Southwest Blog Posts
Mon, 06/08/2015 - 1:56pm
Farmers and rural small businesses are essential to the fabric of Minnesota—its economy, environment and communities. Helping them reduce costs with energy efficiency and take control of their energy expenses with renewable energy is the focus of a new program, Renewable Energy for Greater Minnesota, launching this week with support from USDA Rural Development. There’s demand: “We’re seeing increased demand for information about renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements, and are excited to offer free project assistance to Minnesotans,” shared Fritz Ebinger, Rural Energy Development Program Manager with the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) and University of Minnesota Extension. Project support: For more than ten years, CERTs has been connecting Minnesotans with the resources they need to plan and implement energy efficiency and...
Thu, 06/04/2015 - 3:59pm
From now until December 31st, 2016, anyone who owns or leases a plug-in electric vehicle in Great River Energy’s service territory will be upgraded for free to 100% renewable wind energy. You can learn more about Revolt by visiting the program website and by reading a recent article from Midwest Energy News. You can also watch the video below featuring the program’s friendly ambassador, Eevie. Get more on EVs Learn more about EVs, see upcoming events, and find more stories >>
Mon, 06/01/2015 - 1:50pm
Southwest Minnesota Surgical Center (SMSC) Surgery Center in Marshall is the area’s only free standing same day surgery facility. In addition to state-of-the-art equipment and surgical techniques, the building features 30kW of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. The building was designed to maximize the south-facing roof area and incorporate solar panels. The system produces about 36,000kWh of electricity on average per year. Learn more and see more photos from the solar installer >> Find out how you can power your farm or business with the Renewable Energy for Greater Minnesota program
Thu, 05/28/2015 - 9:47am
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a new way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to the buildings of commercial property owners in cities and counties that allow it. Energy-saving measures pursued by the owners receive project financing and are repaid as a separate item on their property tax assessment for a set period. PACE eliminates the burden of upfront costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing. We spoke with Richard Otten, a Certified Energy Manager (CEM), to learn more about the energy audits of businesses he provides, some of which are done for the Rural Minnesota Energy Board (RMEB) commercial PACE program. CERTs: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business. Richard Otten: My name is Richard Otten. I have been a CEM (Certified Energy Manager) since 2011. The Association of Energy Engineers provides this certification. I...
Thu, 05/21/2015 - 4:04pm
Interest in community solar gardens has been exploding in recent months, and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) has been busy keeping up with the demand for information and technical assistance. Minnesota has nearly two hundred utilities that can be categorized as investor-owned, cooperative, or municipal. To help people visualize where in Minnesota community solar garden programs are available, CERTs published a map that is publicly available at http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/solargardens#current. The map allows people to see which where each utility’s territory extends and which utilities are currently offering community solar programs. Electric Utility Service Areas layer is public and provided by MnGEO. You...
Tue, 05/19/2015 - 10:55am
Minnesota GreenCorps is recruiting the next generation of environmental leaders… do you know someone who has what it takes? Minnesota GreenCorps helps communities across Minnesota prepare for a strong and resilient future by using environmental best practices that achieve results. GreenCorps members are matched with host organizations like cities, school districts, or nonprofits to work on a specific focus area. From September 2015- August 2016, members contribute 1700 hours of service and receive professional development, mentoring, a living stipend of $12,530 and an education award of $5,730. What’s life after GreenCorps like? 8 in 10 alumni report that Minnesota GreenCorps helped them get their desired jobs, and 9 in 10 alumni are employed or in school. Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program coordinated by the Minnesota Pollution Control...
Wed, 05/13/2015 - 12:43pm
The University of Minnesota won the grand prize at the Second Annual Department of Energy Race to Zero Student Competition. The winning group, team OptiMN, was made up of fourteen students from four different colleges that beat out 27 other colleges from the United States and Canada for the top prize. Four presenters, Collin Coltman, Laurel Johnston, Peter Schneider, and Cavan Wagg went to Golden, Colorado to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to present their Impact Home. The Impact Home, which has 3 bedrooms & 1.5 bathrooms, provides the homeowner with excellent thermal insulation and deliberate vapor control. The house would be outfitted with the best of energy efficient appliances and technology, including solar panels on the roof. Nothing is wasted with the...
Tue, 05/12/2015 - 4:11pm
During the CERTs 2015 Conference workshop on Accomplishing GreenStep Cities Energy Best Practices in March, The Weidt Group gave out awards to Minnesota GreenStep Cities to recognize them for their energy benchmarking efforts with “B3 Benchmarking” and more. Measurement is important: There’s a saying, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” and it rings true when cities, counties, and schools are thinking about ways to save energy. Benchmarking is a highly practical way to measure energy use in your buildings and is the first step in managing energy costs. What is B3 Benchmarking and how does it work? B3, which stands for Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond, is a robust online tool for...
Tue, 04/21/2015 - 8:19am
Parkwood Place in Mountain Lake, MN provides assisted living and senior care options for elderly adults. They recently utilized the Rural Minnesota Energy Board’s Property Assessed Clean Energy—or PACE—program to finance energy efficiency upgrades in their facility. Through PACE, energy-saving measures pursued by Parkwood Place received project financing and will be repaid as a separate item on their property tax assessment for a set period. PACE eliminates the burden of upfront costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing. We chatted with Bill Freitag, President of JAND Development who owns Parkwood Place, to learn more about their experience and the work they accomplished using PACE. CERTs: What motivated you to apply for PACE funding? Bill Freitag: I received a mailer with the utility bill for Parkwood Place that offered PACE...
Interview: Lyon-Lincoln Electric Coop helps cities of Russell, Lynd, and Arco save with LED streetlights
Mon, 04/06/2015 - 11:35am
Cities across Minnesota are finding real savings converting their streetlights to LEDs. We spoke with Brian Jeremiason, Energy Services Manager with Lyon-Lincoln Electric Cooperative, to learn more about his experiences. Joel Haskard: It sounds like you have several LED streetlight projects in the works. Can you tell us more? Brian Jeremiason: We completed the conversion for the City of Russell this past spring, and hope to get started soon in the communities of Lynd and Arco. Joel Haskard: Why switch to LED streetlights? Brian Jeremiason: We were approached by the City of Russell, they were looking for ways to reduce their energy usage and costs. We identified the streetlight conversion project as an easy to implement improvement that could meet both goals. In 2012, street lighting in the City of Russell accounted for 84,473 kWh of usage and cost the city and its residents...
Fri, 03/27/2015 - 1:44pm
More Minnesotans will have access to affordable solar thermal systems after the Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that it will offer rebates beginning March 18 to residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government entities as part of its Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program. “Moving to solar thermal can help smooth spikes in heating costs by using renewable energy as a complement to current heating sources, whether it’s propane, natural gas, wood or electricity,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “The rebates will now help make installing solar heating a more affordable option for Minnesota businesses and residents.” The solar incentive program includes up to $250,000 per year in rebates for the installation of “Made in Minnesota”...
Thu, 03/26/2015 - 3:26pm
This article is republished from the original by Andrea Johnson, Assistant Editor of Farm and Ranch Guide. It’s time to consider solar power again. Better technology and lower prices are making solar power in 2014 achievable and more affordable than in the past. Two types of solar power are available – thermal collectors heat air and water; photovoltaic (photo – light and voltaic – electrical potential) systems convert light to electricity. “We’re really past innovators and early adopters with solar and looking at the ‘early majority’ now. The cost of solar has come down a lot, and all sorts of people are now installing solar energy projects,” said Dan Thiede, Clean Energy Resource Team communications manager,...
Thu, 03/26/2015 - 2:42pm
Looking for support to advance your energy and environment projects? Minnesota GreenCorps members are a great way to add capacity to your organization and grow young leaders. About the Program: Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program coordinated by the MPCA, which places AmeriCorps members with organizations around the state to spend a year of service addressing critical environmental issues, while gaining experience and learning valuable job skills. MPCA is planning to place up to 40 full-time members with various host sites for the 2015-2016 program year. Members serve approximately 40 hours a week for 11 months beginning in mid to late September 2015 through August 2016. Program Eligibility Eligible organizations include public entities (local, regional, state, tribal), school districts, not for profit institutions of higher education, and 501...
Wed, 03/25/2015 - 4:10pm
On March 10-11, 550 Minnesotans from all over the state gathered in St. Cloud for the CERTs 2015 Conference to learn about successful energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, connect with peers, and get ready to take action in their communities. It was a great turnout, and it reflected the great excitement around the expansion of solar and other clean energy projects around the state, as well as the broad implementation of innovative energy efficiency projects. You can learn more about the event, download speaker presentations, and see photos from the conference at http://2015.mncerts.org. Or just scroll down to see photos and more! Stories about the event were featured in the St....
MN Dept. of Commerce
Wed, 01/28/2015 - 1:18pm
The Minnesota Department of Commerce announced on January 21, 2015 that two new companies have met the qualifications to have their photovoltaic (PV) modules certified as Made in Minnesota. Heliene and itek Energy join tenKsolar and Silicon Energy as solar manufacturers in Minnesota who make solar modules that qualify for the Made in Minnesota PV Production-Based Incentive Program. As a result, incentive amounts have been set by Commerce for both itek Energy and Heliene PV modules produced in Minnesota. Solar PV Production-Based Incentive Program Incentives for solar PV are performance-based, established by a system’s energy production, and paid over 10 years. Owners of an approved and installed PV system...
Tue, 01/27/2015 - 4:28pm
In a time when resources are tight, some companies in Minnesota have successfully lessened their expenses by increasing efficiencies and reducing waste and energy use. What’s more: these businesses were able to complete a number of projects without allocating current staff resources by hosting a MnTAP intern. The intern program helps businesses address pressing efficiency and waste concerns while also saving money. There are upcoming deadlines for both companies and interns—see more details below. Each summer, highly qualified interns lead projects at businesses in Minnesota that range from identifying opportunities to reduce waste, conserve water, to investigating process energy efficiency opportunities. Interns are chosen based upon their outstanding educational background as well as their leadership abilities. Participating companies appreciate the opportunity to work with a...
Mon, 01/12/2015 - 4:03pm
This interview was originally posted on Midwest Energy News. For two years, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has been showcasing a new approach to financing state and municipal sustainability projects around the state. Called the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP), the concept offers organizations a way to reduce energy costs and use the savings to help pay for projects. The state created documents to help agencies and municipalities manage the program, which involves an “Energy Services Company” that develops, installs, and provides financial assistance for the projects. It’s not an easy concept to explain even to large agencies,...
Wed, 01/07/2015 - 4:28pm
The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) from USDA Rural Development is a great opportunity for Minnesota farmers and rural businesses to save energy with efficiency work and add renewable energy systems. Grants can cover up to 25% of eligible project costs, and loans can cover up to 75% of eligible project costs. The funding has just been opened for 2015, and there is twice as much money available as usual (which may mean you have an even better chance of being funded). There is also a shorter application that can be completed without the help of a grant writer for smaller projects. See details below! What is REAP all about, and how can I learn more? The Basics: This year there will be two application windows for the renewable energy or energy efficiency grants: April 30 and June 30 Projects requesting grants of $20,000 ($80,000 total project cost) or...