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Students measure the heat differences of lightbulbs using an infrared thermometer during the “Get Current” with Alexis from CERTs
Ali Dahmes
11/14/2017 - 1:38pm
The 11th Annual Fall Summit, held at Saint John’s University this year, engaged over 200 students and coaches from 14 Youth Energy Summit (YES!) teams from central and southern Minnesota. Students participated in sessions like “Get Current,” “The Climate is Changing, Are you?,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Water, Water, Everywhere, We Really Need to Care,” “Waste Not,” and “Pushing Your Limits” that connected them with peers, engaged them in tools for success, and demonstrated project ideas as they head into the 2017-18 YES! season. The theme for this year’s Fall Summit was “Say YES! to Living Green.” YES! was fortunate to have multiple speakers on careers presenting on how they became successful in their environmental field. Two of the big highlights at the summit this year were the climbing wall and 34-foot Voyageur canoe from Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center. YES! works...
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...
City of Shorewood
Diana McKeown
10/27/2017 - 10:08am
On October 25, 2017, Metro CERT paid a visit to Shorewood, MN to talk to small businesses about energy-saving projects. CERT hoped to raise awareness about opportunities available through rebates and programs offered by their utilities. From the chocolatier to the VFW hall, we had lively conversations about how to save money for these local businesses and organizations. During the visit, Metro CERT staff were able to talk with more than 30 businesses. We even had the pleasure of Shorewood Councilmember Kristine Sundberg joining us for these one-on-on conversations with businesses. CERTs brought materials from CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy to distribute to business owners. One of the reasons Councilmember Sundberg is passionate about talking to businesses about energy saving opportunities is because Shorewood is one of Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy communities. Through this...
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...
Tour participants gathered for a big group photo in front of Detroit Lake’s Community Solar Garden
Maggie Kozak
10/10/2017 - 4:27pm
On October 3rd, over 30 people joined a clean energy tour in Detroit Lakes hosted by Detroit Lakes Public Utilities, Missouri River Energy Services (MRES), and Central Clean Energy Resource Team (Central CERT). Community Solar Ribbon Cutting: Tour participants boarded a charter bus (kindly provided by Missouri River Energy Services!) and set off to see the Ribbon Cutting of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities’ Community Solar installation. Red ribbon and scissors in hand, folks from the Chamber of Commerce, local officials, Detroit Lakes Public Utilities Commission, Senator Kent Eken, and Josh Mason of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities cut the ribbon and made an official welcome. As folks gathered around to learn about the system, Vernell Roberts of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities explained, “We wanted the solar panels to be in a visible spot...
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...

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