West Central Blog Posts
Wed, 10/16/2013 - 1:56pm
Driving through rural Minnesota you are apt to see impressive displays of renewable energy: wind farms, solar arrays, and ethanol plants come to mind. Additional efforts to promote renewable energy and energy conservation have been popping up in rural Minnesota communities thanks to Youth Energy Summit (YES!) teams. YES!, a program partnership between Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) and Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC), is a team-oriented youth program that uses hands-on, experiential learning and energy action projects to address energy opportunities and issues in rural Minnesota communities. This past school year half of the 32 YES! teams chose to work on projects directly related to renewable energy and energy conservation. Several of these teams decided to pursue solar projects last school year. The...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Wed, 10/02/2013 - 3:42pm
Comprehensive energy program at Discovery Middle School achieves big energy savings and healthier indoor air quality. Alexandria’s Discovery Middle School has trimmed its energy use by nearly 50 percent, thanks to a host of energy improvements. In 2009, Alexandria Public Schools began an exciting and comprehensive “Go Green Initiative” that involved student learning and community impact, sustainable best practices, and cost savings. Part of the Go Green Initiative was an objective to get greener through aggressive energy management throughout the school district. Aims and objectives: One goal of the energy management plan is to put each school in the district in position to achieve an ENERGY STAR rating for energy efficiency. So far four of the ten schools in the district have achieved ENERGY STAR ratings above 75. (To qualify for the ENERGY STAR rating, a building must earn a score...
Mon, 09/30/2013 - 8:00am
For students like Kimberly Colgan, participating in the Youth Energy Summit (YES!) program is a life-changing experience. “YES! has definitely impacted my college and career plans. I am now pursuing a degree in industrial process engineering (looking at processes to reduce waste) and I hope to work in a recycling facility to help improve cost and efficiency so that we can recycle as much as possible,” says Colgan, a YES! student and recent graduate from Apollo High School in St. Cloud, Minnesota. One of the goals of the YES! program is to increase awareness of career, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunities. YES!, a program partnership between Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) and Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC), is a team-oriented youth program that uses hands-on, experiential learning and energy action projects to address energy opportunities and...
Tue, 09/24/2013 - 5:03pm
Stacey Pederson is the new Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Communications Assistant with the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnership and Extension. She decided to become more involved with CERTs after attending the 2013 CERTs Conference. Over the course of the past summer, Stacey has worked with Twin Cities Local Food, distributing fresh, locally-grown food to customers. Stacey is a student at Dakota County Technical College and will earn an Associate’s degree in Business Marketing in the spring of 2014. Currently Stacey is a member of the American Marketing Association, and is serving as president of the Dakota County Technical College chapter. In her free time, Stacey enjoys sewing reusable napkins and grocery bags for friends and family. Cool! Feel free to drop her a line: Stacey Pederson CERTs Communications Assistant University of...
Mon, 09/23/2013 - 8:00am
Several YES! teams worked to change behavioral and social norms in their schools this past school year. That was the easy part. Next came the hard part, convincing their fellow students to adopt necessary behavior changes to implement changes, starting with lunch trays. One Youth Energy Summit (YES!) event featured a video that depicted passengers on an elevator. One person (who was in on the project) would turn around so that their back was facing the elevator door, and by the end of the elevator ride, without realizing that they were doing it, everyone else in the car had turned around as well. This was an example of how individuals’ behavior is shaped by what people around them consider to be appropriate, correct, or desirable. It was about social and behavioral norms. Two of the goals of the YES! program are to engage youth and empower them to take positive action in their...
Fri, 09/20/2013 - 9:33am
Are you a school, city, or county that has been innovating to improve services or reduce the cost of local government? If so, share your innovation for a chance to win $10,000 and a professional video highlighting your effort! The Local Government Innovation Awards—sponsored in partnership between the Humphrey School’s Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center, the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, and the Minnesota School Board Association—recognize the creative ways counties, cities, and schools are making Minnesota better and doing things differently. All types of local government innovation are encouraged to enter. Through a partnership with the University’s Center for Integrative Leadership this year, the Awards are particularly interested in surfacing innovations involving cross-sector or cross-systems collaborations. In keeping with...
Thu, 09/19/2013 - 1:32pm
Youth Energy Summit (YES!) students are cultivating knowledge and eating it, too! Many YES! teams have found that they are passionate about local foods and school gardens. This past school year 4 YES! teams built greenhouses at their schools and 13 YES! teams worked on projects related to school gardens and composting. YES!, a program partnership between Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) and Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC), is a team-oriented youth program that uses hands-on, experiential learning and energy action projects to address energy opportunities and issues in rural Minnesota communities. YES! students pick projects that relate to their interests and needs in their schools and communities. After several years of planning and dreaming, the Lac qui Parle Valley YES! team built a 20’ by 40’ passive...
Wed, 09/11/2013 - 2:05pm
As I staffed the Energy House at the Minnesota State Fair’s Eco-Experience, I got a bit more familiar with the Nest Thermostat, which is a smart thermostat developed mostly by former Apple employees. Below you will find some useful information about how a device like this can save you gobs of energy without having to constantly set/change your settings, because it learns your habits as it gets to know you. Basics about the Nest thermostat: What’s the advantage of the Nest over a basic programmable thermostat? The ideal candidates for owing a Nest are the 70% of households who currently have a programmable thermostat, and NEVER PROGRAM IT! When you say that to folks, nearly everyone says, “Yeah, ours isn’t programmed—too many buttons and screens…” Where can you buy them? Amazon.com, Best Buy, Apple Stores, Lowe’s, Home Depot,...
Wed, 09/11/2013 - 1:20pm
Menards, one of the largest home improvement chains in the world, will begin selling SolarPod solar photovoltaic (PV) systems this month. SolarPod is manufactured by Mouli Engineering. Inc., a company based in Eagan, Minnesota. “Menards has worked extensively in evaluating Mouli Engineering’s SolarPod products. SolarPod installations from Pennsylvania to California add significant confidence to us. Their approaches of simple design, affordable cost, and grow-as-you-go solar appeals to us and our customer base. Menards is always looking for innovative products such as the SolarPod to enhance our renewable energy market, improve the Menards brand and experience, and broaden our service to customers,” said Curt Carlson, Buyer at Menards in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The SolarPod products are expected to sell through the Menards website at http://www....
Wed, 09/11/2013 - 12:32pm
National Plug-In Vehicle Day is on Saturday, September 28th, and folks from the Twin Cities and beyond will be heading to the Capitol to see the cars and learn more. We caught up with Jukka Kukkonen, owner of PlugInConnect, LLC—an EV market and technologies consulting company in Minnesota—for the details and thoughts for those interested in owning a car. See the interview below, and click here to get event details. Joel Haskard: What will people see if they come to the Twin Cities National Plug-In Vehicle Day on Saturday, September 28th at the State Capitol? Jukka Kukkonen: Many people are now considering purchasing or leasing a plug-in vehicle (PEV), and this event is designed to give them a rare opportunity to see all the different models and colors and option combinations in one place. Attendees will also...
Tue, 09/10/2013 - 10:49am
Minnesota Public Radio’s Ground Level project kicked off a new series on Making Energy Local this week. From the opening article: “Whether they want to be forward thinking, save money on energy or cut their greenhouse emissions, some Minnesota communities are trying different ways to generate power.” Reporter Jennifer Vogel will be talking about what she’s found this afternoon on All Things Considered and reporters Dan Kraker and Stephanie Hemphill will be on the air Wednesday...
Wed, 09/04/2013 - 2:46pm
The National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) paired up recently to promote wind power by reducing permitting barriers, while also protecting resident interests. The report, County Strategies for Successfully Managing and Promoting Wind Power, was published in early 2012 in conjunction with DWEA’s Small Wind Model Zoning Ordinance. The report’s recommendations and the Small Wind Model Zoning Ordinance are now being implemented across the U.S. NACo conducted extensive research to learn and share the best practices from...
Mon, 08/26/2013 - 9:58am
Director and Instructor of the Center for Renewable Energy Education & Demonstration, Roger Aiken recently took some time to sit down with CERTs own Joel Haskard to talk about the Discovering Science on the Range in the Field of Energy (DSRFE) project, one of the statewide 2012-13 seed grant recipients. (The DSRFE group poses at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority in photo on right) Joel Haskard: Tell us a bit about your project. Roger Aiken: The overarching goal of our work with DSRFE is to provide science, mathematics and technical education teachers at the middle school and high school levels with STEM-rich energy content materials to enable them to become familiar with and direct their students towards careers in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industry. It is all about jobs. Preparing today’s...
Thu, 08/22/2013 - 4:42pm
The City of Hoffman, located in the West Central region of Minnesota, may be small in size, but they are looking at the big picture when it comes to energy efficiency. Following their mission statement “to take actions which stimulate the Hoffman Community to adapt and grow into the twenty-first century with economic prosperity and cultural vitality,” the city signed on to the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program in 2011. The program encourages energy conservation and efficiency through upgrades to new and existing buildings in the community, positive behavior change on energy-related issues, and outreach to the community as a whole to spread knowledge of best practices. When cities join the GreenStep Cities program they are classified as a Step 1 City and can advance steps by implementing a number of best practices. It was through striving for Step 2 classification that the City of...
Thu, 08/22/2013 - 8:15am
Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, has been looking at all things energy in a series of videos and reports on energy use. He and other reporters have been trying to break down how and where different types of energy are employed in the U.S. As it stands, renewable energy makes up only about 10 percent of what we use in the United States. But as energy from fossil fuels declines, renewable energy will likely be asked to shoulder more of the load. Listen to the discussion on MPR’s Daily Circuit among Alexis Madrigal, Kerri Miller, and listeners. See the post on the MPR website >>
Wed, 08/21/2013 - 9:22am
Tis’ the season for new steering committee members! We’re excited to introduce you to our new batch of volunteer steering committee members who will be working hard to bring more clean energy projects into their regions across Minnesota. Before all that, though, we want to send out a special heart-felt THANK YOU to the stellar folks who are stepping off of our steering committee after years of volunteer service. They have been a real wind in the sails of CERTs and are all clean energy champions within their own communities. A big CERTs thanks to: Don Graves, John Baumgartner, Lola Schoenrich, Abby Finis, Neely Crane-Smith, Cheryal Lee Hills, Robert McLean, Dawn Hegland, Norm Erickson, Roger Warehime, Holli Arp, Jack Potter, Tom Warmka, Kevin Vickerman, Brian Christiansen, Steve Davis and John Oeljenbruns (Brian, Steve and John’s terms end in September, 2013). And now, without...
Tue, 08/20/2013 - 3:55pm
Do you work for or own a green business or organization? NOW is the time to get your business or organization more exposure to the green community in Minnesota. The Do It Green! Directory features hundreds of sustainable green businesses and organizations in Minnesota—is yours one of them? You can apply to become a Directory member by September 15th to get listed in the print, online, and downloadable directory for 2014. The 2014 edition will be expanded to include Green Routes members, has more search functions online, and will be distributed to more locations throughout greater Minnesota! Apply by September 15th to be included >>
Wed, 08/14/2013 - 10:06am
As many folks know, the cleanest energy of all is the BTU we never use. With this in mind, recycling products is a great energy saver. CERTs has participated for several years with the Recycle Your Holidays campaign to help homeowners recycle old, broken holiday light strands, and we also have a fantastic location finder available for recycling other lights, like CFLs and fluorescents. Now there is a new player in Minnesota, ReUSE Minnesota, and they are looking beyond recycling to how products can be reused, rented, or repaired. We caught up with Stacey White, Sustainability Coordinator, University Services,...