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Waconia Public Schools third-party solar ribbon cutting
Peter Lindstrom
Thu, 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...
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...
Solar at Enchanted Meadows
Fritz Ebinger
Mon, 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...
Fond du Lac clean energy tour
Brian Bluhm
Wed, 09/20/2017 - 4:02pm
On August 9, 2017 NE CERT and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa co-hosted a clean energy tour of both Fond du Lac Band’s Resource Management Division building as well as Black Bear Casino Resort. The tour included a 1MW solar PV installation, LED lighting, a wood pellet biomass system and other clean energy technologies. Joel Haskard, Co-Director for CERTs, noted that the resource management division building was a good example of what can be done to increase sustainability and clean energy. “This building is LEED certified. Here you can see the green roof, the 12KW solar system, solar tubes for lighting, LED lighting, and even motion sensors to power down the vending machines… They also used super-insulated spray foam for the walls and a storm water drainage system that feeds into a small wetlands in back. Impressive stuff!” Bruno Zagar, Environmental Specialist and...
In 2016 there were 57,351 clean energy jobs in MN
Dan Thiede
Thu, 09/07/2017 - 2:49pm
Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM) today released a new report called Clean Jobs Midwest from Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs that finds that Minnesota now has 57,351 total clean energy jobs. In the last 12 months, Minnesota’s clean energy industry grew by 5.3 percent, adding 2,893 jobs—3.8 times faster than overall job growth in the state. Despite the rapid growth that has already occurred, clean energy technology continues to present a significant opportunity for business and job growth. “This report tells the story of how Minnesota’s rapid transition to cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy is driving job creation all across our state,” said Gregg Mast, executive director of...
Screenshot from LPTV news segment on Leech Lake community solar gardens
Anna Carlson
Wed, 08/16/2017 - 12:01pm
“This is the first 100% low-income shared solar array in the state of Minnesota, and the first low-income community solar array integrated into energy assistance (LIHEAP) in the nation!” notes Jason Edens with Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, the solar developer for the five Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe solar installations. “With 42% of the Leech Lake Nation living below the poverty level, this solar facility will help ensure low-income families have the resources to reduce their energy costs. It is the first community solar array in Indian Country in the nation.” Below are excerpts from a Bemidji Pioneer article and...
SolSmart
Trevor Drake
Tue, 08/15/2017 - 2:22pm
Almost every time we give a community presentation on solar, somebody asks about how the costs of the technology are changing and whether it’s best to wait to “go solar.” It’s a smart question, and indeed the costs of the physical components of solar projects are being driven down by market forces (though arguably not quick enough to warrant waiting). The trouble with this question is that it misses the target in seeing what’s most important, which is not just the cost of hardware but the final cost of an installed system. The non-hardware “soft costs” of solar, which include the costs incurred to solar developers (and passed onto system owners or subscribers) for navigating local zoning regulations, pulling permits, and providing financing options to customers, can total as much as 64% of the cost of a residential solar installation, according to the...
Photo by Baltine, Creative Commons
Frank Jossi
Fri, 08/11/2017 - 11:28am
Interested in battery storage? Connexus, Minnesota’s largest retail electric cooperative, is working toward building Minnesota’s largest energy storage project supporting three of their solar projects. Reposted with permission from original article by Frank Jossi for Midwest Energy News. Minnesota’s largest retail electric cooperative is in negotiation with vendors to build the largest storage energy project in the state alongside three solar installations. Connexus Energy plans to install storage capable of storing 20 megawatts, the equivalent of 40 MW hours of energy, according to Brian Burandt, vice president of power supply and business development. “I believe it’s the largest project being contemplated at this time,” he said. “There are larger projects in...
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...
MN Dept. of Commerce
Thu, 06/01/2017 - 3:24pm
On a bright, sunny Minnesota spring day, with solar panels in the background, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced that the state is enjoying dramatic growth in solar power, adding nearly as much new solar capacity in just the first three months of 2017 as in all of 2016. Rothman announced the latest solar statistics at the Schneiderman’s Furniture store in Plymouth, a Twin Cities suburb. The local family-owned furniture retailer has installed rooftop solar power systems at its Plymouth, Woodbury and Duluth stores, with support from state solar incentives. The solar projects were developed by Ideal Energies, a Minnesota-based commercial solar energy developer with over 140 commercial systems in operation. “Solar is already a bright spot in Minnesota’s energy picture, and it’s getting even bigger and brighter,” said Rothman, whose agency includes the state energy...
Project partners pose for an award photo
Trevor Drake
Fri, 05/26/2017 - 10:51am
The Metropolitan Council, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), and their partners are being awarded for their innovative solar garden work at the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards. The awards program, hosted by the nonprofit Environmental Initiative, annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary outcomes by harnessing the power of partnership. The project is being honored in the Community Action category. The Governmental Solar Garden Collaborative is a joint effort by and for 31 local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region to procure solar garden subscriptions from a single Request...
Touring the solar array that powers the Hutchinson wastewater treatment plant
Kristi Fernholz
Fri, 05/19/2017 - 4:19pm
On Tuesday, April 18, 2017, over 20 people gathered at City Hall in Hutchinson, Minnesota, to take a driving and walking tour of the many clean energy and sustainability projects that the city has engaged in over the years. They were greeted by Mayor Gary Forcier, City Administrator Matt Jaunich, Facilities Manager Jeremiah “JJ” Verhey and GreenStep Cities Coordinator and Project, Environmental, and Regulatory Manager John Paulson. The three spoke about some of the energy efficiency upgrades (LED lighting, lighting times/motion sensors, variable frequency drive motors) that have reduced energy costs across the city’s buildings. “We’re doing it for multiple reasons—economic and environmental—and then we are benchmarking so we can show people where we are saving money,” noted Mayor Forcier. The city even created its own composting program to process and sell the compost it collects...
Solar installation at Bridgeview Farms
Fritz Ebinger
Mon, 05/01/2017 - 11:36am
The cattle pasture on the southern side of Bridgeview Farms is now home to 32 solar PV panels providing 88% of the average annual electricity needed by Tim and Marie Mack’s farm and home. A family owned and operated farm, Bridgeview in Zumbrota, MN offers traditionally-raised beef sides and quarters, as well as corn, soybeans, hay, straw, and pumpkins. By covering the majority of the farm’s energy use, the solar installation will help keep electricity costs predictable and save the farm money as energy costs rise over the coming years. The farm’s new solar array consists of 32 Heliene modules that are made here in Minnesota and a 10 kW Fronius inverter. The 9.92 kW system is estimated to produce 12,500 kWh every year. The farm worked with Fritz Ebinger at the Clean Energy Resource Teams to...

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