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Local utility companies earn national recognition for energy efficiency through ACEEE
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 07/08/2013 - 9:32am
Minnesota utilities and statewide public benefits organizations were well represented in the recently released American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Third National Review of Exemplary Energy Efficiency Programs. The Review recognizes and profiles best program practices and outstanding energy efficiency programs that serve electric and natural gas utility customers. The first review was conducted in 2003 and the second in 2008. Award-winning programs in a number of categories were selected for developing innovative designs, services and delivery methods and expanding into new markets across the country. Those with Minnesota ties earning exemplary or honorable mention status included: Small Business Category, Exemplary Award: Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment and Xcel Energy for their One-Stop Efficiency Shop Program®. Residential Audit and...
Energy efficiency in water and wastewater facilities: new guide available
Lissa Pawlisch
Mon, 07/01/2013 - 12:39pm
According to the EPA in 2012, “drinking water and wastewater systems account for approximately 3-4 percent of energy use in the United States, resulting in the emissions of more than 45 million tons of Greenhouse Gases annually” (Energy Efficiency in Water and Wastewater Facilities 2013). Water and wastewater treatment, often overlooked yet large consumers of energy, can account for up to 10 percent of a local government’s annual operating budget (DOE in Energy Efficiency, 2013). Water and wastewater facilities can be among the highest consumers of energy in a community due to pumps, motors, and other equipment operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Luckily, methods of water efficiency and conservation are appearing in communities across the nation. Simple solutions such as...
Cities participating in GreenStep program
Philipp Muessig
Fri, 06/28/2013 - 10:53am
56 cities were recognized last week for participation in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program, a free and voluntary program designed to help Minnesota cities achieve their environmental sustainability goals through implementation of 28 best practices. Each best practice can be implemented by completing one or more specific actions from a list of four-to-eight actions in the areas of transportation, buildings and lighting, environmental management, land use, and economic and community development. Those actions are tailored to all types of Minnesota cities, and they focus on cost savings, energy use reduction, and encouraging innovation. Cities were recognized at an awards program last week at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference in St. Paul. Cities achieve Step One recognition by passing a resolution to become a GreenStep City. Step Two-designated cities have...
Blowing cellulose insulation into an attic after air sealing
Kristi Loobeek
Thu, 06/27/2013 - 4:16pm
Making sure your home has adequate insulation in walls and attics, as well as being air-sealed, is a great way to reduce energy use and save money in the long run. What is air sealing? Air sealing is filling holes, cracks, and gaps in the air barrier between the interior and exterior of your home. What is an air barrier? An air barrier is anything that prevents air from flowing from indoors to outdoors, or vice versa. Should you insulate or air seal first? Ideally, air sealing should be done first. Holes in your air barrier allow air to escape no matter how much insulation you have. Air sealing works to keep air you have paid to heat or cool within your home. How to you test for air tightness? One of the most common ways to test air tightness is through a blower door (a large fan that blows air out of your house while measuring the pressure within). What are the different...
Students touring renewable energy installations at University of Minnesota Morris
Maggie Kozak
Thu, 06/27/2013 - 3:41pm
The University of Minnesota, Morris will be hosting a youth camp and renewable energy tours again this summer. University Green Summer staff have designed hands-on experiences that will help people of all ages to develop a deeper understanding of renewable energy technologies and sustainability practices. Registration for these activities is now open. Children entering grades 4 and 5 are invited to consider their relationships with nature by embarking on a quest that will explore gardening, tree identification, building a wind turbine, and more. This four-day Nature Quest Camp will take place on the Morris campus July 15-18 from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. The cost for the camp is $95. Children should bring a lunch each day and may be dropped off in the Welcome Center lobby. Families are invited to attend a Parent’s Night on Thursday, July 18, at 6 p.m. at Pomme de Terre Park. The public is also...
A new biomass boiler in Franklin
Jake Fischer
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. Project Formation: A few years ago, the city was approached by a group of individuals who wanted...
Wind turbines
Kristi Loobeek
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...
Many new displays slated for State Fair's Home Energy exhibit
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...
Kristi Loobeek
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...
New state legislation gives big boost to solar and other clean energy
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,...

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