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Thu, 05/01/2014 - 2:19pm
Minnesota Cities at the League of Minnesota Cities recently had a discussion with Philipp Muessig, GreenStep Cities program coordinator with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to learn more about the initiative. Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a free and voluntary program cities can join to help them improve their Earth-friendly efforts in a cost-effective way. Minnesota Cities: How did the idea for the GreenStep Cities program come about, and when did the program take off? Philipp Muessig: Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) held regional listening sessions around the state in 2007 to discuss community-based energy opportunities and the state’s Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. The idea was raised by Bob McLean of Hunt Utilities Group in Pine River to create a sustainable cities program that would, like...
Thu, 04/24/2014 - 2:13pm
Both homeowners and renters can benefit from home improvements that promote energy efficiency and improve indoor air quality. Raising the bar on air quality and energy performance at home helps reduce heating and cooling costs, saves energy, and improves occupant health and comfort. To help consumers better understand the strategies and product options available to them, HUD’s (Housing and Urban Development) Office of Policy Development and Research has developed the Guide to Energy-Efficient and Healthy Homes. The Guide is a new section of their website that provides concise descriptions in an easy-to-navigate format. Adopting energy-efficiency measures can also reduce both a home’s carbon footprint and the nation’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. This guide...
Fri, 04/18/2014 - 2:17pm
In support of the country’s goal of doubling renewable energy generation for a second time by 2020, the Energy Department announced yesterday $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses. The United States continues to be a global leader in solar, with total U.S. solar energy installations reaching 13 gigawatts last year. As the cost of solar energy continues to decline, more states and local communities are deploying solar energy projects to meet their electricity needs. “As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, solar energy is helping families and businesses throughout the U.S. access affordable, clean renewable power,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz...
Wed, 04/09/2014 - 2:59pm
CERTs Co-Director Joel Haskard spoke with Xcel Energy’s Senior Product Portfolio Manager Steve Mudd to get an update on Xcel Energy’s Windsource program. Joel Haskard: Tell me a little about the Windsource program and how it is doing in Minnesota to date. Steve Mudd: Windsource is Xcel Energy’s leading voluntary green power program, enabling our customers to purchase renewable energy that’s generated in excess of the company’s other state mandates. We currently have 20 wind farms that are dedicated or semi-dedicated to supply the energy that our customers purchase. Over 33,000 Minnesota homes and 264 businesses purchased 170,185 MWh of renewable energy from Windsource in 2013. In 2013, Windsource had two significant milestones: We celebrated our 1 Billionth kilowatt-hour of sales in Minnesota. The feat was illustrated by a...
Fri, 04/04/2014 - 4:41pm
Finance upgrades in public buildings throughout your city utilizing the savings in wastewater treatment plant upgrades! This webinar recording will teach you the basics behind Minnesota’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP). GESP is a state administered technical assistance program to finance upgrades in public buildings through energy performance contracting. More info at http://mncerts.org/gesp About the Local Government Energy Action Series: This effort tells the stories of Minnesota municipalities, counties, and schools and the tangible results of their energy-saving efforts to inspire others to take their own actions. See all stories in this series >>
Wed, 04/02/2014 - 11:00am
The 3rd Annual Heating the Midwest Conference will be held from April 30th to May 1st, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Keynote speakers will include regional and national leaders in biomass energy. “Each year, this event brings together leaders of the woody and agricultural biomass industry,” said Brian Brashaw, Program Director for the University of Minnesota Duluth, Natural Resources Research Institute and Chair of the Heating the Midwest Steering Committee. “The businesses and organizations that come together are interested in supporting and expanding the use of biomass for heat and power in the region.” Keynote speakers confirmed for the conference include, Scott Nichols, President of Tarm Biomass who will address Midwest Biomass Thermal Energy: Opportunities and Challenges Ahead. Tarm Biomass is based in New Hampshire and deals in the latest wood energy...
Solar Powered Pigs a Hit at Loon Lake Event: Powered by Sun, Little Porkers Run Faster, Are Cuter than Regular Pigs
Sarah Hayden Shaw
Tue, 04/01/2014 - 11:04am
Tuesday, April 1, 2014, Loon Lake, MN – Over 40 people gathered at a Central Region Clean Energy Resource Team (CERT) event at John Smith’s farm outside of Loon Lake to see his latest invention and livestock—solar-powered pigs. Twice as cute and fast as normal-powered pigs, these sun-powered porkers are the latest technology to hit the Central MN Region. “We call them Sun Swine, and their energy efficiency is just incredible, “says Farmer Smith. “We wanted to give folks the opportunity to come out and ‘kick their little legs,’ see how they function on sunny and cloudy days.” “CERTs works with communities across Minnesota to identify and implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, and to enjoy the savory taste of bacon if they so choose,” says Sarah Hayden, Central Region CERT Coordinator. “We hope that solar swine like these will reduce energy costs and help utilities...
Tue, 03/25/2014 - 4:30pm
Blue Earth County has demonstrated in two of its Mankato buildings that even energy efficient buildings can be tapped for additional energy savings. Lighting motion detectors for the Courthouse and Government Center were only the latest of a long and successful list of efforts by Blue Earth County to save energy in its buildings. ENERGY STAR® certification brings recognition to two Blue Earth County buildings with improved energy performance by recommissioning existing equipment and upgrading the HVAC system and the lighting equipment. Nearly a decade ago, the Blue Earth County Board of Commissioners had a vision to work with local vendors to make updates to the historic courthouse—built in 1889—with the aim of enhancing energy efficiency and saving taxpayer dollars. As a result of these efforts, the Blue Earth County Courthouse was awarded a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Thu, 03/20/2014 - 12:20pm
Applications for the Made in Minnesota Solar Thermal Rebate Program reopened on Monday, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has announced. The solar thermal program accepted applications this year from January 1-February 28, but the program was not fully subscribed. Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until 2014 funds are fully reserved. Rebate Program details: The rebate program, which is part of the 10-year, $150 million Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program that began this year, is for customers of electric investor-owned utilities (Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy, Minnesota Power, and Otter Tail Power). Rebates are available to commercial and residential property owners who install solar thermal systems using collectors certified as Made in Minnesota. The rebate is equal to 25 percent of the system installed cost up to a maximum of $2,500 for...
Thu, 03/20/2014 - 11:34am
The Solar Powering Minnesota conference held March 7, 2014 at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul was a huge success. The sold-out event brought together more than 350 people—utilities, policy makers, lenders, developers & contractors, local governments, and training & workforce development professionals—to talk about 2013 legislative outcomes, financing, incentives, utility programs, permitting, storage, and community solar gardens, and much more. We’re pleased to share presentations and a ton of great photos from the event! Click here to download presentations >>
Thu, 03/20/2014 - 10:10am
A decision this week by Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission soon could change the way Minnesotans get credited for the solar energy they produce. The commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to adopt a Minnesota Department of Commerce-developed method of calculating the value of solar energy. The method soon could be used by public utilities, such as Xcel Energy, to determine a value-of-solar tariff — a new rate that would be used to credit its solar-energy-producing customers. The new methodology is expected to be formalized by April 1 with a written decision by the commission. No other state in the country has a formal methodology for determining the value of solar energy. “I am very pleased the Public Utilities Commission approved our department’s Value of Solar Methodology, making Minnesota the first state in the nation to take this big step forward —...
Wed, 03/19/2014 - 4:26pm
Tesla Motors is building a SuperCharging network that enables long distance driving with an all-electric Tesla Model S. This week the project reached an important milestone-there are now enough stations in place to allow all-American road trips from coast to coast by using these stations to charge your car along the way. To celebrate this milestone, three members of the Minnesota Plug-in Vehicle Owners’ Circle are going to drive from the Twin Cities to Los Angeles and then along the coast to San Francisco, culminating in a visit to the Tesla Motors factory in Freemont, CA. Lee Bakewell, Jukka Kukkonen and Pavel Zhuravlev left the Twin Cities on Monday February 3rd to head to the open road. It turned out that the weather stayed bitterly cold for the first part of the trip putting the Tesla Model S and the crew to a real test. Preparations: We started to plan for this trip in the...
Tue, 03/18/2014 - 4:40pm
The State of Minnesota B3 Energy Benchmarking program has been developed by the State of Minnesota Department of Administration and Department of Commerce to help State and local governments improve the energy performance of their buildings by tracking and managing facility energy consumption. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” B3 Success – Energy Reductions on Campuses Looking for benchmarking inspiration? The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, MNSCU for short, has been dedicated to using B3 Benchmarking for the past 5 years. The system, made up of 54 campuses whose 939 buildings make up a third of Minnesota state building space, uses B3 Benchmarking to prioritize building improvements: When 20 campuses used the ARRA funds to undertake energy audits and recommissioning of their systems, they used B3 in identifying buildings to...
Tue, 03/18/2014 - 4:06pm
The West Central Clean Energy Resource Team (WC CERT) and The Minnesota Project presented an educational program on how to pursue funding to support an LED lighting retrofit project on Thursday, March 13, 2014 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Life Center Auditorium of MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar. Overview: Attendees learned about LED lighting for turkey barns, heard candid farmer feedback on this type of retrofit, and learned about utility and federal funding options to help finance LED lighting retrofits in turkey barns. We owe a special thanks to our guest speakers from Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, USDA Rural Development, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation District. Who attended? Out of the 60 folks who attended the event, a third were poultry farmers and the remainder included utility representatives, lighting specialists, electricians and other energy service...
Rural Energy for America Program funding available for MN farmers and rural small businesses in 2014
Mon, 03/17/2014 - 6:37pm
The Rural Energy for American Program (REAP) from USDA Rural Development is a funding opportunity for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for farmers and rural small businesses. We recently held a webinar to walk participants through the 2014 USDA Rural Development REAP funding cycle and example project ideas. The webinar recording and PowerPoint slides are available here for you to review. In the webinar: Ron Omann, the State Energy & Environmental Coordinator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development reviews key changes to REAP, eligibility to seek funds, filling out the application, and how projects are scored. Download slides >> Fritz Ebinger, the Energy Program Manager of The Minnesota Project, a partner of...
Mon, 03/17/2014 - 3:21pm
Center for Energy and Environment in conjunction with partner Neighborhood Energy Connection, excitedly announced the publication of a report that outlines a new approach to incorporate the value of energy-efficiency in homes at time-of-sale. The program, called “Energy Fit Homes,” will be launching in April, in conjunction with the Neighborhood Energy Connection. CEE is optimistic about its long-term potential to help transform the market for residential energy efficiency in Minnesota and will provide a third-party issued certificate for homes that reach a basic level of energy efficiency. This certification program is designed to increase the overall efficiency of Minnesota’s existing housing stock by providing recognition and value to homeowners who conduct energy-efficient upgrades. Energy Fit Homes focuses on practical, cost-effective energy efficiency measures that allow a...
Thu, 02/06/2014 - 1:39pm
Minnesota consumed a total of 1,979 trillion Btus of energy in 2008. Of this, Minnesota industry consumed approximately 33% or 615 trillion Btus, including 30,000 gigawatt hours of electricity and 100 million MCF of natural gas to deliver products and services. These use levels motivated recommendations for energy efficient technologies and practices aimed at meeting target reductions established by state and federal policy. Adoption of these recommendations would also provide significant cost savings to businesses. To address energy conservation, the Minnesota legislature passed the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, which calls for all utilities in Minnesota to achieve an energy savings goal of 1.5% of gross annual retail energy sales. In addition, the National Energy Policy Act of 2005 was signed to encourage industry to reduce energy intensity by 2.5% each year between 2007 and...
Dept. of Commerce
Thu, 02/06/2014 - 8:09am
Fifteen research and development grant projects that will ultimately help Minnesota consumers and businesses save energy, cut energy bills, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions were announced recently by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. The grants, totaling nearly $3.3 million, are funded by the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) Grant Program and administered by staff of Commerce’s Conservation Improvement Program. The CARD Grant Program was created to help achieve the state energy conservation goal as established by the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. The Act established an energy conservation policy “to achieve annual energy savings equal to 1.5 percent of annual retail energy sales of electricity and natural gas” directly through utility conservation improvement programs and indirectly through energy codes, education, market...
New reports address Minnesota's Energy Future, the Value of Solar Thermal, and Utility Energy Storage
Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 02/04/2014 - 2:54pm
The Minnesota Department of Commerce (DOC) has posted three reports as required by state legislation passed in 2013. The three reports are available as PDFs on the Energy Reports section of the Division of Energy Resources website, or can be accessed using the links below. The three reports, commissioned by DOC, include: Scoping an Energy Future Study for Minnesota – The Scoping an Energy Future Study for Minnesota develops a scope for a study of how Minnesota can achieve a sustainable energy system that does not rely on fossil fuels. The report identifies potential approaches and considerations to assess cross-sector opportunities in electrical, transportation, thermal, industrial, and agricultural sectors....
Nick Hylla - MREA
Fri, 01/31/2014 - 4:30pm
It seems like every year brings a new normal to the U.S. solar industry. The industry is dynamic, full of business innovation, and often hard to predict. However, two general trends have emerged over the past few years: We consistently outperform our installed capacity projections We often under-perform when it comes to new job creation Unfortunately, many job seekers make assumptions about the first trend that do not match the reality of the second. Before we jump into strategies for pursuing professional development, it may be helpful to discuss why we aren’t seeing a solar employment boom. First, don’t fret too much. Employment in the industry is growing. We are a new industry with a lot more room to grow and have the potential to hire hundreds of thousands of new employees in the United States alone. Currently though, there are two major challenges with creating...