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Waconia Public Schools third-party solar ribbon cutting
Peter Lindstrom
01/11/2018 - 12:24pm
This blog is excerpted from a Finance & Commerce story by Frank Jossi. Third-party ownership is one of the growing number of ways building owners can support solar energy and reduce their utility bills. Under the arrangement, a third-party owner earns money by selling the energy production to building owners for prices substantially less than local utilities charge them. They can do that because generous federal tax breaks provided to solar energy developers dramatically reduce the cost of the solar projects. Many local governments are interested in third-party ownership because they have no way to finance hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment, said Peter Lindstrom, Clean Energy Resource Teams’ local government outreach coordinator. Third-party owners have begun...
La Crescent receives their GreenStep City sign from EQB staffer Kristin Mroz
Chris Meyer
01/11/2018 - 11:55am
It’s been just over two years since La Crescent, MN (population 5,200) became a Minnesota GreenStep City in October 2015, but they have big achievements to share. In June of 2017 they advanced to a Step 2 city and City Administrator Bill Waller indicated that they are on track to achieve Step 3 in 2018. They were also one of three finalists in the top three Best of B3 Benchmarking competition for the state, being narrowly beaten out by the larger Prior Lake. Laying the groundwork for success   Waller talked about the opportunities and subsequent energy savings that building energy benchmarking has opened up to the city. After joining the voluntary statewide recognition GreenStep City program, La Crescent partnered with Winona State University to create an internship. It was with the help of the WSU Student Intern, Alison Bettin, that La...
Image credit: Wikimedia
Trevor Drake
01/11/2018 - 11:33am
This blog is an excerpt from an article in Utility Dive. Some say pilot projects are a way to avoid the risk of real innovation, but a proposed Xcel Energy pilot to test time-of-use (TOU) rates is charging at innovation and winning praise as it goes. Xcel’s objectives are to find out how to effectively engage customers and if price signals can get customers to shift energy usage away from the peak, Aakash Chandarana, Xcel VP of Rates and Regulatory Affairs, told Utility Dive. Utility surveys consistently find customers “don’t really care,” he said. “This pilot will allow Xcel to test what our customers truly want.” The program is expected to drive greater use of renewables and reduce peak demand. Initial reactions are positive from a range of stakeholders...
Don Fosnacht, NRRI associate director of the Renewable Energy Initiative, describes the process of converting wood (foreground) into compact briquettes that can be used in coal-fired power plants. Photo by Bob King, Duluth News Tribune
Brian Bluhm
01/10/2018 - 11:42am
The Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota Duluth has created a coal substitute through the process of torrefaction. Woody biomass is roasted in a kiln and formed into briquettes that can be used in existing coal-burning power plants. Benefits include lower carbon emissions and virtually no mercury pollution. This technology can be further developed for other purposes, such as refining of synthetic gases for fuel, and serves as a bridge between the fossil fuel-based technology of today and the clean energy of the future. After 10 years of research, NRRI delivered solid results this fall. As in solid biofuels. By the ton. Starting at the bench scale in 2003 and fiddling with mixture after mixture, NRRI is now able to produce solid biofuels that...
Solar Plus Storage at Hartley Nature Center in Duluth, MN
Lissa Pawlisch
12/14/2017 - 9:58am
On Tuesday, December 5th nearly 30 hardy Minnesotans ventured out on one of the first really cold days of the season to join Northeast Clean Energy Resource Team (NE CERT) to learn about the solar plus battery storage project at Hartley Nature Center. While solar and storage are frequently discussed, there are few examples up and running in Minnesota that one can actually visit and learn from. Not only that, there are even fewer such systems that are done as retrofits to older solar arrays. Hartley’s project is an excellent example of both! What is Hartley Nature Center all about? Hartley Nature Center is an environmental learning center that hosts a pre-school as well as numerous kid summer camps and adult educational forums (such as this Regional CERT Meeting!). As a center designed around environmental education, this energy project falls...
Kim Norton from Rochester
Chris Meyer
12/13/2017 - 2:06pm
Kim Norton is currently a member of the Rochester, MN Rochester Energy Commission. Kim and her husband Randy have recently subscribed to the Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) Solar Choice community solar garden to reduce their use of fossil fuels while powering their electric vehicles. Chris Meyer with CERTs asked Kim to share her experience signing up to RPU’s community solar garden. RPU Solar Choice is made available through the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, which has contracted to buy electricity from a 5 megawatt solar PV garden near Owatonna, MN. The solar array is powering several other Solar Choice programs for SMMPA member utilities (such as Austin Utilities SolarChoice). The RPU Solar Choice program is accepting subscriptions through the end of December 2017....
North Star Solar having no impact on Chisago County property values
Dan Thiede
12/13/2017 - 12:26pm
When large solar arrays are being installed, it’s quite common to hear from nearby residents that they’re worried about property values being impacted. The 100 MW North Star Solar installation in Chisago County is Minnesota’s largest, and produces enough electricity to power about 20,000 homes. The Chisago County board recently put out a detailed report that even this huge solar array is having no impact on property values! That’s great news for everyone involved. Read on to learn more. Excerpt from recent County Board real estate update shows no ‘solar effects’ article from Chisago County Press: Anybody who is trying to sell a home or vacant property is likely pleased...
Award recipients from the 2016 Clean Energy Community Awards
MN Dept. of Commerce
12/12/2017 - 1:46pm
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has announced the opening of the application process for the 2018 Clean Energy Community Awards (CECA) to recognize the good work of Minnesota communities in helping achieve the state’s clean energy goals. Commerce is the sponsor and coordinator of the program, with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy. Applications and award information are available, and applications will be accepted until February 12, 2018. The awards will recognize communities that implement planning, programs, policies, and technologies that encourage energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy generation and will be given in two categories, Achievement and Planning. This is the second year the awards have been given, and you can...
Attendees chatting about super exciting energy efficiency opportunities, all made possible by building benchmarking!
Chris Meyer
12/11/2017 - 2:13pm
Remember the movie Toy Story and that phrase, “To Infinity and Beyond!”? That was the basis for the name “Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond” or B3, and it was with that same sort of enthusiasm—but for energy efficiency—that Southeast Clean Energy Resource Team (SE CERT) kicked off a workshop on December 1st for local governments and schools looking to save energy in their buildings, kindly hosted at People’s Energy Cooperative in Oronoco. Cheri Schneider of the Weidt Group started the session with a rapid-fire overview of the public building benchmarking part of B3. Click here to download her presentation. In short, Cheri’s key messages were that B3 benchmarking allows you and your decision makers to better understand how your buildings’ energy use compares with...
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...

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