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Solar PV
Mon, 04/08/2013 - 10:16am
Reposted from Cleantechnica and Greentech Media with permission. Article by Shayle Kann. Last month GTM Research published a report on the U.S. residential solar financing landscape. We undertook that research partly because we perceived a general lack of understanding of both who the residential third-party ownership (TPO) companies are and how they are differentiated. This article describes the key areas in which we classify those vendors and updates our ever-growing vendor taxonomy. Prior to 2010, there were few residential TPO vendors. SolarCity and Sunrun pioneered the residential third-party financing...
Producing biocoal from biomass is a new technology that offers great benefits
Joel Haskard
Fri, 04/05/2013 - 1:31pm
There is a new kid on the block when it comes to biomass energy: torrefaction—the process of making biocoal out of biomass. Working to discover all of its advantages is Douglas G. Tiffany of the University of Minnesota and a team of partners. Currently, torrefied biomass boasts a reduction in greenhouse gasses by 85% per unit of energy substituted for coal. There is a lot to be excited about and a lot to learn. CERTs’ Co-Director, Joel Haskard, was able to interview Tiffany and get the inside scoop. Read on to see how torrefaction could be changing biomass efficiency forever! Joel Haskard: Tell me about your recent project on torrefaction. Douglas G. Tiffany: Over a year ago, I sought and received a grant from the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) to investigate the economics of torrefaction, a process of making biocoal out of biomass. Collaborating with...
Classroom in North Carolina goes 100% solar through hard work and Kickstarter backers
Kristi Loobeek
Tue, 04/02/2013 - 3:05pm
“We believe in the power of the sun” was the slogan for the small, Durham, North Carolina 4th grade class that together succeed in making their classroom 100% solar photovoltaic (PV)-powered. When the class, taught by Aaron Sebens, started a Kickstarter campaign, Our Solar Powered Classroom, they could not have imagined how far the project would exceed their expectations. Originally setting their goal at raising $800, the total amount raised topped $5,800. In a short video created by the 4th graders and their teacher, the class explained why they wanted to start the project: “We believe in the sun and would like to fundraise to get enough money to buy solar panels for our classroom so we do...
Installing a solar electric fence charger to keep deer away (Photo by Pat Lefemine)
Joel Haskard
Tue, 03/26/2013 - 11:00am
One of the newest developments in the electric fence industry is the increased use of solar-powered electric fences, which are slowly taking hold in Minnesota, in part through a new statewide program. What are solar electric fence chargers, and how do they work? Like a normal electric fence, a solar-powered electric fence can be used to protect livestock, pets, or land from wildlife and pests. However, unlike normal electric lines or battery-powered fences, a solar electric fence charger use a small solar photovoltaic (PV) panel to collect and convert sunlight into energy, which is then stored in the battery so that it can charge the fence. Solar electric fence chargers need little maintenance and can work with most existing fencing systems. The Solar PV panels can produce enough energy under cloud cover to power a fence, and the storage battery can provide power to the energizers...
With the HVAC upgrade, city staff no longer need to use space heaters to keep warm in their offices.
Jeff Vetsch
Tue, 03/26/2013 - 10:58am
The City of Paynesville sensed for some time that they needed to replace their Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system in their city hall. But when the HVAC unit shook loose from the roof and crossed electrical wires, which brought smoke into the building, the project took on greater urgency. City staff had struggled to regulate the building’s temperature. The building’s over-designed, computer-controlled ventilation system wasn’t functioning properly—turning up the temperature in one zone would make temperatures unbearably cold in another. “People’s fingers and toes were turning blue,” said Paynesville City Administrator, Renee Eckerly. Staff brought in electric space heaters to place under their desks (increasing electric demand) and constantly adjusted the building’s numerous thermostats in fruitless attempts to try and balance the temperature. The staff...
March Madness: The Elite Eight Energy Efficient NCAA campuses
Kristi Loobeek
Mon, 03/18/2013 - 9:23am
The signs of March Madness are everywhere: brackets litter office desks, smart phones buzz in a melody of score updates, the squeaking chirps of fast moving feet on wood floors echo from every sports bar and restaurant. Now I’m sure you have heard of the Elite Eight, but how about the EE Eight? The Alliance to Save Energy has ranked the top eight Energy-Efficient NCAA college campuses nation-wide. In no particular order, the list is as follows: University of Oregon- Eugene, Ore. UF President J. Bernard Machen was the first president to commit to reduce UF’s carbon emissions and educate its campus community about climate change. Since 2007, the UF has reduced its electrical consumption by 6.35% per gross square foot. UF requires all new buildings to be LEED certified. Duke University-...
Solar resources from DOE SunShot
Lissa Pawlisch
Thu, 03/14/2013 - 11:40am
Are you a part of a local government unit that wants to adopt solar energy? Good news! The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative has created a new website, the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs) that helps local governments adopt solar energy by providing timely and actionable information. Local governments will receive the information that they need to further their current solar energy projects or start new solar energy projects through educational workshops, peer-to-peer sharing opportunities, research-based reports, and online resources from SolarOPs. The Department of Energy has selected the International City/County Management Association and ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability USA to perform the work of SolarOPs. If you are looking to adopt solar energy as a local government, you can start by...
Wind energy in Minnesota - Image from NREL
Kiley Bastian
Thu, 03/14/2013 - 11:10am
If you didn’t know, the Midwest Independent System Operator or MISO is responsible for delivering cost-effective electric power to Minnesota and 14 other states in the U.S., as well as parts of Canada. MISO and its members attempt to strengthen the transmission network while bringing benefits to their consumers. One way they do this is through adding forms of renewable energy to the power grid. Currently in Minnesota and the Midwest, wind is the most abundant clean energy resource. In addition to wind, we also utilize biomass power from trees, animal waste and plant matter, and hydropower from flowing water. Over the past several years MISO has been integrating more wind power initiatives...
CFLs in the bathroom (left) and ice damming on our roof (right)
Jeff Vetsch
Thu, 03/07/2013 - 3:00pm
Hi. I’m Jeff Vetsch and my family (the Mill Pond Minimizers) is going head to head with another Minnesota family (the Prairie Penny Pinchers) to see who can save more energy in the CERTs Family Energy FACE-OFF — and we need your help! I recently sat down and added up our household energy bills for 2012. Turns out we spent just over $1,400 last year to heat, cool (a little, we let the shade trees do most of the work) light and otherwise power our house. I figure that’s not too shabby for a house that’s over 100 years old and has to put up with our cold Minnesota winters and hot Minnesota summers.* But what I was really pleased with was the savings. We cut our energy costs over $400 from what we had spent in 2011. Now, I know $400 isn’t exactly striking it rich, but—like the Prairie Penny Pinchers—we’re saving for college too...
New Online Tool, Plug, Helps Homeowners Decrease Heat Bleed
Kristi Loobeek
Tue, 03/05/2013 - 12:02pm
In these cold Minnesota winters, it’s important to know all your options when it comes to energy and heating savings. The Energy Response Corps has taken the initiative to create an online tool to evaluate how much energy your home is losing due to Heat Bleed. Heat Bleed, for those who don’t know, is the the loss of energy in homes caused by things such as outdated HVAC systems, old appliances, and non-energy efficient windows and doors. The online tool, named Plug, helps you visualize how much energy is being lost by your home. Plus uses six factors to determine the amount of energy your home is using: Your address When your home was built How your home is heated How much it costs to heat your home in the winter How much it costs to cool your...


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