Seed Grants Blog Posts

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CERTs Seed Grants
Lissa Pawlisch
Thu, 02/01/2018 - 4:55pm
The Clean Energy Resource Teams are excited to announce 39 Seed Grant awards to organizations in our seven regions! Each region awarded around $20,000, catalyzing energy efficiency and renewable energy across the state. CERTs has awarded more than $1 million to over 300 projects since 2006. Continue reading to explore a map of projects and see details about each of the grants. To learn more about past funded projects, visit our CERTs Seed Grants page. Download a PDF with all projects   |   Download a Press Release   |   Share on Facebook and Twitter...
Blower door test to find leaks during energy audit. Photo courtesy Home Energy Squad
Chris Meyer
Wed, 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...
Dan Thiede
Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:42pm
Wondering what strategies were particularly effective for CERTs Seed Grant recipients in 2016? Below are the top ten things that come out of their project reflections. Now we can all benefit from them!   1. Grow community support for your project early.   Taking the time to get strong support insured that projects proceeded regardless of funding sources, staffing, and other challenges. Many grantees relied on their strong community relationships to remove barriers necessary to get their projects done. Getting this support also helped them understand the broad range of local interests and needs.   2. Partner up.   Nearly all of the Seed Grant projects included some kind of partnership, giving them access to a wide array of expertise, audiences, funding, volunteers, and other resources. Key stakeholders included local government staff,...
MNIPL team planning for faith community outreach
Gordon Moore
Thu, 07/20/2017 - 3:31pm
The energy revolution is spreading, and Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL) is doggedly determined to help Minnesota’s variety of faith communities join the movement. Although some energy efficiency and clean energy resources are available to congregations and other faith organizations, MNIPL staff wanted to jumpstart connections and empower congregations to live out their values. In an effort to further faith communities’ energy efficiency efforts, in 2016 the MNIPL Energy Efficiency Team undertook a Metro CERT-funded outreach project. Julia Nerbonne, MNIPL’s Executive Director, explained how this project lines up with values articulated by both MNIPL and many local faith organizations: “Our role in the community, in the broader energy movement, is to work with faith-based houses of worship to actualize their values in...
Working with Tangletown Minneapolis business owners on solar energy
Sophia Krohn
Thu, 07/20/2017 - 12:36pm
Tucked into the south side of Minneapolis, Tangletown is a neighborhood interested in clean energy possibilities. The neighborhood hopes to foster a culture of energy sustainability by installing solar arrays in an urban setting. With a $1,000 Seed Grant from Metro CERT, they assessed four roofs and evaluated their suitability for installing solar arrays ranging in size from 40 kW up to 140 kW. In an era where environmental interest and campaigns are prolific, Joy Gottschalk from the board of Tangletown describes clean energy as “the elephant in the room; it is an environmental issue that affects all others.” Unlike environmental efforts for pollinators or clean water, Gottschalk has found that people often think they need a scientific background to understand energy. To start combating the silence around energy, Gottschalk has made...
New solar-powered LED lit signs welcome people to Slayton
Annette Fiedler
Wed, 07/12/2017 - 12:46pm
Three signs welcoming people to the City of Slayton are now illuminated using the power of the sun. The new entrance signs use solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to power energy-efficient LED light bulbs. The signs are backlit with LED lights. A 280-watt solar panel was installed to power each of the three signs, and battery systems are used so that the signs can remain off the grid, avoiding expensive connections to electric lines. Josh Malchow, Slayton’s City Administrator, reported that “After considering the overall cost of running power to the sites or using solar, the city felt that choosing solar power was the best option.” The City of Slayton received a $2,025 Seed Grant from the Southwest Clean Energy Resource Team (SW CERT) to install the signs. Annette Fiedler, SW CERT Coordinator, said that “the SW CERT Seed Grant funds were used to help offset the labor cost to install...
First solar installation at Ney Nature Center
Joel Haskard
Mon, 06/19/2017 - 4:38pm
Located in southeast Minnesota in Henderson (pop. 866), the Ney Nature Center is great place to visit for bird watching, hiking, cross country skiing…and learning about solar energy! To learn more about their Southeast CERT Seed Grant project we chatted with Becky Pollack, Ney Nature Center’s Executive Director.   Tell us a little about this project.   Becky Pollack: The Ney Nature Center partners with the Youth Energy Summit (YES!) Program and hosts a YES! Coordinator as staff within our office. Discussion on steps to reduce the Ney Nature Center’s carbon footprint began amongst staff as a way to model behaviors or habits to the general public that we would like to see others facilitate. These...
Speakers Morgan and Olya from CCLEP efficiency event
Marcell Mikkelson
Mon, 06/19/2017 - 4:36pm
Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) is a community organization located in Grand Marais with a goal to educate people of all ages about energy efficiency and renewable energy. With help from Northeast CERT, CCLEP was able to host a series of events called Energy Efficiency Evenings aimed at educating people about ways to reduce energy consumption at home, and even think about their renewable energy options. There were four events in the Energy Efficiency Evenings series, all with different topics: The first event was a screening of Chasing Ice, a documentary highlighting the work of climate change photographer Jim Balog. The second and third events focused on increasing energy efficiency at home and information on solar PV systems, respectively. Guests were informed of simple ways that they could reduce energy use...
Solar installation at Minnesota Discovery Center
Marcell Mikkelson
Fri, 06/16/2017 - 2:42pm
Since it opened its doors in 1977, the Minnesota Discovery Center (MDC) has been an important presence in educating Minnesotans about the history of the Iron Range and Minnesota. Today, the MDC is taking steps to educate Minnesotans about our energy future. With support from Minnesota Power, Silicon Energy, and of course, Northeast CERT, the MDC was able to bring their educational Solar PV project into reality. Although the MDC was able to ultimately receive assistance from multiple partners, it was not a project that was completed overnight. In fact, it took years (four and a half to be exact) of planning, communicating, and network building in order to make it happen. “The diligence to see this project from concept to completion was essential.” Said Jim Paulsen, who was the lead staff for the solar project. The goal was to not only...
Orr Recreation and Resource Center
Marcell Mikkelson
Thu, 06/15/2017 - 3:56pm
The Orr Recreation and Resource Center recently purchased the old Orr High School and began the arduous work of remodeling it. One of the first changes that they decided to make was to replace the old light bulbs in the building with new LEDs. They decided to replace the exit, emergency, and security lighting to begin with; once that important step was out of the way they could focus on the rest of their remodeling plans. These LED bulbs were an excellent choice by the Center since they have a lifespan of up to five times longer than any other comparable bulb on the market. Although LEDs are more expensive than standard bulbs up front, that cost is brought down significantly when you take their extremely long lifespan and reduced energy consumption into account. To learn more see the CERTs Right Light Guide. Orr...
Beat the Peak with Lake Crystal Municipal Utilities
Joel Haskard
Wed, 06/14/2017 - 4:41pm
Lake Crystal Municipal Utilities started with the goal of helping customers become more energy aware and lower their power bills by using energy more efficiently and reducing the energy consumed during peak usage periods. On top of that, the utility wanted to: Engage Lake Crystal customers and the community in efforts to provide safer, more dependable, and less costly energy Improve the energy consumption habits of their customers Reduce the costs (economically and environmentally) of transmission and consumption of electricity in Lake Crystal, specifically during periods of peak demand In order to accomplish these goals, the utility teamed up with the Lake Crystal GreenStep City Committee and Heartland...
Youth Be the Spark participants
Marcell Mikkelson
Tue, 04/25/2017 - 2:25pm
Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light (MNIPL) is an organization that works with faith communities across Minnesota to address the problem of climate change through education and opportunities to become a part of the climate justice movement. With help from a Northeast CERT seed grant, they were able to extend these opportunities to youth in the Duluth and Arrowhead region through their Youth Be the Spark program. About the program “Youth Be the Spark brought together youth from different congregations in outdoor experiences followed by reflection time and action planning for making a difference,” said Beth Tamminen, who is the outreach coordinator for the MNIPL Arrowhead Regional Network. The project switched its target audience from high school students to middle schoolers and were able...
City of Trimont water tower
Sophie Lutz
Tue, 04/25/2017 - 12:49pm
The City of Trimont in South Central Minnesota is leading the way for small cities looking to revamp their street lighting and improve their buildings. The city recently transitioned to LED street lights and updated the heating and cooling systems in their Community Building. It all started when Jim Haler at South Central Electric Association brought the Southwest CERT Seed Grant opportunity to the city’s attention. We interviewed Mike Paulson, Public Works Supervisor with the City of Trimont, to learn more about the project and how it went. Can you tell us what this project is all about?   Mike Paulson: The City of Trimont’s energy efficiency project had two parts: updates to the Community Building and new street lights. Community Building: The Trimont Community Building was finished in 1994, and the heating and cooling systems were original to the building....
Clair Nelson Finland Community Center
Marcell Mikkelson
Tue, 03/07/2017 - 2:47pm
Friends of the Finland Community had one simple goal in mind: to help the Clair Nelson Finland Community Center become more energy efficient and cost effective. A Northeast CERT Seed Grant helped them get it done!   LEDs were the perfect solution   Friends of the Finland Community’s aim was to replace ten metal halide light fixtures located on the outside of the building with LED lights. The metal halides that were originally put in were chosen by the designers of the community center because LED technology was not as fully developed at the time of the buildings construction. “That was immediately problematic, with light bulbs occasionally exploding, having to be replaced often, and then the disposal issue,” said Honor Schauland,...
Pilot home for Giving Comfort At Home gets a thumbs up for air sealing
Marcell Mikkelson
Mon, 03/06/2017 - 3:14pm
Ecolibrium3’s Giving Comfort at Home project provides energy efficiency upgrades for Duluth homeowners that may be unable to do so on their own, and the program recently got a boost from a Northeast CERT Seed Grant.   Understanding the problem   “Duluth housing stock is old, and many of our most vulnerable citizens experience energy poverty, particularly during the winter months.” said Jodi Slick from Ecolibrium3. Old homes combined with extremely cold winters were part of the reason that Giving Comfort at Home was created, but the primary reason was as a response to the recovering housing market, which has led to a shortage in contractors that are willing or able to do smaller energy efficiency projects.   How Giving Comfort at Home works   Giving Comfort...
Paws + Claws Rescue & Resort installs solar PV
Joel Haskard
Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:27pm
Paws + Claws Rescue & Resort in Hackensack, MN is building a brand new facility that will open in late Spring 2017. They will be working hard to make sure that their shelter pets find the forever homes they deserve, and thanks in part to a Central CERT Seed Grant, their new headquarters will also be the forever home to a 40 kW solar PV array. “As a nonprofit that is promoting smart energy use, we believe this will increase public awareness of our efforts to operate our animal shelter in a way that is sustainable and environmentally friendly,” shared Jim Clark, Paws + Claws Executive Director. “We hope that this attention to smart energy use can serve as a model for other animal shelters, as well.” Making solar work for the nonprofit   Paws + Claws worked with an investor willing to build a 40 kW solar array on their...
LED lighting upgrades at The Barn Theatre in Willmar we funded in part by a WC CERT seed grant
Peter Michaels
Wed, 12/14/2016 - 2:20pm
With the help of a $5,000 CERTs grant, The Barn Theatre in Willmar, Minnesota upgraded their 100 year-old building by installing 139 new LED light fixtures. Due to the success of the project, future renovations are planned to improve the lighting in the lower level green room, dressing room, and the third level floor area! The Barn Theatre has served the City of Willmar for many years. However, in 2014 the Board of Directors decided it was time to renovate and preserve the facility in order to better suit the growing organization and the community. A major issue with the building was the light quality and high energy bills. To alleviate this problem, the Board agreed to upgrade the lighting to LED technology. The project has recently been completed and the results have been extremely positive. The West Central Tribune...
Students support the environment at 2016 EarthFest Expo in Rochester
Peter Michaels
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 2:59pm
Over 500 individuals attended the one-day EarthFest Expo, which is a part of a weeklong EarthFest celebration hosted at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota. This celebration brings people together to learn about environmental products and services, get involved in local sustainability efforts, and take part in clean-up events. The EarthFest Expo was hosted on April 24, 2016, at the Mayo Civic Center and offered a lot to those who attended the free event. This year’s expo featured 40 vendors of environmental products and services, informational displays, and the Rochester Public Library’s book bike. Vendor booths at the 2016 EarthFest Expo in Rochester. “Even though we have a lot of good volunteers, the majority of the work falls on about six of us. The CERTs grant took a lot of pressure off our funding concerns, so that really helped,” said Ivan Idso, the lead organizer...
Aisles in Pomme de Terre Foods in Morris
Peter Michaels
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 3:41pm
Background: Pomme de Terre Foods has rented many spaces in Morris since it opened in 1971, but they purchased a building and renovated the north end of it so they could reopen for business in 2014. The south side of the facility was unable to be renovated due to a lack of funds. Their goal was to renovate this second side, so it could eventually be rented out by a complementary business. Obstacles—like ceiling damage from a roof leak—kept this from happening. Pomme de Terre Foods used a seed grant from WC CERT to fix ceiling damage, conduct an energy audit, and implement audit findings to reduce energy consumption. While the ceiling was being fixed they added more insulation, and they also added occupancy sensors to offices and restrooms, a new LED exit sign, LED display and cooler lighting, installed a programmable thermostat (and programmed it...
Solar installation at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Nisswa, MN
Peter Michaels
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 3:42pm
Shortly after receiving a Central CERT Seed Grant, the Lutheran Church of the Cross (LCC) in Nisswa, MN installed a 7.56 kW ground-mounted photovoltaic system. This system not only saves the church 10% on their electricity costs, but also educated their youth and demonstrated the benefits of renewable energy to their community to ensure environmental stability and sustainability. After five years of planning, this renewable energy project was completed in May 2016 and was designed and installed by RREAL (Rural Renewable Energy Alliance). The project was led by LCC’s Creation Care Team to meet the church’s eco-spirituality mission to lead by example in sustainability efforts. Their primary goal was to educate and demonstrate energy-efficiency and renewable energy technology to their congregation of 1,500 members, youth, and the regional community....
Biwabik City Hall
Peter Michaels
Wed, 12/07/2016 - 1:20pm
The City of Biwabik is located in Northeast Minnesota with a population of about 1,000 citizens. As of late, this town has been actively focusing efforts on reducing their electricity usage. They decided to begin with Biwabik City Hall, which had been illuminated with 62 inefficient lights for the past 20 years. A $2,000 Seed Grant from Northeast CERT provided funding for project labor costs. Originally, the plan was to replace all 62 light fixtures in the facility, but due to the quality of lighting supplied by the new LED fixture they were able to brighten the building using only 52 fixtures. This happy surprise engendered even more savings for the city’s taxpayers. Due to the success of the project, the City of Biwabik is now moving their efforts on to improving the lighting in their Public Works garage and the City Hall parking lot....
Peter Michaels
Tue, 12/06/2016 - 4:36pm
In the 2015-2016 school year, 5th grade students at St. Dominic Parish School in Northfield focused their learning on helping the environment. Their mission was to find all the electronic devices in their school and identify the biggest ‘energy hogs.’ At the end of the school year, these students presented their findings at an energy fair and created a plan to help improve their school’s energy efficiency! As of late, St. Dominic Parish School has been leading by example when it comes to environmental stewardship. In the past two years, the parish has installed 678 4-foot LED bulbs and replaced their old steam furnace with a new 95% efficient hot-water boiler. However, they didn’t stop there. During the 2015-2016 school year, the focused shifted to educating their fifth graders on helping the environment through energy-saving...

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Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission