Southwest Blog Posts
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Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:23pm
This story by Frank Jossi was originally published by Midwest Energy News. Last Friday, Minnesota’s largest utility began accepting applications for community solar garden projects. It’s anyone guess how many solar garden developers will submit on the first day of business for Xcel Energy‘s Solar*Rewards Community program. Some developers have already marketed and sold out projects that have been not formally approved. “We see high interest in this and we expect we’ll see a lot of applications but we don’t know what the pace will be,” said Laura McCarten, regional vice president. “One estimated guess is we could get...
Thu, 12/04/2014 - 11:15am
At this week’s Toasty Turkeys event we shared all sorts of exciting funding options for getting LED lighting in turkey barns. We’ll share more details about the whole event in a future blog post. For now, we wanted to be sure that you don’t miss out on these funding opportunities! Read through the four programs listed below. Minnesota Department of Agriculture Livestock Investment Grant Due December 10, 2014 Awarded before February 1, 2015 (so a quick turnaround) Application is short and relatively easy. Best part? CERTs is happy to help you complete sections of it and write a Letter of Support. A little bird told us that odds of receiving this grant are very good. Download an application USDA NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program Due December 19, 2014...
Mon, 11/10/2014 - 6:01pm
A huge factor in the success of the Clean Energy Resource Teams are our steering committee members. As you hopefully know by now, we work via seven regional teams that span Minnesota. These teams are made up of a diverse mix of people: individuals, small business owners, farmers, local utility representatives, members of environmental groups, educators, and local government representatives. Each team is guided by a local steering committee that sets regional priorities, identifies emerging energy issues and opportunities, and directs grant funding. They volunteer their time with us and become friends in the process. We’d like to thank the following individuals who have stepped off of our steering committees during the last year: Bonnie Abel Anni Friesen Anne Morse Peter Nelson Dan Roberts Nancy Strand Denny Timmerman Darryl Tveitbakk Leo Wilenius Karen Wilson...
Mon, 11/10/2014 - 11:55am
As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to double energy productivity by 2030 and reduce carbon emissions in commercial buildings, the Energy Department recently announced $9 million to encourage investments in energy-saving technologies that can be tested and deployed in offices, shops, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and other types of commercial buildings. The funding will facilitate the implementation of market-ready solutions across the U.S. to improve commercial building energy efficiency, with a goal of demonstrating 20 percent savings or more across a variety of approaches. Last year, commercial buildings accounted for approximately 20 percent of total U.S. energy use, equivalent to about 18 quadrillion British thermal units of energy. Owners and occupants could cut energy waste, saving an estimated tens of billions of dollars annually, if they operated their buildings...
Mon, 11/10/2014 - 10:39am
“I couldn’t be more excited to work on clean energy initiatives,” said Peter Lindstrom, the newest member of the CERTs team. Peter is spearheading outreach and education to Minnesota cities, counties, and schools about approaches for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements, particularly through the Guaranteed Energy Saving Program (GESP). Working with local governments is familiar ground for Peter. He has served on the Falcon Heights City Council since 2000 and is currently in his second term as mayor. He is an active member of the Regional Council of Mayors, including serving as its representative on the Minnesota GreenStep Cities Steering Committee. Most recently, Peter was assistant director of the Center for Science, Technology & Public Policy at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, executive director of SciMathMN, and...
Wed, 10/22/2014 - 1:53pm
While soaring propane prices last winter helped build interest in solar thermal systems, results from a Minnesota rebate program show the market is still lukewarm. The state’s Department of Commerce has enough rebate money left over to fund dozens more solar hot water or solar thermal projects through its Made in Minnesota (MiM) program. Meanwhile, a much larger pool of money for PV has been exhausted. Although the deadline for rebates has formally passed, MiM’s coordinator Kim Havey said the department has extended the program until the end of the year. Solar thermal could be particularly attractive to rural customers using propane, which may be in short supply again this winter. “Solar thermal...
Fri, 10/03/2014 - 3:03pm
Two federal funding programs are on the near horizon for turkey producers and other farmers to access funds to make energy upgrades on Minnesota farms. See below for more info on each of the programs, as well as an opportunity through the Clean Energy Resource Teams to get help navigating each of the opportunities. Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) 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. Applications for this program are accepted on a continuous basis and there are three...
Fri, 10/03/2014 - 12:05pm
The Minnesota Retiree Environmental Technical Assistance Program (RETAP) employs skilled, retired professionals to provide facility assessments and community sustainability assistance to small businesses, institutions, and communities in Minnesota. Recommendations may be simple behavior changes, maintenance improvements, or more complicated retrofits. While you are under no obligation to implement the recommendations, a high percentage of surveyed clients do. Average savings from RETAP recommendations implemented in 2012 was over $2,000 per client. To find out more or to request a free assessment: Visit the...
Wed, 10/01/2014 - 9:24am
The story from Lake Crystal shows that leadership must not necessarily come from the top; interns can do a great deal of directing positive change in a city. With AmeriCorps member Joan Van Grinsven at the helm, the city has reengaged with B3 Benchmarking in the past year and is making improvements based on the results. Joan directed the updating of meter readings and building information in B3 Benchmarking and examined the analyses provided by the program for both the city and school district. “To the surprise of many, the city’s building’s fell all across the spectrum of performance, with the newest building on the poorer performing side.” She then considered the next-step options available for the city saying, “Since Lake Crystal couldn’t go forward with the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program due to budget constraints, we prioritized the Lake...
Fri, 09/19/2014 - 4:08pm
You might remember seeing a survey in February asking a few questions about Community Solar Gardens (CSGs). CSGs are a way for Minnesotans to subscribe to a portion of a large solar project and receive credit on their energy bill for their portion of the project’s electricity production—just as they would if the panels were on their own roofs. CERTs is continuing its work with researchers from the University of St. Thomas to better understand which aspects of community solar are most important to you and which factors would most influence your decision to subscribe to a project. We’d love to include your insights in a follow-up survey, which should take about 10 minutes to complete. The results of the survey will be shared in a report in early 2015. Your responses will be kept confidential and will not be associated with your name. Please...
Kick the tires on electric vehicles at the National Drive Electric Week event at the Minnesota State Capitol
Thu, 09/18/2014 - 9:26am
The big National Drive Electric Week event is coming up this weekend—Sunday, September 21st from 1:00 to 4:00pm at the State Capitol Mall. To learn more about the event and electric vehicles (EVs) in general, we spoke with Matthew Blackner, Founder of ZEF Energy. Joel Haskard: Who should come out to this event? Matthew Blackner: Ever wondered what the fuss was all about? Want to cut through the marketing guff and ask ACTUAL owners what the limitations are and how to deal with them? Then this event is for you! If you like what you hear, or want to feel what it is like to drive a car with instant torque, there is a test drive of a fleet electric vehicles round a track on the Thursday afterwards. Joel: What is something surprising folks might not know about EVs in...
Wed, 09/17/2014 - 4:42pm
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is currently accepting applications from individuals interested in AmeriCorps service with Minnesota GreenCorps for immediate placement during the 2014-2015 program year in the City of Maplewood. Help the City meet energy and sustainability goals by implementing their Partners in Energy Program as follows: Serve as the City’s Energy Ambassador Assemble an energy action team made up of leaders and stakeholders across the community Help create a strategic energy action plan with an incentive and award program for voluntary compliance with the City’s Green Building Code Networking, outreach, and education for schools/businesses/neighborhood groups Work on completion of Green Step Cities best practices Help implement energy efficiency upgrades to City buildings and track improvements How do you apply? The member application...
Tue, 09/02/2014 - 10:37am
Love energy efficiency, renewables, and helping others save money? Like to work with local units of government on helping them finance their clean energy projects? Then consider joining CERTs! We have a new position open—a Local Government Outreach Coordinator. Read on for more information. If you’re interested in applying, click here for more details. The application deadline is September 15, 2014, so apply now! Summary of Job Description: Over the past several years CERTs has worked to build its network with local units of government through efforts like Minnesota GreenStep Cities, developing a local government energy efficiency story series, and by promoting financing tools like the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP), Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), and Local Public Buildings...
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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...