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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...
Wed, 06/25/2014 - 11:10am
On Friday, June 20th, cities across Minnesota were recognized for their leadership in sustainability, energy efficiency, and resource conservation. Sixty-nine cities currently participate in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program, and many of them received awards at the GreenStep Awards Breakfast at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference. Currently 27% of the state’s population resides in a GreenStep city. Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a free, voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to assist all Minnesota cities in implementing 28 sustainability best practices. The League is working with the Preservation Alliance of MN, Clean Energy Resource Teams, Great Plains Institute, Izaak Walton League–MN Division, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Commerce-Division of Energy Resources, and Urban Land...
Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:20am
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. While applications for this program are accepted on a continuous basis, CERTs recently learned about the upcoming application cut-off dates. We wanted to be sure to share with you as soon as we knew about them! The EQIP application cut-off dates in 2014 are: July 18, August 15. The NRCS reviews all applications received by these cut-off dates in groups (and any submitted by previous cut-off dates in the same year but not funded) following each of these cut-...
Wed, 06/11/2014 - 2:00pm
During our February CERT Conference back in 2013 several regions expressed interest in LED Street Lighting. Since that time interest has only grown and there are many local governments starting to move forward with projects – including a few CERT Seed Grant Recipients. To help ourselves better respond to questions about LED street lighting we began to sift through recent reports to tease out answers to the most common questions we were hearing. Rather than keep that to ourselves, we decided we’d be better off sharing that information with all of you. Here goes! The first question we were often asked was, “Is there funding for LED Street Lighting Retrofits?” The short answer is, maybe. The longer answer is that some utilities in Minnesota have LED Street Lighting rebates. Your best bet would be to talk directly with your local utility about what rebates they have to support this sort...
Wed, 06/11/2014 - 11:08am
Taking leadership to accelerate private-sector adoption of EVs, Minnesota is the first state nationwide to require its investor-owned utilities to offer a special rate for off-peak (overnight) EV refueling. Signed in to law by Governor Mark Dayton, clean energy advocates, including Minnesota utilities, worked together to create bipartisan and market-driven policy that has the following outcomes: Beginning in 2015, 1.3 million households will have access to a discounted rate for electric vehicle (EV) refueling. Also beginning in early 2015, investor-owned utilities will provide customers the option of zero-emissions EV refueling with renewable energy. State agencies can more easily consider electric fleet vehicles–previous purchasing decisions were not permitted to take into account the lower refueling and maintenance costs typical of EVs. The policy removes roadblocks to...
Thu, 06/05/2014 - 3:51pm
There is scholarship funding available to participate in the Regional Indicators Initiative – Apply by July 3. Over 20 Minnesota cities currently participate in the Regional Indicators Initiative (RII), and new participants are being accepted. The Regional Indicators Initiative measures annual performance metrics for Minnesota cities interested in increasing efficiency and sustainability. The total cost to collect and report data for 2008 – 2012 data is $3,000 and a limited amount of funding is available to provide competitive matching scholarships to a few communities. We expect to award scholarships to 3 – 6 cities on a competitive basis. Preference will be given to applicants that meet three or more of the following criteria: GreenStep Cities participant Community-wide population under 25,000 Located in Greater Minnesota Interest in setting community-wide...
Wed, 06/04/2014 - 11:45am
Municipalities and other authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) are facing dramatic increases in rooftop solar permit applications. With this trend expected to continue and spread, streamlining building and electrical permitting processes will become increasingly important to more AHJs. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability U.S.A. and IREC present a series of webinars on solar permitting and inspection. The series will review the components of rooftop solar permitting processes, and share best practices and tools for improving them. These webinars are free, but you must register to attend. The upcoming webinars will be held on June 26 and August 27 from 1:00p-2:00pm CST. These webinars will be targeted at municipal permit review staff and inspectors, but should be useful to a diverse...
Tue, 06/03/2014 - 10:31am
I recently rode out to Darwin, MN with Michael Ostaffe of Once Innovations to visit Langmo Farms, one of the newest sites participating in our LED Pilot Project. There we met owner Greg Langmo and talked with him about his successful family-run turkey operation. Greg was instrumental several years ago in setting up the nation’s first biomass power plant run on poultry litter – Fibrominn, LLC outside of Benson, MN – which makes use of the nearly 33 semi-truckloads of manure and litter that come out of a turkey barn over a year, and turns it into 55 megawatts of electricity. Now he’s interested in converting the lighting in several of his barns (perhaps all of them, eventually) to the brighter, more efficient light offered with LEDs. Our pilot project is testing the energy efficiency, performance and durability of LED lighting in Minnesota livestock facilities. Through participating,...
Environmental Assistance Grants Program: includes possibility of $100,000 in grants for GreenStep Cities
Thu, 05/22/2014 - 12:01pm
On May 12, 2014, with the publication of the Request for Proposals (RFP) Notice in the State Register, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has officially announced the opening of the Fiscal Years (FY) 2014-2015 Environmental Assistance (EA) Grant Program for applications. Approximately $1 million is available for EA grant awards to provide financial assistance for researching, developing, or implementing projects and practices related to all aspects of waste management and prevention including hazardous substances, toxic pollutants, and problem materials. Additionally, market development and education grants are also allowed. The MPCA seeks to encourage environmentally-sustainable practices and approaches to pollution prevention and resource conservation. Eligible applicants, grant award amounts and minimum matching fund requirements will vary by Focus Areas and Preferred...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 05/20/2014 - 2:48pm
Are you on delivered fuels and looking for a way to supplement your winter heating needs? Or perhaps you’re just ready to transition to renewable energy? Solar thermal may be a good fit… and better yet there are rebates to help buy down the cost for those systems. Read on for details! What’s the rebate? Solar thermal energy is a technology for harnessing solar energy for thermal energy (heat). A Made-In-Minnesota Rebate Program is available in Alliant Energy, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power Company, and Xcel Energy territory for people who install solar thermal systems made by certified solar thermal system manufacturers and installed by a factory authorized solar thermal installer. For the purposes of the Made in Minnesota program, a “Solar Thermal System” means a flat plate or evacuated tube with a fixed orientation that collects the sun’s radiant energy and...
Department of Commerce issues RFPs for funding opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy
Mon, 05/19/2014 - 1:28pm
There are three separate opportunities currently open through the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Two of them are for Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) projects, and the third is for combined heat and power (CHP) support. Please look closely at deadlines as some of these RFPs have quick turnarounds. Good luck! CARD Grant RFP for projects in nine specific topic areas The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources seeks proposals from organizations or individuals interested in conducting applied research and development projects in nine specific topic areas: Survey and Analysis of Minnesota Municipal and Cooperative Utility Programs Statewide Policy Analysis and Evaluation of Low-Income Programs in Minnesota Utility CIP Portfolios Behavioral Programs Literature Review and Benchmarking Study...
Tue, 05/06/2014 - 10:00am
USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer today announced that USDA is seeking applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems. “Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Landkamer said. “This funding will help rural small business owners, farmers and ranchers incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations, create jobs and help America become more energy independent. When small rural businesses and farmers cut their energy costs with cleaner and more efficient energy, we are both helping their bottom lines and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that affects our climate.” The funding announced today is being provided through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program...
Thu, 05/01/2014 - 2:19pm
Minnesota Cities at the League of Minnesota Cities recently had a discussion with Philipp Muessig, GreenStep Cities program coordinator with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to learn more about the initiative. Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a free and voluntary program cities can join to help them improve their Earth-friendly efforts in a cost-effective way. Minnesota Cities: How did the idea for the GreenStep Cities program come about, and when did the program take off? Philipp Muessig: Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) held regional listening sessions around the state in 2007 to discuss community-based energy opportunities and the state’s Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. The idea was raised by Bob McLean of Hunt Utilities Group in Pine River to create a sustainable cities program that would, like...
Thu, 04/24/2014 - 2:13pm
Both homeowners and renters can benefit from home improvements that promote energy efficiency and improve indoor air quality. Raising the bar on air quality and energy performance at home helps reduce heating and cooling costs, saves energy, and improves occupant health and comfort. To help consumers better understand the strategies and product options available to them, HUD’s (Housing and Urban Development) Office of Policy Development and Research has developed the Guide to Energy-Efficient and Healthy Homes. The Guide is a new section of their website that provides concise descriptions in an easy-to-navigate format. Adopting energy-efficiency measures can also reduce both a home’s carbon footprint and the nation’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. This guide...
Wed, 04/23/2014 - 5:09pm
The Hometown BioEnergy anaerobic digester on the south edge of LeSueur, Minn., is the largest system of its type in the U.S., rated at 8 MW of electrical power from food processing and agricultural waste. Kelsey Dillon’s description of the construction schedule at Hometown BioEnergy LLC as “aggressive” is an understatement. The project broke ground in December 2012, in the midst of a Minnesota winter, and was completed one year later, in the middle of a very cold December. “We had a very aggressive construction schedule. We had to work long hours and weekend schedules to get it done,” the vice president of bioenergy for Avant Energy Inc. explains. “We pushed hard because we qualified for a 1603 grant [under the Recovery Act] and we had to be complete by the end of this year.” The grant isn’t finalized yet, she adds, but the developers hope to receive between $8 million and $9 million...
Fri, 04/18/2014 - 2:17pm
In support of the country’s goal of doubling renewable energy generation for a second time by 2020, the Energy Department announced yesterday $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses. The United States continues to be a global leader in solar, with total U.S. solar energy installations reaching 13 gigawatts last year. As the cost of solar energy continues to decline, more states and local communities are deploying solar energy projects to meet their electricity needs. “As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, solar energy is helping families and businesses throughout the U.S. access affordable, clean renewable power,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz...