West Central Blog Posts
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Mon, 01/05/2015 - 1:54pm
It’s cold again (really cold), which means we’re all looking for ways to save on energy costs. From the high-tech to the practical, here are some ways to make this winter an energy-saving (and money-saving) opportunity! Follow these tips and enjoy low energy costs from the warmth of your home: Install weather-stripping, caulk leaky doors, and seal your home. If you’re able, adding insulation to your walls and attic is another key way to keep that precious heated air from escaping. Turn down the heat! Lower your thermostat before leaving the house for extended periods. Using a programmable thermostat is a great way to effortlessly adjust the temperature based on your schedule. Change the filter on your furnace once a month so your furnace can breathe easy...
Mon, 01/05/2015 - 1:19pm
As you’re taking down the holiday lights in the coming weeks, you now have the option to recycle any that didn’t make it and avoid having to deal with a tangled mess of lights next season! The Recycling Association of Minnesota, ACE hardware stores, WCCO TV, and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) are once again working together to provide the Recycle Your Holidays program to Minnesotans. RYH is the only holiday light recycling program of its kind in the country. Who is involved? RAM provides the collection bins and collection services for ACE store customers and other businesses and organizations across Minnesota to recycle holiday lights during the holiday season. CERTs provides the map of these nearly 500 drop-off locations. Vocational centers and their clients are contracted by RAM to provide the pick-up service and sort the thousands of pounds of holiday...
Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:35pm
The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) have been receiving questions from across Minnesota about Community Solar Gardens. During many of these conversations it became clear that communities needed resources they could use to help subscribers understand how community solar works and what they needed to know. To meet these needs, CERTs and our partners have compiled a suite of resources open for use by individuals, communities, and solar companies alike to help everyone make well-informed decisions regarding Community Solar Garden projects. CERTs Guide to Community Solar Gardens The CERTs Guide to Community Solar Gardens provides an introduction to key concepts and definitions. It was created to illustrate how community solar gardens work, why people might be interested in subscribing, how...
Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:34pm
Erin Smith, West Central CERT Coordinator, chatted with David Wakely, Director of Communications of MN Community Solar, and other stakeholders about an exciting community solar project in Sibley County that is now accepting subscribers. The project, which was announced in late August 2014, will be a 1 megawatt community solar garden in Gaylord, MN. The project is coming to fruition through a partnership with Front Row Energy founded by Steve Mangold. In 2010, Mangold purchased the land in Gaylord where the project will be located (four acres between Michael Foods and the Gaylord wastewater treatment plant) and approached MN Community Solar with his project idea after attending a presentation. The goal of the project is to create economic development in the region. Paula J. King joined her husband, Steve...
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 - 5:35pm
Camphill Village Minnesota is located on a 500-acre biodynamic farm ten miles north of Sauk Centre in West Central Minnesota. The mission of Camphill Village Minnesota is to create and sustain a community where people with and without disabilities live, work, and care for each other to foster social, spiritual, cultural, and agricultural renewal. Camphill Village Minnesota turned to John Duevel and his business Three Seasons And More to explore installing a solar thermal hot water system. “John had worked with us on smaller efficiency projects and showed a real enthusiasm for solar energy not to mention he felt aligned with the overall philosophy of our Camphill community,” says Camphill staffer Kristin Wilson. “The result of his work, a four panel system on one of our homes (Nicholas Coleman House) is a fully functioning...
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...
Thu, 11/06/2014 - 1:17pm
Overlooking the town of St. Peter, Minnesota, Gustavus Adolphus College is beautiful campus. Over the past few years Gustavus has been able to add a variety of renewable energy systems to add to its charms, including a real focus on solar thermal hot water systems. To learn more, we spoke with James Dontje, Director of Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation in Environmental Studies. Joel Haskard: Tell us why Gustavus has focused so much on solar thermal as a renewable energy technology. James Dontje: As a part of our overall environmental stewardship and climate action effort, we have a commitment to reducing our fossil fuel emissions in general and our greenhouse gas emissions in particular. While the fact that electricity...
Fri, 10/31/2014 - 3:25pm
On October 15th folks from across the West Central CERT region met at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in Spicer to learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Panelists shared experience and insights gained from their projects, partly funded by WC CERT seed grants. After Q&A on the patio, participants enjoyed the sunny day with a tour of Prairie Woods’ clean energy projects. Greater Milan Initiative – Sustainable Energy Utility During the panel discussion, Ann Thompson with Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) of Milan talked about their Community Center Energy Revitalization Project. The SEU purchased Milan’s old school building for $1 to serve as a community center. As many communities who have gone through this process have learned, a number of these older school buildings require a lot of energy to heat. With that in mind, the SEU pursued a...
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 - 4:08pm
Looking for a project example that educated students and the greater community about energy efficiency AND reduces costs AND improves the lighting quality? Look no further than the Madison, Marietta, Nassau Elementary School! Madison, Minnesota (pop. 1,551) is located in west central Minnesota. The gymnasium at the elementary school was in sore need of better lighting, and the students were primed and pumped for the retrofit. “The school had completed a partnership with the City of Madison Bright Energy Solutions – an energy saving education program – for the 4th grade class that school year,” says Principal Kipp Stender. “The program taught students about the importance and ways to implement energy efficiency savings with their parents at home. The lighting retrofit at the school was an additional way to show the students how energy savings could be implemented at a...
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...
Thu, 10/02/2014 - 11:58am
CERTs is excited to announce our newest staff member, Erin Smith, who started this summer as our West Central CERT Coordinator! We realize we’re a little late introducing her to everyone, but in case you have not met her yet, please continue reading to learn more about her and grab her contact info to say hello! Erin Smith is the West Central CERT Coordinator and is a Community Development Planner at the Upper Minnesota Regional Development Commission. Erin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban and Regional Studies from the University of Minnesota, Duluth and a Master’s in Urban Planning from Minnesota State University, Mankato with an emphasis on environmental planning. She is a LEED Green Associate and has experience working with in the non-profit realm through an internship with Habitat for Humanity during her time in Mankato. Erin has worked with GreenStep Cities and is...
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...