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.
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...
Thu, 06/13/2013 - 2:43pm
Honeywell has announced that it will be launching a city-controlled thermostat system to be used in homes. When a city’s energy demand spikes, the municipalities will enable an energy-reducing strategy with an automated demand response (ADR) to the participating homes.
In summer months, the use of air conditioning systems not only demands a large wattage per unit, but also causes sudden spikes in electricity demands—mainly due to the units cycling on and off. On especially hot days, the combined surge in city AC usage drastically increases the risk of blackouts.
The collective control of thermostats will, in theory, help to avoid brownouts and blackouts on the hottest days of the year when the power-grid stability is threatened. The Honeywell Total Connect Comfort with ADR thermostat is controlled via Wi-Fi and will be first available to the city of South Sioux City,...
Wed, 06/12/2013 - 12:04pm
On June 5th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented the regional 2012 President’s Environmental Youth Award to members of an environmental club at Mahtomedi High School for its Zephyr Wind Project. The President’s Environmental Youth Award program is an annual contest sponsored by the EPA to honor 10 winners across the nation for their creative environmental projects developed and implemented by K-12 students.
The award is not only a huge honor for the club and Minnesota, but is also only the second time in the program’s 11 year history that winners have come from Minnesota. Of the 2012 winners, the Zephyr Wind Project was the only one to come from the Great Lakes Region.
Mahtomedi’s winning Eco club raised $100,000 to build a 10-kilowatt wind turbine next to the school’s football field to power the stadium lights, scoreboard and...