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Community solar garden from above | Credit: Metropolitan Council
Trevor Drake
11/20/2017 - 4:31pm
Since its launch in 2014, Xcel Energy’s community solar garden program in Minnesota has driven a growing conversation about solar energy options and opportunities, especially among local government staff and elected officials. Local governments are sought after as solar garden subscribers for their large and often stable electric loads, excellent credit scores, and interest in opportunities to reduce energy costs and meet public goals on clean energy. However, local governments are also thoughtful about conducting due diligence around new opportunities like community solar. While solar garden proposals tend to be relatively low-risk, they are almost always 20-25 year contracts. The exact terms and pricing of these contracts can vary significantly among different developers, and require time and attention to compare proposals and make decisions. At the...
Waconia Public Schools third-party solar ribbon cutting
Peter Lindstrom
11/02/2017 - 4:36pm
Minneapolis, Champlin, Forest Lake Area Schools, Lester Prairie, Dakota County, Waconia Public Schools. What do these local governments and schools districts have in common? They are just a sample of public entities that have utilized third-party financing as a means to place solar arrays on their facilities. Third-party financing is an innovative tool for public entities to tap into long-term energy cost savings without requiring large up-front capital expenditures. Local governments and schools are great locations for solar: large, flat roofs, lots of expensive electrical load, a commitment to sustainability, and a guarantee that they’ll never go out of business. However, since governments can’t take advantage of federal tax credits for solar, the projects often don’t pencil out financially. Third-party financing is a popular means to overcome this barrier. It occurs in two...
Ice dam on a home in winter
MN Dept. of Commerce
11/01/2017 - 12:06pm
Before winter gets into full swing, Minnesota homeowners have the opportunity to act now to help prevent ice dams and costly water damage to ceilings and walls.   What’s the problem?   Ice dams are primarily caused by the presence of warm air in the attic, combined with snow on the roof and the right weather conditions, with outside air temperatures near freezing. When heat leaks into the attic, it melts the underside of the snow on the roof. The water then flows down the roof surface until it reaches a cold spot, such as the eaves or soffit, where it forms a frozen dam. The ice buildup can back up under the shingles, damaging the roof and allowing water to leak to the ceilings and walls below. Any penetration into the attic space (around wires, plumbing vents, light fixtures, chimneys, knee walls) is a potential for air leaks. Inadequate insulation,...
Blower door test to find leaks during energy audit. Photo courtesy Home Energy Squad
Chris Meyer
11/01/2017 - 9:25am
Safety. This is one of the unheralded benefits of a home energy audit, and a small Southeast CERT Seed Grant which helped fund 17 energy audits in Winona County led to the replacement of furnaces in two low-income households. The audits also included weatherization services and can be credited with reducing 7,500 kWh of electricity and 1,500 therms of natural gas use annually (enough electric savings for one year’s worth in the average MN home, and enough gas savings for two years). “This not only saved money for the recipients,” noted Chris Meyer, Southeast CERT Coordinator, “but each dollar spent towards energy efficiency returns four dollars of benefits to the community by reducing the need for new energy infrastructure, reducing pollution, and supporting local jobs.” Southeast CERT’s $1,000 Seed Grant contributed to a larger collaborative effort leveraging about $55,000 in...
Matt McFarland
Lissa Pawlisch
11/01/2017 - 8:10am
CERTs is pleased to welcome Matt McFarland as our new coordinator for the Northwest region! Over the past year and a half, Matt has worked at Headwaters Regional Development Commission in Bemidji, Minnesota. Some of his duties include managing projects for the subsidiary Housing Corporation, DEED Small Cities Grants administration, transportation work on behalf of MnDOT, and working with MHFA to administer Rental Rehabilitation Loan Funding. He’s excited to add work on clean energy across the Northwest CERT region to this list of projects! Matt is a native of Northwest Minnesota, growing up in the small community of Alvarado. Having grown up near North Dakota and relocating to Bemidji, he hopes to connect and represent the entire Northwest CERT region. Matt is an avid runner, enjoys books and “good” tv shows, and deeply appreciates driving by beautiful Lake Bemidji at least...
Energy-themed pumpkin stencils
Dan Thiede
10/31/2017 - 10:17am
As Energy Awareness Month comes to a close, celebrate with these clean 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. Or check out our Right Light App to find the perfect LED bulbs to keep you out of the dark… Click here to download the energy-themed pumpkin patterns (created by the U.S. Department of Energy). Have a safe and...
Solar at Enchanted Meadows
Fritz Ebinger
10/16/2017 - 3:16pm
High on the bluffs above the Mississippi River, near the town of La Crescent, Minnesota, is Enchanted Meadows Organic Dairy Farm. This enterprise is owned by Art and Jean Thicke, and has been in the Thicke family for over 85 years. The conversion to organic was completed in 2005, and they became members of Westby Cooperative Creamery in 2008. Chad and Melissa Crowley, and family, help operate the farm on a partnerships basis with Art and Jean; and three years ago (2013), the Crowley’s purchased an ownership position. Daily operations include animal care for 90 Ayrshire milking cows, and 28 bred heifers and 28 heifer calves; plus, the management and working of 230 acres of cropland. Much of this cropland is pasture, needed to help feed the cows in a rotational grazing program; moving from pasture to pasture over seven months of the year. This natural environment of pasture...
Melissa Birch
Joel Haskard
10/10/2017 - 1:19pm
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with communities in my home area to see how they can use clean energy to improve their lives,” says Melissa Birch, the new Central CERT Coordinator. After growing up in north-central Minnesota, Melissa earned a B.A. in French from Gustavus Adolphus College, then spent several years working as a 5th grade teacher in Mexico, a crewmember in the Minnesota Conservation Corps, and an environmental educator. Then it was off to graduate school for a Master’s degree in International Relations and Environment Policy at Boston University and a PhD from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where she focused on environmental sustainability, economic development, and public engagement in policymaking. During that period, she also worked on numerous clean energy-related projects at sustainable development organizations. “Clean...
Right Light App for energy-efficient LED bulbs
Dan Thiede
10/05/2017 - 11:17am
“All I wanted was a light bulb that would look and feel the same as my old bulb,” said Shaina Brassard, a Minneapolis resident. “When you go to the store you have so many choices now—it can be confusing.” It’s been a few years since new national light bulb efficiency standards took effect, and Brassard and others like her are seeing a lot more energy-saving LED—short for light emitting diode—options on store shelves, and that has made bringing home the right bulb a sometimes annoying process of trial and error. Enter the Right Light App, released today during Energy Awareness Month and Energy Efficiency Day, a free tool available at http://rightlightapp.org that helps people find just the bulb they need. “The app took me step by step through different options, and even made helpful suggestions...
Over 100 people attended the Metro CERT Annual Event
Diana McKeown
09/27/2017 - 4:48pm
If you were not able to make it to the event, please take a moment to share your ideas about Metro CERT priorities for 2018-2019.   The 10th annual Metro CERT event highlights included a keynote from Muhammad Jiwa with MN Interfaith Power & Light titled Clean Energy Lessons from a Mosque, a community panel, polling and networking, Oh my!   Keynote speaker   Muhammad Jiwa is an organizer in the Muslim community with MNIPL, working to end discrimination against Muslims. He is helping Minnesota mosques become some of the greenest in the nation. He talked about Environmental Ancestry Story Circles—environmental wisdom from cultural traditions, not necessarily intentionally environmentally minded, but coming from a place that interacts and connects more deeply with the...

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