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MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 07/23/2013 - 11:30am
A new report has been published that offers guidance to building officials and solar installers regarding the need for structural review of planned residential solar installations. The report, issued by the Minnesota Department of Commerce in cooperation with the Department of Labor and Industry, developed standard load tables that outline limitations for placement of residential rooftop solar electric and solar thermal systems on existing single and multifamily dwellings. The tables encourage safe and structurally reliable systems while reducing costs associated with unnecessary structural review for many residential applications. The cost to have a structural review of existing conditions for proposed solar installations can be a real barrier to adoption, according to the...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 07/23/2013 - 11:05am
Renewable energy will be prominently featured at this year’s Home Energy exhibit at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair, with several displays dedicated to solar and wind energy. The Home Energy exhibit, located in the Eco Experience at the north end of the fairgrounds, is intended to educate fairgoers about a wide range of energy conservation and energy efficiency measures and renewable energy opportunities. The exhibit’s solar energy area is a partnership with the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society and will include four new displays: A Solar Electricity display that demonstrates the benefits of generating solar energy for electricity and how solar photovoltaic panels provide electricity to your house. Solar Water Heating display that...
Tue, 07/16/2013 - 12:21pm
The RFP for the CERTs 2014 Seed Grants will open in late August. To prepare, we’re providing some information so that you can become familiar with the application process and start thinking about your projects! The Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams will be seeking proposals for seed grant funds. The grants are designed to provide limited financial assistance for energy efficiency and/or renewable energy projects requiring assistance. Project funding can support assistance services (i.e. labor costs only, such as for a consultant, design professional, installer, or student labor), for projects in all seven Minnesota CERT regions: Central, Metro, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and West Central. The primary objectives of this funding are to: Encourage the implementation of community-based energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Minnesota Provide...
Tue, 07/16/2013 - 11:42am
Americans have saved nearly $9 billion dollars and 487 billion gallons of water though the use of WaterSense labeled products since the program’s inception in 2006—that is enough water to supply all the homes in Colorado and Arizona for a year! The WaterSense program has more than 8,600 different models of labeled products, including toilets, faucets, faucet accessories, showerheads, flushing urinals, and wather-based irrigation controllers. “The program seeks to help consumers make smart water choices that save money and maintain high environmental standards without compromising performance. Products and services that have earned the WaterSense label have been certified to be at least 20 percent more efficient without sacrificing performance” (...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 07/09/2013 - 10:18am
Many refrigerators and freezers will continue to operate for 15-20 years or even longer. But whether or not these appliances are really working efficiently is another question. It is probably time to replace your old energy-hog refrigerator when it becomes too expensive to operate. For instance, refrigerators built in the 1970s may use five times more electricity than new, high-efficiency ones and may cost $200 per year more to run than new ENERGY STAR® models. A 20-year-old refrigerator could use 1,700 kWh of electricity every year, compared with about 450 kWh for a similarly sized new ENERGY STAR model. At an electrical cost of 12 cents per kWh, that represents a savings of $150 per year and a potential payback of about 7-9 years. Also, if your old refrigerator requires costly repairs (exceeding a few hundred dollars), then it probably makes sense to replace it with an energy-...
Mon, 07/08/2013 - 2:48pm
A lot of energy goes into powering parking garages, street lamps, traffic signals, and vehicles. Minnesotans have begun to take notice, and in 2009 several communities were given a great opportunity to try out transportation efficiency ideas with Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funding. The hubs of transportation in Minnesota, St. Paul and Minneapolis, led the way in the arena of transportation infrastructure, developing projects such as electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the City of St. Paul and the Energy Innovation Corridor in Minneapolis and St. Paul along the new Central Corridor light rail line. In addition to the Twin Cities, Crookston and Golden Valley also upgraded street lighting and traffic signals. LED traffic signals, like the ones installed in Golden Valley, use approximately 80% less energy than standard incandescent fixtures and last...
Mon, 07/08/2013 - 2:07pm
When new Occupational Safety Health Act (OSHA) regulations were announced in 2008, New London-Spicer Schools Superintendent, Paul Carlson, knew it was time to change the lights. The gymnasium lights had always been turned on and off at the breaker box, but the new rules were going to make this process more costly and time consuming. As a safety precaution, flash arc protection training is now required for anyone flipping a breaker switch. This meant the district would have had to purchase several costly safety suits to fulfill new regulations. “We can’t put somebody in a jumpsuit every time we want to turn the lights on and off,” said Carslon. The new rules also meant that the lights could only be turned on and off by maintenance staff. If a coach or physical education instructor wanted to turn on the lights they would have to track down someone who had flash arc protection...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 07/08/2013 - 9:32am
Minnesota utilities and statewide public benefits organizations were well represented in the recently released American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Third National Review of Exemplary Energy Efficiency Programs. The Review recognizes and profiles best program practices and outstanding energy efficiency programs that serve electric and natural gas utility customers. The first review was conducted in 2003 and the second in 2008. Award-winning programs in a number of categories were selected for developing innovative designs, services and delivery methods and expanding into new markets across the country. Those with Minnesota ties earning exemplary or honorable mention status included: Small Business Category, Exemplary Award: Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment and Xcel Energy for their One-Stop Efficiency Shop Program®. Residential Audit and...
Mon, 07/01/2013 - 12:39pm
According to the EPA in 2012, “drinking water and wastewater systems account for approximately 3-4 percent of energy use in the United States, resulting in the emissions of more than 45 million tons of Greenhouse Gases annually” (Energy Efficiency in Water and Wastewater Facilities 2013). Water and wastewater treatment, often overlooked yet large consumers of energy, can account for up to 10 percent of a local government’s annual operating budget (DOE in Energy Efficiency, 2013). Water and wastewater facilities can be among the highest consumers of energy in a community due to pumps, motors, and other equipment operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Luckily, methods of water efficiency and conservation are appearing in communities across the nation. Simple solutions such as...
Fri, 06/28/2013 - 10:53am
56 cities were recognized last week for participation in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program, a free and voluntary program designed to help Minnesota cities achieve their environmental sustainability goals through implementation of 28 best practices. Each best practice can be implemented by completing one or more specific actions from a list of four-to-eight actions in the areas of transportation, buildings and lighting, environmental management, land use, and economic and community development. Those actions are tailored to all types of Minnesota cities, and they focus on cost savings, energy use reduction, and encouraging innovation. Cities were recognized at an awards program last week at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference in St. Paul. Cities achieve Step One recognition by passing a resolution to become a GreenStep City. Step Two-designated cities have...
Thu, 06/27/2013 - 4:16pm
Making sure your home has adequate insulation in walls and attics, as well as being air-sealed, is a great way to reduce energy use and save money in the long run. What is air sealing? Air sealing is filling holes, cracks, and gaps in the air barrier between the interior and exterior of your home. What is an air barrier? An air barrier is anything that prevents air from flowing from indoors to outdoors, or vice versa. Should you insulate or air seal first? Ideally, air sealing should be done first. Holes in your air barrier allow air to escape no matter how much insulation you have. Air sealing works to keep air you have paid to heat or cool within your home. How to you test for air tightness? One of the most common ways to test air tightness is through a blower door (a large fan that blows air out of your house while measuring the pressure within). What are the different...
Thu, 06/27/2013 - 3:41pm
The University of Minnesota, Morris will be hosting a youth camp and renewable energy tours again this summer. University Green Summer staff have designed hands-on experiences that will help people of all ages to develop a deeper understanding of renewable energy technologies and sustainability practices. Registration for these activities is now open. Children entering grades 4 and 5 are invited to consider their relationships with nature by embarking on a quest that will explore gardening, tree identification, building a wind turbine, and more. This four-day Nature Quest Camp will take place on the Morris campus July 15-18 from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. The cost for the camp is $95. Children should bring a lunch each day and may be dropped off in the Welcome Center lobby. Families are invited to attend a Parent’s Night on Thursday, July 18, at 6 p.m. at Pomme de Terre Park. The public is also...
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 4:33pm
The City of Franklin (population 510), located in Renville county in southwest Minnesota, has quickly become an area leader in renewable energy with the installation of its 250,000 Btu biomass boiler heating system. Utilizing funding from an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant received through the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources, the city was able to build its current two boiler system, which heats three primary city buildings: city hall, the fire hall, and the city maintenance shop. The three buildings, whose footprints combine to encompass almost 6,000 square feet, receive 100% of their heat from the biomass system, which has burned a variety of wood and agricultural residue-based biomass pellets since coming online in February 2011. Project Formation: A few years ago, the city was approached by a group of individuals who wanted...
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 3:40pm
You’ve seen those huge, white, and twirling wind turbines on the horizon before, but have you ever wondered how they actually work? Let’s break it down! What is wind energy? Wind energy is electricity created from a wind turbine. (Side note: a common mistake is to call them windmills; however, the proper name is wind turbine. Windmills do spin and resemble wind turbines, but windmills actually pump water from the ground—think Dutch windmills.) How do they actually work? When the wind blows, it turns the blades of the turbine. As these blades turn, they spin generators to create electricity. The electricity is then sent to a transformer which increases the voltage and sends it to a distribution line. Next, local transformers reduce the voltage and send it to homes or businesses. Why are they so tall? Wind turbines are tall due to the fact that wind increases at...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 10:09am
Summer has barely begun, but planning has been underway for months on the Home Energy exhibit at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair. For the second straight year, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources (DER) is sponsoring and coordinating the Home Energy exhibit, with expectations of making it bigger and better than last year. At least 10 new displays are planned to provide a showcase of energy efficiency and renewable energy for Minnesota homeowners. Once again, DER has recruited numerous partners—state agencies, utilities, retailers, neighborhood energy groups, nonprofits, trade organizations, finance agencies, and more—to implement a range of educational displays that demonstrate ways to improve the efficiency, comfort, safety and sustainability of Minnesota homes. The design of this year’s Home Energy exhibit will give visitors a chance to view all sides...
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 10:07am
Dr. David Schmidt of the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences is practicing what he preaches. The professor of the popular Renewable Energy and the Environment course has conducted his own study on phantom power in the home. Phantom power (also referred to as standby power, vampire draw, or leaking electricity) is the act of electrical appliances consuming power while switched off or in standby mode. Schmidt ran an in-home experiment with a Kilo-Watt meter and tested items such as laptops and phone chargers. Schmidt began the experiment by plugging only the power cords (chargers) for 4 laptops, 2 cell phones, 2 iPads, a Nook, a Nexus, and an iPod all onto the same power strip. (See above right photo...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 06/24/2013 - 9:54am
The 2013 session of the Minnesota Legislature passed an omnibus energy bill in May intended to significantly increase the generation of solar and other clean energy in Minnesota. From a solar mandate requiring public utilities to generate 1.5 percent of their energy from solar, to incentives for homeowners and businesses to acquire clean energy, the bill sends a clear message that Minnesota wants a faster track to more renewable energy. The bill, House File 729, was passed as part of a large omnibus jobs, economic development, housing, commerce, and energy bill and was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton on May 23. Articles 7-13 cover the energy portions of the bill. Articles 7-13 cover the energy portions of the bill. A few highlights of the bill include: A new solar energy standard that requires four investor-owned electric public utilities (Xcel, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power,...
Fri, 06/21/2013 - 2:35pm
Our Renewables section will focus primarily on district heating projects powered by renewable energy sources in the forms of biomass, solar thermal, and wastewater energy. There are four stories that we will be highlighting in three communities, the cities of Brainerd, Ely, and Franklin. The City of Brainerd conducted two major renewable heating projects: a solar thermal air heating system at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport and a feasibility study and research partnership on the potential for wastewater district heating in the City of Brainerd. The cities of Ely and Franklin investigated biomass district heating. The City of Franklin installed a biomass boiler district heating system which now fully heats three municipal buildings: the city hall, the fire hall, and the city maintenance shop. Meanwhile, Ely conducted a feasibility study on biomass district heating. Not all EECBG-...
Fri, 06/14/2013 - 2:55pm
The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources has issued a formal invitation for potential contractors to submit White Papers concerning two topics in the State of Minnesota’s energy future. The first topic to be addressed is microgrid development for energy assurance. Recommendations should address barriers and identify pathways to facilitate microgrid development. Eligibility: Individuals and public or private entities with demonstrated experience related to the topic of microgrids and energy assurance. Topic: Microgrid development Source: Minnesota Department of Commerce Deadline: July 1, 2013 The second request is funded by the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) Grant Program and should investigate ...
Fri, 06/14/2013 - 9:52am
Food service businesses—mostly restaurants and grocery stores—use 2.5 times more energy than the average commercial business. Think about it: all the stoves, ovens, heat lamps, dish washers, refrigerators, and fryers turning out meal after meal. It makes sense that they are energy intensive. Kitchens are also hectic places where energy wasters often get ignored amid hustle and bustle. Stay tuned to learn more about recent projects at food service businesses in Minnesota that sought to start saving energy and money, and the resources that helped them complete these projects such as the Food Service Energy Leadership Program and the Minneapolis Energy Efficiency Business Loan and Grant Program. For more information on reducing energy consumption in small businesses and food services, see the Small Business Energy Reduction Guide...