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Map of Xcel Energy’s hosting capacity analysis
Laura Hannah
Wed, 01/24/2018 - 11:38am
This blog is being re-posted with permission from the original by Laura Hannah at Fresh Energy. It’s here! The highly anticipated second iteration of Xcel Energy’s hosting capacity analysis has been published. The tool provides public transparency into the results of 1,047 feeder models analyzing the ability of the grid to host distributed energy resources (like a community solar garden) without adversely impacting power quality or reliability. This user-friendly tool tells us where new energy systems can be connect to the grid most efficiently. A (much) better mouse trap: This year’s version is accompanied by a map! The image at the top of the post is a snapshot of Xcel’s twin cities service territory. The...
Keep your home warm and cozy with an energy audit and weatherization work
Dan Thiede
Fri, 01/12/2018 - 11:25am
It’s official, winter is here. If you have a drafty house, you’ve now had a couple months to be reminded of the comfort issues that come along with poor insulation and air sealing in homes. This roundup of recent stories below offers insight into how some Minnesotans are making their homes more comfortable, safe, and energy-efficient this winter, along with tools for you to follow in their footsteps.   Weatherization is a win-win for Miltona man, Minnesota   Steven Koelln of Spruce Hill Township in Douglas County was especially grateful in December 2016, after his home was weatherized. His house received a complete energy overhaul—a new fuel oil furnace, attic air sealing and insulation, repaired duct work, a new whole house fan, and much more—at no cost to Koelln. “It was probably the best Christmas present I’ve ever received,” said Koelln, a former...
Community solar garden from above | Credit: Metropolitan Council
Trevor Drake
Mon, 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...
Ice dam on a home in winter
MN Dept. of Commerce
Wed, 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,...
Energy-themed pumpkin stencils
Dan Thiede
Tue, 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...
Right Light App for energy-efficient LED bulbs
Dan Thiede
Thu, 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...
Fully loaded power strip | Photo by Richard Drew, AP
Dan Thiede
Tue, 04/25/2017 - 12:39pm
Recently, Elizabeth Dunbar at Minnesota Public Radio published a story all about the rising energy use of our personal workstations—that mess of cords at your desk powering all of your stuff. Read on for an interesting analysis and useful tips for reducing your load! “Dual monitors, cellphone chargers, coffee makers, space heaters. If you have one or more of them plugged in at your workspace, you’re part of a growing problem in building efficiency. LED lighting and changes to heating and cooling systems have cut down on energy use in commercial buildings since 2003. But now, plugload — the energy it takes to power all those things plugged into your desktop power strip — is rising. It’s largely a function of modernity. The tools we use to do our jobs today require a lot...
CERTs Right Light Guide for LED Tube Lights
Alexis Troschinetz
Mon, 03/13/2017 - 5:01pm
LED linear tube lights are an emerging energy-efficient technology. With the popularity of the CERTs Right Light Guide, we decided it was high time to offer some basic guidance on LED tubes. This is the second version of the guide with slight revisions from the original.   Why are people considering LED tubes?   Fluorescent lighting is everywhere. Fluorescent lighting is universal. Look up, and you’ll likely find these familiar tubes lining the ceilings of many buildings. Linear fluorescent tubes (LFLs) have largely reached their maximum energy-saving potential, and they also require recycling. LED lighting is a new alternative. LED lighting is rapidly evolving and providing an alternative to LFLs. Building owners and facility managers are adopting LED lighting for its long life span, energy efficiency, and controllability.  ...
LED holiday lights - More merry and less money
Dan Thiede
Thu, 12/22/2016 - 1:53pm
Are you still stringing the same old incandescent decorative lights for the holidays?   For many Minnesotans, the house, porch, shrubs and trees are donned with holiday lights. Depending on one’s holiday lighting enthusiasm, a home can save between $10 to $250 each holiday season by switching to LED holiday lighting. This is because, according to the Department of Energy, LED holiday lights save up to 90% of the energy used by traditional incandescent holiday lights. LEDs are also safer, sturdier, longer lasting, and easier to install. Fill your stocking with energy savings: For every old holiday lighting string recycled and replaced with more efficient LED holiday lighting, 19 kilowatt-hours of electricity are saved over the course of the holiday season. This is the same amount of energy as a common CFL household light bulb would use if left on for 24 hours a day for 2...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 11/01/2016 - 1:33pm
There are some basic energy-saving steps we can all take to keep the warm air in and our utility bills down this fall and winter. A few simple no-cost or low-cost measures can make a big difference for the safety, comfort and efficiency of our homes. The Minnesota Commerce Department, which includes the State Energy Office, offers the following tips: Get an energy audit. The first step to energy efficiency is an advanced home energy assessment to diagnose the best ways to save energy. An audit can be arranged through your utility or a nonprofit energy group. Lower your thermostat. When you are at home or awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable. When you are asleep or away from home, turn your thermostat down about 10 degrees—either manually or...
If your furnace looks like this it may be time for an upgrade
MN Dept. of Commerce
Wed, 09/21/2016 - 8:24am
As another Minnesota winter approaches, homeowners may be looking to replace an old, worn-out or inefficient heating system with a new high-efficiency model. Most furnaces have a useful life of 15-20 years, while most boilers will last 20-30 years. If your furnace or boiler is nearing the end of its expected life, you should start planning your replacement strategy, including what to buy and how to pay for it. If you have made the decision to buy a new heating system, the Minnesota Commerce Department wants you to be aware of some options to help pay for it: Loans: The Lending Center at the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) offers the Home Energy Loan Program for Minnesota homeowners to make energy improvements. It offers secured loans of up to $20,000 (4.99% fixed rate, terms up to 10...
Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)
Lise Trudeau
Wed, 08/24/2016 - 10:59am
People are interested in reducing their impact and powering their homes, schools, businesses, and organizations, and local governments with wind and solar energy. One way they can do this is through the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits, or RECs, and companies sell them. RECs can be confusing, so we thought we’d pose five key questions you should ask before buying.   1. How can I make sure the RECs are not double counted?   Ask the company whether their RECs are retired in a REC tracking system so that they can’t be used twice. The REC tracking system for Minnesota is the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System (MRETS). See also:...
The sun rises over Hutchinson’s new solar PV project, the largest on a landfill in Minnesota, and the first ballast-mounted on a brownfield. Hutchinson’s wastewater treatment facility, the recipient of the array’s electricity, can be seen in the background
Dan Thiede
Tue, 08/09/2016 - 2:34pm
EPA’s RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative (RE-Powering) encourages the revitalization and reuse of current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites through the development of renewable energy projects, when such development is aligned with a community’s vision for the site. In this way, communities can expand their energy portfolio, make dormant or under-utilized sites productive, and boost their local economy. To learn more about RE-Powering, CERTs interviewed Adam Klinger, who runs the initiative for the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management. Why should people consider siting renewable energy projects on contaminated lands?   Adam Klinger: Siting renewable energy projects on formerly contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites allows communities to make lands with limited...
USDA Rural Development Program Summary
Alexis Troschinetz
Tue, 07/19/2016 - 10:24am
USDA Rural Development offers an array of programs to help improve the economy and quality of life in rural Minnesota. A new Program Summary guide offers an overview of all programs—it’s a must-read resource for learning about how your goals and projects could be supported. What exactly does USDA Rural Development do in Minnesota? Offer loans, grants and loan guarantees to support essential services such as housing, economic development, health care, first responder services and equipment, and water, electric and communications infrastructure. Promote economic development by supporting loans to businesses through banks, credit unions and community-managed lending pools. Offer technical assistance and information to help agricultural producers and cooperatives get started and improve the effectiveness of their operations. Provide technical assistance to help...
Image courtesy InHabitat
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 07/11/2016 - 4:44pm
Keeping our homes cool and comfortable during Minnesota’s hot, humid summer months is a challenge for all of us. And it sounds like we’re getting ready for a scorcher next week! Many of our daily activities produce heat and moisture inside our homes. But a few simple changes in our routines can reduce temperature and humidity levels, adding comfort while also saving on air conditioning costs: Use appliances at cooler times. Plan to use appliances such as ovens, clothes dryers and dishwashers in the evening, when it is cooler. These devices can give off a lot of heat when they operate, adding to the air conditioning load. Turn it off. Make sure that any unneeded devices or lighting, especially incandescent lights, are turned off or unplugged. Computers, TVs,...
Pollinator-friendly prairie habitat around DNR solar installation
Fritz Ebinger
Mon, 06/27/2016 - 3:03pm
Things are in bloom all over Minnesota right now, including solar energy, and more and more solar installations across the state will be supporting the creatures that pollinate our plants. Gov. Dayton recently signed the Pollinator Friendly Solar Act into law on May 31, 2016. The Pollinator Friendly Solar Act establishes voluntary native vegetation and habitat management practices for solar developers and local governments alike to maximize habitat creation for birds, pollinators, and other small wildlife. The new law serves to verify claims that commercial solar installations are helping to create pollinator habitat when they sign a Pollinator...
Solar Electricity for the Home, Farm, and Business
Lissa Pawlisch
Sun, 06/26/2016 - 1:34pm
Solar energy is a hot topic in Minnesota, and people are hungry for in-depth, un-biased information. The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) adapted a popular series of guides for Minnesota audiences, and they’re now available for download. The new series of factsheets, called Solar Electricity for the Home, Farm, and Business, is designed to help you determine if a solar electric system will work for you.   Overview of Series Introduction: Basic educational information, myth busting, and orientation. Building & Site Assessment: Building and site conditions to consider. Conservation & Efficiency: Conserving and using energy more efficiently can reduce the system size and cost. System Components: Provides detailed information about system options and components. System Sizing: Proper sizing is important for a resource-efficient and...
MN Solar Suitability App
MN Dept. of Commerce
Sun, 06/26/2016 - 12:17pm
Does your home or business get enough sun to generate solar power? You can now get an answer—quick, easy, and free—with a convenient online mapping tool called the Minnesota Solar App. Simply by typing in your address, you can get an instant analysis of the solar energy potential of your property. The app is available at http://mn.gov/solarapp and can be used on a computer, tablet or smartphone. “The Minnesota Solar App is a user-friendly tool that can help Minnesotans decide whether a solar power installation is right for them,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Solar is already a bright spot in Minnesota’s energy picture. It will only get bigger and brighter in the coming years. This app makes it even easier for more Minnesotans to go solar.” The typical single family home...
Nest Smart Programmable Thermostat
MN Dept. of Commerce
Fri, 04/15/2016 - 1:34pm
With tax day, it’s no wonder that Minnesota and the nation recognize April as Financial Capability Month. It’s a great reminder for us that one of the best ways to save money is by saving energy! There are many basic no- and low-cost measures you can take to reduce energy use, cutting your utility bill and putting more money in your pocket. Here are a few energy- and money-saving opportunities: Use a programmable thermostat to reduce your heating and cooling costs. Turn off computers and monitors when not in use. Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips and turn the strips off when equipment is not in use. Turn off lights and fans when nobody’s in the room. Close your fireplace damper when not in...
Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux talks about his new solar installation
Bill Mittlefehldt
Fri, 03/25/2016 - 7:18am
Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux and the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission (PUC) installed Grand Marais’s first solar electric system recently. Owners of Art House Bed and Breakfast, Arrowsmith DeCoux and his family—wife Rose and son Ennis—are very involved in the community and they view the installation as a community statement (and basically the right thing to do). This blog post is a blend of an article about the installation in the Cook County News Herald and a...
CEE Lending Center now offering a solar loan
Joel Haskard
Thu, 03/24/2016 - 4:57pm
Interest in solar energy is rapidly expanding in Minnesota, and many homeowners are looking for good ways to pay for solar installations. Traditional financing options are not always a great fit for renewable energy systems, but a Minnesota organization has a new solar-specific program. We spoke with Lending Manager Jim Hasnik to learn more about Center for Energy and Environment Lending Center’s new Solar Loan. Tell us a little bit about your Solar Financing program.   Jim Hasnik: We’re excited to provide a new Residential Solar PV Loan Program for Minnesota residents. The Solar Loan from the CEE Lending Center is a financing resource specifically designed for residential solar implementation. We worked closely with local solar providers to create a program that helps homeowners bridge the gaps between up...
Worker with South Central Electric installs their new solar array. Photo by Trevor Cokley
Dan Thiede
Thu, 03/17/2016 - 9:08am
Dan Linehan with the Mankato Free Press recently published a great article about solar development in south-central Minnesota and the opportunities that landowners and local governments are finding. Excerpt: When John Frey of Mankato received an inquiry about putting a solar array on his land, he didn’t need to be persuaded on the merits. Renewable energy was already his sole focus after retiring as a dean at Minnesota State University. Solar power, he said, is a virtual requirement if we’re to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. When 40 acres of solar panels go up on his rural Lake Crystal land, perhaps this May, he’ll be looking at it as part of a global solution to climate change. In south-central Minnesota, landowners are seeing new...

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