Lakeland PBS CEO Bill Sanford gives tour of building

Lakeland PBS in Bemidji hosts inspiring clean energy events

Back to back clean energy events at Lakeland PBS on Thursday October 11th featured a tour of solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency projects, a screening of a new MN clean energy documentary, and local speakers.

Geeking out: Touring clean energy projects at Lakeland PBS in Bemidji

An afternoon event featured a behind-the-scenes tour of the Lakeland PBS facility, including their cost-saving solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency projects. Over 40 people from Bemidji and across the region attended the tour, with interests ranging from sustainability to economics, and from technology to community engagement.

Bill Sanford, CEO and Director of Engineering at Lakeland PBS, led the tours and elaborated on their energy projects and how others could do the same.

“We’re excited to be partnering with Clean Energy Resource Teams and several other great organizations in hosting this sustainability tour and the screening of The Power of Minnesota at our facility,” said Bill Sanford, CEO and Director of Engineering at Lakeland PBS. “Back when we were planning our new facility over six years ago, we had a focus on sustainability and energy efficiency and designed the building to be very energy efficient with super insulation and geothermal HVAC systems. That said, we didn’t have an unlimited budget and had hard choices to make just like any other business. When construction began, we didn’t include everything we wanted regarding sustainability because they all didn’t make financial sense at the time. Since that time, we’ve switched to LED lighting in our building and added a 40kW solar PV array on the roof due to the real cash costs falling low enough to allow the projects have a reasonable payback. If there’s one thing I want people to take away from this event, it’s that projects like ours are more than just good for the environment, they can make financial sense too and actually save you money in the long run if you do your homework and reduce the upfront costs as much as you can.”

Roger Garton, Energy Management Representative for the Bemidji and Crookston Areas at Otter Tail Power Company, covered their energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in detail.

“It is encouraging to work with such an energy minded organization in Lakeland PBS that understands the importance of energy efficiency measures in obtaining their overall energy goals,” said Roger Garton, Energy Management Representative for the Bemidji and Crookston Areas at Otter Tail Power Company.

Film screening, local speakers, and networking, oh my!

An evening event included a film screening of The Power of Minnesota, a new documentary highlighting the many community stories behind Minnesota’s quickly-growing clean energy economy.

More than 60 people from Bemidji and beyond came to watch the film, hear speakers, find resources, and make connections for their own project ideas. Below are excerpts from a couple of the speakers, with links to download their presentations under that.

“Bemidji is proud to be a leader in energy reduction,” shared Rita Albrecht, Mayor of the City of Bemidji. “We’ve taken a community approach that includes a variety of strategies including participating in GreenStep Cities, installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, and adopting a residential solar energy ordinance. We promote energy efficient homes and rain gardens on our annual sustainability tour. As the first city to participate in Minnesota’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP), we are excited to share our success. This program helped Bemidji upgrade nine city buildings and retrofit our street lights with LED bulbs. The big winners are city taxpayers. Our savings from reduced utility and maintenance costs help keep taxes low.”

“Bemidji State University is continuing its progress toward the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality, and is particularly motivated by the will of its students” shared Jordan Lutz, Sustainability Project Manager at Bemidji State University. “Clean sources of renewable energy align with what they desire for their future as well as our university’s mission statement. Thus, we are very excited to continue collaborating with local and regional partners on various clean energy projects, and to support in any way possible opportunities for a more sustainable future.”

“A lot of people don’t know how many clean energy projects are happening at Leech Lake—we’re doing a lot, we’re just not braggy about it,” shared Brandy Toft, Environmental Deputy Director with Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. “We have the nation’s first community solar garden on tribal land entirely benefiting low-income households, we have an even larger GESP performance contract for energy efficiency across our buildings than the City of Bemidji, we were first Minnesota GreenStep Tribal Nation, and we have won several awards for our energy and sustainability work.”

A new documentary called The Power of Minnesota was screened, which tells the story of how clean energy is making local economies throughout the state even stronger (

Speakers included:

  • Mayor Rita Albrecht, City of Bemidji (download presentation)
  • Anna Carlson, Assistant Professor, Center for Sustainability Studies, Bemidji State University (download presentation)
  • Bill Sanford, CEO and Director of Engineering, Lakeland PBS (download presentation)
  • Brandy Toft, Environmental Deputy Director, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (download presentation)
  • Jordan Lutz, Sustainability Project Manager, Bemidji State University (download presentation)
  • Joel Anastasio, NW CERT Coordinator; Headwaters Regional Development Commission (HRDC)


These two events were co-hosted by: Lakeland PBS, Otter Tail Power Company, Bemidji State University, City of Bemidji, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs).

Watch a news piece from Lakeland PBS on the events:

See photos from the event >>

Bemidji Clean Energy Tour & Event

Visit The Power of Minnesota website to see the full documentary, more clips, to see upcoming events, and to download a viewing guide or host a screening >>

The Power of Minnesota

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