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Tue, 12/10/2013 - 1:54pm
Since the 1930s, Duluth, Minnesota, has continually drawn frigid water from Lake Superior, heated it to steam in a coal-fired boiler, then pushed that steam through a network of pipes to provide heat for downtown businesses. The city is now studying its options for modernizing the aging system to make it more flexible, economical, and sustainable. A consultant’s master plan presented Monday to the City Council recommends adding sawdust as a fuel source and converting steam lines into a more efficient, closed-loop hot water system. “If we are going to own this, we are going to bring this steam plant into the 21st century,” David Montgomery, the city’s chief administrative officer, said in an interview. “We want to turn this into a real asset, which we think it can become, from an...
Tue, 12/10/2013 - 1:46pm
The market share of condensing boilers, sometimes called high-efficiency boilers, has increased dramatically over the last several years, thanks in part to utility programs that provide rebates. Unfortunately, many of these newly installed condensing boilers only achieve a fraction of their expected ideal case energy savings. Center for Energy and Environment’s Senior Mechanical Engineer Russ Landry explains why, and offers solutions to optimize their performance. When a boiler burns natural gas to heat water, it produces both carbon dioxide and water vapor—which is really just diluted steam. In a conventional boiler all of this steam goes right out the chimney with most of its potential heating energy wasted: The lost heat up the flue results in an annual fuel utilization efficiency of about 80 percent for conventional boilers. In order to increase boiler...
Tue, 12/10/2013 - 1:20pm
A total of 100 rural small business and agriculture producers in Minnesota were assisted by funding through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) in 2013. Funding for 75 of these projects was recently announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Doug O’Brien announced funding for the first 25 projects back in August during his visit to Minnesota to advocate for a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill at Minnesota’s 2013 IDEAg Farmfest show. The 2013 REAP funding will provide $2.3 million to Minnesota-based rural small businesses and farmers who will then leverage personal funds and other incentives to construct $10 million worth of projects throughout the state. The total number of projects funded and total dollars awarded represent the second highest in the nation and reflect Minnesota’s continued success in securing REAP...
Tue, 12/10/2013 - 8:52am
Douglas Tiffany, assistant extension professor at the University of Minnesota, discussed the economics of co-locating torrefaction, ethanol and coal power plants at the University of North Dakota on Nov. 6. “What we wanted to get an idea of was what would be the rates of return on equity for torrefaction plants and how that use of biocoal could help coal-fired power plants comply with new regulations that are hanging over their head at this time,” Tiffany said. After the cost of biomass, an independent torrefaction plant may face a production cost of $42 per finished ton, Tiffany explained. However, if the plant was able to sell a certain amount of steam and gases, the cost would be estimated at $17 per ton. “A co-located torrefaction plant where it has an opportunity to sell those gases would be enjoying 16 percent rates of return on equity versus six percent without that [...
Fri, 11/22/2013 - 3:52pm
The development of community solar gardens is a potentially exciting opportunity that will allow individuals to join with others in their community to advance clean energy projects. CERTs is working to develop materials and resources to help individuals and communities better understand what this opportunity does—and doesn’t—mean for them. We’re asking you to participate in a survey so that we can better understand what your needs are to make informed decisions about this emerging solar arena. We hope you’ll help! Your responses will be kept confidential and will not be associated with your name. If you agree to participate in this study, we will ask you to complete an online survey (linked to below) that should take approximately 10 minutes. Please review the consent language before agreeing to be in the study. Of course, should you have any...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Fri, 11/22/2013 - 3:14pm
The Minnesota Department of Commerce announced on Nov. 22 the 2014 incentive amounts for its 10-year, $15-million-a-year Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program, to launch Jan. 1 2014. Made in Minnesota was one of several initiatives enacted by the 2013 Legislature to increase deployment of solar energy throughout the state. It will help achieve the state’s new solar electricity standard, which calls for 1.5 percent of electric sales from investor-owned utilities (Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy, Minnesota Power, and Otter Tail Power) to come from solar electricity by 2020. The incentives for solar electric systems from the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program will be available to customers of investor-owned utilities who install solar electric, or solar photovoltaic (PV), systems using solar modules or collectors certified as manufactured in Minnesota. Modules from two Minnesota...
Fri, 11/22/2013 - 2:25pm
There are a lot of great educational resources out there to help people understand their clean energy options, but often language barriers can get in the way. Now, for Spanish-language learners, there is a nice collection of clean energy resources available. Thanks to a generous grant from the Carolyn Foundation, Do It Green! Minnesota is distributing a number of exciting new handouts on energy efficiency and renewable energy in Spanish! Materials Available: Lista de Energía / Energy Checklist – a step-by-step list of easy tasks to do throughout the year to save energy Alternativos de energía renovable en Minnesota / Renewable Energy Alternatives in Minnesota – two informative articles about the different types of renewable energy available in Minnesota Preguntas de Energía / Energy Trivia Questions – good for...
Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:18pm
Ever wonder what to do with the tangled mess of lights that marks the start of many Minnesotans holiday season? Ring in the holidays by getting rid of old, broken, inefficient light strands and upgrading to new, efficient LED holiday lights! CERTs is partnering again with the Recycling Association of Minnesota (RAM) for the 2013-2014 holiday season on Recycle Your Holidays™. RAM recycles every part of the light strings—the metal wires, the plastic casing, and even the lights themselves. We’re providing a map of drop-off locations that are accepting holiday lights, and it’s also possible for you to sign up as a location. Click here to see map of drop-off locations >> Become a drop-off site: From Ely to Fairmont and everywhere in between, any business or organization can participate as a collection site at NO COST. It is a great way to provide a value...
Fri, 11/08/2013 - 12:00pm
On November 6, 2013 in Mankato the Energy Service Coalition in Minnesota hosted a workshop for government, energy service company, and utility staff to talk about the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP), a technical and financial solution to install energy efficiency upgrades and renewable technologies in publicly owned buildings. GESP utilizes energy performance contracting to identify, finance, and install energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy, with additional technical, financial, and contractual assistance by the Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources to help with the EPC process for the public sector, including local units of government. The workshop...
Mary LaLone - Xcel Energy
Tue, 10/29/2013 - 3:15pm
Have you ever wondered why “fall cleaning” isn’t as popular as “spring cleaning?” With winter comes more time indoors and more indoor entertaining. It seems the perfect time of year to be sure your home is cozy and buttoned up! Here’s a checklist to help keep this season’s winter wonderland outside… The Furnace Move materials away from the furnace, especially flammable materials. Check your pilot light. If it isn’t burning, follow the instructions for relighting which are typically printed on access doors. You can also find information on the manufacturer’s website—that’s where you should go to learn about maintenance requirements for your equipment. If you have difficulty, call a qualified heating contractor for advice. Vacuum out any dust or debris in and around the unit, especially the blower. Replace the filter if needed...
Tue, 10/29/2013 - 10:17am
As National Energy Action Month comes to a close, celebrate with these energy-themed pumpkin stencils! It’s a fun way to energize your neighborhood and teach your kids about energy efficiency and renewable energy. While you’re at it, you can also avoid cold weather terrors like phantom power and see tips for bundling up your house before winter hits. Click here to download the energy-themed pumpkin patterns (created by the U.S. Department of Energy). Have a safe and spooky Halloween, and please share your pumpkin photos with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or...
Fri, 10/25/2013 - 2:32pm
The energy savings potential of LED lighting systems and other energy efficiency opportunities in poultry barns were described in a “Field Day” on Oct. 11 in Willmar, MN that attracted poultry farmers, utility reps, and energy efficiency specialists from the Upper Midwest. The Minnesota Project and Once Innovations, partners in a test-pilot CARD project on LED lighting systems in Minnesota poultry barns, were featured. Fritz Ebinger, program manager of The Minnesota Project, shared how the cost-share CARD project has installed 1,800 LED lights across 17 barns in Minnesota to save an estimated 347,000 kWh per year. As an example, he noted how one barn in the project that replaced its incandescent lamps with LEDs used 53,455 kWh/yr of electricity with incandescent lights...
Wed, 10/16/2013 - 1:56pm
Driving through rural Minnesota you are apt to see impressive displays of renewable energy: wind farms, solar arrays, and ethanol plants come to mind. Additional efforts to promote renewable energy and energy conservation have been popping up in rural Minnesota communities thanks to Youth Energy Summit (YES!) teams. YES!, a program partnership between Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) and Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC), is a team-oriented youth program that uses hands-on, experiential learning and energy action projects to address energy opportunities and issues in rural Minnesota communities. This past school year half of the 32 YES! teams chose to work on projects directly related to renewable energy and energy conservation. Several of these teams decided to pursue solar projects last school year. The...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Wed, 10/02/2013 - 3:42pm
Comprehensive energy program at Discovery Middle School achieves big energy savings and healthier indoor air quality. Alexandria’s Discovery Middle School has trimmed its energy use by nearly 50 percent, thanks to a host of energy improvements. In 2009, Alexandria Public Schools began an exciting and comprehensive “Go Green Initiative” that involved student learning and community impact, sustainable best practices, and cost savings. Part of the Go Green Initiative was an objective to get greener through aggressive energy management throughout the school district. Aims and objectives: One goal of the energy management plan is to put each school in the district in position to achieve an ENERGY STAR rating for energy efficiency. So far four of the ten schools in the district have achieved ENERGY STAR ratings above 75. (To qualify for the ENERGY STAR rating, a building must earn a score...
Mon, 09/30/2013 - 8:00am
For students like Kimberly Colgan, participating in the Youth Energy Summit (YES!) program is a life-changing experience. “YES! has definitely impacted my college and career plans. I am now pursuing a degree in industrial process engineering (looking at processes to reduce waste) and I hope to work in a recycling facility to help improve cost and efficiency so that we can recycle as much as possible,” says Colgan, a YES! student and recent graduate from Apollo High School in St. Cloud, Minnesota. One of the goals of the YES! program is to increase awareness of career, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunities. YES!, a program partnership between Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) and Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC), is a team-oriented youth program that uses hands-on, experiential learning and energy action projects to address energy opportunities and...
Tue, 09/24/2013 - 5:03pm
Stacey Pederson is the new Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Communications Assistant with the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnership and Extension. She decided to become more involved with CERTs after attending the 2013 CERTs Conference. Over the course of the past summer, Stacey has worked with Twin Cities Local Food, distributing fresh, locally-grown food to customers. Stacey is a student at Dakota County Technical College and will earn an Associate’s degree in Business Marketing in the spring of 2014. Currently Stacey is a member of the American Marketing Association, and is serving as president of the Dakota County Technical College chapter. In her free time, Stacey enjoys sewing reusable napkins and grocery bags for friends and family. Cool! Feel free to drop her a line: Stacey Pederson CERTs Communications Assistant University of...
Mon, 09/23/2013 - 8:00am
Several YES! teams worked to change behavioral and social norms in their schools this past school year. That was the easy part. Next came the hard part, convincing their fellow students to adopt necessary behavior changes to implement changes, starting with lunch trays. One Youth Energy Summit (YES!) event featured a video that depicted passengers on an elevator. One person (who was in on the project) would turn around so that their back was facing the elevator door, and by the end of the elevator ride, without realizing that they were doing it, everyone else in the car had turned around as well. This was an example of how individuals’ behavior is shaped by what people around them consider to be appropriate, correct, or desirable. It was about social and behavioral norms. Two of the goals of the YES! program are to engage youth and empower them to take positive action in their...
Fri, 09/20/2013 - 9:33am
Are you a school, city, or county that has been innovating to improve services or reduce the cost of local government? If so, share your innovation for a chance to win $10,000 and a professional video highlighting your effort! The Local Government Innovation Awards—sponsored in partnership between the Humphrey School’s Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center, the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, and the Minnesota School Board Association—recognize the creative ways counties, cities, and schools are making Minnesota better and doing things differently. All types of local government innovation are encouraged to enter. Through a partnership with the University’s Center for Integrative Leadership this year, the Awards are particularly interested in surfacing innovations involving cross-sector or cross-systems collaborations. In keeping with...
Thu, 09/19/2013 - 1:32pm
Youth Energy Summit (YES!) students are cultivating knowledge and eating it, too! Many YES! teams have found that they are passionate about local foods and school gardens. This past school year 4 YES! teams built greenhouses at their schools and 13 YES! teams worked on projects related to school gardens and composting. YES!, a program partnership between Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) and Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC), is a team-oriented youth program that uses hands-on, experiential learning and energy action projects to address energy opportunities and issues in rural Minnesota communities. YES! students pick projects that relate to their interests and needs in their schools and communities. After several years of planning and dreaming, the Lac qui Parle Valley YES! team built a 20’ by 40’ passive...
Wed, 09/11/2013 - 2:05pm
As I staffed the Energy House at the Minnesota State Fair’s Eco-Experience, I got a bit more familiar with the Nest Thermostat, which is a smart thermostat developed mostly by former Apple employees. Below you will find some useful information about how a device like this can save you gobs of energy without having to constantly set/change your settings, because it learns your habits as it gets to know you. Basics about the Nest thermostat: What’s the advantage of the Nest over a basic programmable thermostat? The ideal candidates for owing a Nest are the 70% of households who currently have a programmable thermostat, and NEVER PROGRAM IT! When you say that to folks, nearly everyone says, “Yeah, ours isn’t programmed—too many buttons and screens…” Where can you buy them? Amazon.com, Best Buy, Apple Stores, Lowe’s, Home Depot,...