West Central Blog Posts
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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...
Mon, 09/01/2014 - 1:38pm
Katelyn Larsen, Minnesota GreenCorps member for the Recycling Association of Minnesota, recently completed a pilot study on bulk milk dispensers at a K-12 public school in Minnesota. The study was designed to test the feasibility of using bulk milk dispensers in K-12 public schools as well as provide a sustainable alternative to milk cartons in areas where carton recycling is not possible. Larsen tailored the project to understand both the environmental and economic costs and benefits associated with switching to dispensers. The project was supported heavily by the Jeffers Foundation, SilverKing, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. New London-Spicer High School was chosen as the pilot school based on the staff’s willingness to serve as a pilot and collect data. The school received four milk dispensers from SilverKing to replace two milk coolers for use of the pilot. Staff...
Mon, 09/01/2014 - 10:42am
The Center for Renewable Energy Education & Demonstration (CREED) program strives to help teachers strengthen their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curricula by integrating energy education into their lessons. CREED hosted K-12 teachers from across Minnesota at the Laurentian Environmental Center (LEC), as well as touring energy efficiency and renewable energy sites. “The live-in situation at LEC enabled teachers to rub shoulders and share teaching ideas,” says Roger Aiken, former lead instructor for CREED. “And the site visits were the single most important aspect of our training according to the teachers. What they had learned in discussions and presentations finally made sense in the real world.” With help from CERTs seed grants in three regions (Northwest, Southeast and West Central), CREED instructors graded the teachers progress for eventual...
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...
Wed, 07/16/2014 - 1:36pm
The Minnesota GreenStep Cities program is designed to challenge, assist, and recognize Minnesota cities that are “green stars.” Cities are challenged to work through a series of steps—and recognized for steps they’ve already taken—that increase the community’s sustainability. Each city is assigned a category based on how many public buildings it owns, its employee count, what kinds of facilities and services it offers, and other characteristics. Its category determines how many best practices a community needs to implement to achieve full GreenStep status, and makes the goal reachable for both small towns and large cities. The program assists cities by providing a framework for sustainability improvements. The program web site lists the GreenStep 28 best practices for cities, offers model ordinances, and has tools to...
Thu, 07/10/2014 - 11:23am
We often receive questions from homeowners about how to get started with energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Recently a gentleman named Jim in Corcoran, MN reached out to us with a question on this topic, and we decided to share the answer with everyone in the hopes that it will help you, too. The Question Hello, I am a homeowner in Corcoran (Hennepin County). My family and I are very interested in learning more about energy alternatives for heating and cooling our residence. Last winter, we, like many others, took a big financial hit with the cost of propane; we’d like to reduce — or eliminate — our dependence on it. We are especially interested in a system that would include the integration of solar and geothermal. (And anything else you may suggest.) Can someone come out to our home and assess our energy needs, then make some recommendations to us?...
Wed, 07/09/2014 - 1:52pm
An LED street lighting forum was hosted at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference on June 19th, where a packed room of 40 people learned first-hand from a tremendously knowledgeable line-up of speakers from across Minnesota. Is your city in the dark about LED street lighting retrofits? Learn how the technology works, as well as the benefits to your city’s operational budget. See presentations below from city representatives about their experiences and lessons learned, and get tips for picking the right kind of light and selecting a lighting contractor for your project. Presentation – LED street lighting: What it is and how it has worked for us Blake Redfield, City of St. Cloud Download presentation | ...
Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:30pm
With an acronym that sounded like Roadrunner passing Wile E. Coyote, the Public Building Enhanced Energy Efficiency Program (PBEEEP) contract between the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Center for Energy & Environment (CEE) wrapped up in February 2014. Seventy different sites managed by ten different state agencies participated, with over 900 buildings totaling 31,423,848 square feet. Of those participants, PBEEEP identified over 650 energy savings measures and saw a combined reduction of 6.3% in the participating buildings’ baseline energy use since 2010, which translated into a cost savings of $1.4 million annually. We spoke with Bridget Nielsen McLaughlin, CEE’s Manager of Client & Government Affairs, to learn more. Joel Haskard: Tell us a little bit about CEE and how you ended up managing the State PBEEEP program? Bridget Nielsen McLaughlin: CEE is in its...
Wed, 07/09/2014 - 10:53am
Plans are underway to expand the solar farm built in 2009 that provides some of the electricity used on the St. John’s campus. Best Power International received a grant from Xcel Energy’s renewable development fund to install solar panels to produce another 200 kilowatts at St. John’s. While the existing solar panels track the sun as it moves across the sky, the new system will have fixed panels, said Dwight Jelle, president of Best Power. That will allow researchers to compare the two systems and see which performs better, he said. The existing solar farm has been producing more power than anticipated, Jelle said. He said the company hopes to build the new system this fall or 2015 at the latest. In related news, after more than half a century of heating with coal, St. John’s University has made the switch to natural gas. After undergoing a master planning...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 5:12pm
Are you planning an extended summer vacation—one week, two weeks, or more? Before leaving town, there are several simple steps you can take to save energy in your home—and save money. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has come up with the 5 money and energy saving tips: Turn down the temperature on your water heater. Water heating accounts for up to 20 percent of annual energy costs in a Minnesota home. No sense heating the water if you are not home to use it. Instead of the recommended setting of 120 degrees F, lower the temperature 10-20 degrees or turn the control knob to “vacation mode.” Read more to cut water heating bills. Set your thermostat (programmable or manual) at a higher temperature than usual. Again, no sense cooling your home if you’re not there. The Environmental Protection Agency...