Southwest Blog Posts
Bringing you news about clean energy projects and opportunities happening across the state. Tell your story.
Stories to help you
get to the bottom of
your energy questions
|Local Government Energy Action
Stories highlighting the
energy-saving efforts of
cities, counties & schools
in your inbox
Wed, 08/20/2014 - 11:23am
Minnesota’s solar power industry is in a growth spurt that’s about to accelerate. The industry, once focused largely on installing solar photovoltaic panels for homes, businesses, and government, now is seeing a surge in investment by electric utilities. Sparking the surge is a 2013 state law requiring investor-owned utilities to get 1.5 percent of their electricity from solar by 2020. At least three Minnesota cooperatives are offering solar options to customers who want rooftop solar, but can’t install it because of too much shade, condo restrictions or other reasons. Customers like Dave Willard of Forest Lake have been eager to invest in large, centrally located projects called community solar gardens, whose output is credited to their bills. Cooperative power companies, especially Great River Energy in Maple Grove, are building more than 20 solar projects this year and next,...
Wed, 08/20/2014 - 10:44am
October 4th, 2014 from 10am-4pm the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society will be hosting the Minnesota Renewable Energy Tour, which features 50+ exemplary homes, businesses, and institutions that have incorporated renewable energy systems into the design and operation of their buildings. From geothermal heat pumps using the earth as a huge thermal buffer to wind turbines elegantly spinning in the breeze, and the many incarnations of solar energy between earth and sky, this event offers Minnesotans an opportunity to find out how their neighbors are trimming their energy bills, increasing their energy independence, and taking steps to reduce their impact on the planet. This is an excellent opportunity for those interested in solar and other renewable energies to view installations and talk with home and building owners, builders, architects, and planners about their experiences. Join us...
Dept. of Commerce
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 9:08am
The Minnesota Department of Commerce announced on August 12, 2014, the incentive amounts for the second year (2015) of its 10-year, $15-million-a-year Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program. The solar incentive program will be available to customers of investor-owned utilities (Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy, Minnesota Power, and Otter Tail Power) who install solar electric systems (PV) using solar modules certified as manufactured in Minnesota. PV Modules from two Minnesota companies—tenKsolar and Silicon Energy—have been certified for the program to date. Solar PV systems must be less than 40 kilowatts (kW) to qualify for incentives. Applications will be accepted annually between January 1- February 28 each year through 2023 and will be selected by lottery. Solar Energy Production Incentives The six criteria listed in the Made in Minnesota Solar Energy Production Incentive...
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 3:15pm
Applications are now being accepted for the FY 2015 Biomass Thermal Energy Grant Round. The Request for Proposals should be used for applications to this grant program. MAC Users: Please complete the form using Adobe Reader. Funding: $577,500 in funding has been allocated for this round of funding. Deadline: The deadline for submissions is October 3, 2014 at 4:00 PM. Please see the RFP document for details. Frequently Asked Questions: All questions regarding the RFP should preferably be submitted in writing to the grant administrator at email@example.com. If it is not possible to submit your question in writing, you may call 651-201-6223. All questions received, along with the answers to those...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 08/04/2014 - 10:29am
Minnesota consumers now have a new energy efficiency home improvement loan program that allows more people to access low-interest, unsecured loans and make important energy efficiency upgrades, thanks to a partnership of the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. The Commerce Department provided $1million for a loan loss reserve that allows Minnesota Housing to lend up to $10 million through its Fix Up Loan Program for Minnesota homeowners to make home energy improvements. The loans will help pay for upgrades like new high efficient heating and air conditioning systems, new water heaters, insulation and air sealing, new light fixtures, and replacement windows. Homeowners who qualify may borrow up to $15,000 at a 4.99% interest rate without placing a lien on their property. “This new loan program is a win-win for Minnesota: It strengthens the state’s...
Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:08pm
It seems like summer has just barely started, but the Minnesota State Fair is just around the corner—August 21-Sept. 1. For the third straight year, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources will host an “Improve Your Home” energy exhibit at the Eco Experience on the north end of the fairgrounds. Check out who is exhibiting this year! The exhibit will provide Minnesota homeowners, renters, and builders with many measures that can improve the energy-related operation of existing homes. It will demonstrate opportunities to invest in the performance, durability, health and safety of existing homes....
Wed, 07/16/2014 - 3:50pm
Did you know that Minnesota has an award-winning Solar Dream Team? It’s true! CERTs is helping a talented team of GIS professionals design an online mapping application for solar energy that will serve an array of stakeholders and the energy industry through the coming boom in solar—and they just won a national award for their efforts. Keep reading to get the full story and learn more. The beginning Back in January of 2014, CERTs approached Len Kne with U-Spatial at the University of Minnesota—a group that provides support for spatial research—and asked if he had any students that would be interested in mapping the solar potential of the entire state of Minnesota. A week later Len got back to us and said, “I found a Dream Team of masters in GIS students, and they like your idea. They’d like to...
Wed, 07/16/2014 - 1:36pm
The Minnesota GreenStep Cities program is designed to challenge, assist, and recognize Minnesota cities that are “green stars.” Cities are challenged to work through a series of steps—and recognized for steps they’ve already taken—that increase the community’s sustainability. Each city is assigned a category based on how many public buildings it owns, its employee count, what kinds of facilities and services it offers, and other characteristics. Its category determines how many best practices a community needs to implement to achieve full GreenStep status, and makes the goal reachable for both small towns and large cities. The program assists cities by providing a framework for sustainability improvements. The program web site lists the GreenStep 28 best practices for cities, offers model ordinances, and has tools to...
Thu, 07/10/2014 - 11:23am
We often receive questions from homeowners about how to get started with energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Recently a gentleman named Jim in Corcoran, MN reached out to us with a question on this topic, and we decided to share the answer with everyone in the hopes that it will help you, too. The Question Hello, I am a homeowner in Corcoran (Hennepin County). My family and I are very interested in learning more about energy alternatives for heating and cooling our residence. Last winter, we, like many others, took a big financial hit with the cost of propane; we’d like to reduce — or eliminate — our dependence on it. We are especially interested in a system that would include the integration of solar and geothermal. (And anything else you may suggest.) Can someone come out to our home and assess our energy needs, then make some recommendations to us?...
Wed, 07/09/2014 - 1:52pm
An LED street lighting forum was hosted at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference on June 19th, where a packed room of 40 people learned first-hand from a tremendously knowledgeable line-up of speakers from across Minnesota. Is your city in the dark about LED street lighting retrofits? Learn how the technology works, as well as the benefits to your city’s operational budget. See presentations below from city representatives about their experiences and lessons learned, and get tips for picking the right kind of light and selecting a lighting contractor for your project. Presentation – LED street lighting: What it is and how it has worked for us Blake Redfield, City of St. Cloud Download presentation | ...
Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:30pm
With an acronym that sounded like Roadrunner passing Wile E. Coyote, the Public Building Enhanced Energy Efficiency Program (PBEEEP) contract between the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Center for Energy & Environment (CEE) wrapped up in February 2014. Seventy different sites managed by ten different state agencies participated, with over 900 buildings totaling 31,423,848 square feet. Of those participants, PBEEEP identified over 650 energy savings measures and saw a combined reduction of 6.3% in the participating buildings’ baseline energy use since 2010, which translated into a cost savings of $1.4 million annually. We spoke with Bridget Nielsen McLaughlin, CEE’s Manager of Client & Government Affairs, to learn more. Joel Haskard: Tell us a little bit about CEE and how you ended up managing the State PBEEEP program? Bridget Nielsen McLaughlin: CEE is in its...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 5:12pm
Are you planning an extended summer vacation—one week, two weeks, or more? Before leaving town, there are several simple steps you can take to save energy in your home—and save money. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has come up with the 5 money and energy saving tips: Turn down the temperature on your water heater. Water heating accounts for up to 20 percent of annual energy costs in a Minnesota home. No sense heating the water if you are not home to use it. Instead of the recommended setting of 120 degrees F, lower the temperature 10-20 degrees or turn the control knob to “vacation mode.” Read more to cut water heating bills. Set your thermostat (programmable or manual) at a higher temperature than usual. Again, no sense cooling your home if you’re not there. The Environmental Protection Agency...
Wed, 06/25/2014 - 11:10am
On Friday, June 20th, cities across Minnesota were recognized for their leadership in sustainability, energy efficiency, and resource conservation. Sixty-nine cities currently participate in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program, and many of them received awards at the GreenStep Awards Breakfast at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference. Currently 27% of the state’s population resides in a GreenStep city. Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a free, voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to assist all Minnesota cities in implementing 28 sustainability best practices. The League is working with the Preservation Alliance of MN, Clean Energy Resource Teams, Great Plains Institute, Izaak Walton League–MN Division, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Commerce-Division of Energy Resources, and Urban Land...
Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:20am
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helps farmers evaluate energy saving opportunities and provides financial assistance to help make energy upgrades happen. EQIP requires an audit first (the program pays for most—if not all—of it). After the audit, you can apply for financial assistance for a lighting project or any other recommendations in the audit. While applications for this program are accepted on a continuous basis, CERTs recently learned about the upcoming application cut-off dates. We wanted to be sure to share with you as soon as we knew about them! The EQIP application cut-off dates in 2014 are: July 18, August 15. The NRCS reviews all applications received by these cut-off dates in groups (and any submitted by previous cut-off dates in the same year but not funded) following each of these cut-...
Wed, 06/18/2014 - 4:21pm
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has named five in-state bioenergy projects as recipients of NextGen Energy grants. The five projects were selected out of a pool of 35, according to MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson. All projects underwent consideration by a technical team made up of members from five state departments – agriculture, commerce, natural resources, pollution control, and employment and economic development. Projects were scored separately according to NextGen grant guidelines, and all are required at least a 50 percent match from the grantee. Grant recipients include: Easy Energy Systems, Welcome, Minn. – $500,000 – The project builds a showplace biofuel production facility capable of testing multiple feedstocks, verifying economic data, and confirming conversion rates in Welcome. Central Minnesota Renewables LLC, Little Falls, Minn....
Wed, 06/11/2014 - 2:00pm
During our February CERT Conference back in 2013 several regions expressed interest in LED Street Lighting. Since that time interest has only grown and there are many local governments starting to move forward with projects – including a few CERT Seed Grant Recipients. To help ourselves better respond to questions about LED street lighting we began to sift through recent reports to tease out answers to the most common questions we were hearing. Rather than keep that to ourselves, we decided we’d be better off sharing that information with all of you. Here goes! The first question we were often asked was, “Is there funding for LED Street Lighting Retrofits?” The short answer is, maybe. The longer answer is that some utilities in Minnesota have LED Street Lighting rebates. Your best bet would be to talk directly with your local utility about what rebates they have to support this sort...
Wed, 06/11/2014 - 11:08am
Taking leadership to accelerate private-sector adoption of EVs, Minnesota is the first state nationwide to require its investor-owned utilities to offer a special rate for off-peak (overnight) EV refueling. Signed in to law by Governor Mark Dayton, clean energy advocates, including Minnesota utilities, worked together to create bipartisan and market-driven policy that has the following outcomes: Beginning in 2015, 1.3 million households will have access to a discounted rate for electric vehicle (EV) refueling. Also beginning in early 2015, investor-owned utilities will provide customers the option of zero-emissions EV refueling with renewable energy. State agencies can more easily consider electric fleet vehicles–previous purchasing decisions were not permitted to take into account the lower refueling and maintenance costs typical of EVs. The policy removes roadblocks to...
Thu, 06/05/2014 - 3:51pm
There is scholarship funding available to participate in the Regional Indicators Initiative – Apply by July 3. Over 20 Minnesota cities currently participate in the Regional Indicators Initiative (RII), and new participants are being accepted. The Regional Indicators Initiative measures annual performance metrics for Minnesota cities interested in increasing efficiency and sustainability. The total cost to collect and report data for 2008 – 2012 data is $3,000 and a limited amount of funding is available to provide competitive matching scholarships to a few communities. We expect to award scholarships to 3 – 6 cities on a competitive basis. Preference will be given to applicants that meet three or more of the following criteria: GreenStep Cities participant Community-wide population under 25,000 Located in Greater Minnesota Interest in setting community-wide...
Wed, 06/04/2014 - 11:45am
Municipalities and other authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) are facing dramatic increases in rooftop solar permit applications. With this trend expected to continue and spread, streamlining building and electrical permitting processes will become increasingly important to more AHJs. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability U.S.A. and IREC present a series of webinars on solar permitting and inspection. The series will review the components of rooftop solar permitting processes, and share best practices and tools for improving them. These webinars are free, but you must register to attend. The upcoming webinars will be held on June 26 and August 27 from 1:00p-2:00pm CST. These webinars will be targeted at municipal permit review staff and inspectors, but should be useful to a diverse...
Tue, 06/03/2014 - 11:02am
Story by USDA Rural Development. Tara Kraft, owner of Colonial Cleaners and Laundromat in Worthington, MN, has replaced all of her “employees” over the last couple of years – over 90 to be exact. See, Tara considers her washers and dryers employees, and she has been upgrading her equipment to more energy efficient models. Although she doesn’t have to compensate her employees as your average business owner might, the old washers and dryers “ate” a lot – a lot of energy that is. Kraft’s 45 new washers and dryers totaling over $500,000, use less water, natural gas and electricity. As a result, the new units are far more efficient in their work, allowing customers to get their laundry done in less time. Kraft used a $10,510 REAP grant to assist in the upgrade of some of the dryer units. “The REAP Program is a great help to small business like ours,” said Kraft. “The savings on...