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Renewable energy includes wind, solar, hydro and biomass. “Minnesota’s commitment to renewable energy is showing clear results,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Since 2005, Minnesota’s electric power generated from renewal sources has more than tripled. We have reduced our dependence on polluting coal that must be imported from outside the state, while increasing our own clean energy made right here in Minnesota. It’s a tremendous benefit for our energy sector, our economy and jobs, and our environment.” In 2007, Minnesota...