When people think of net-zero homes, many start thinking of solar panels and battery storage. We spoke with Patrick Huelman an associate professor and cold climate housing coordinator at the University of Minnesota, who makes the case for something more foundational (pun intended). 

Screen grab from timelapse smart wall construction video

In partnership with CERTs, the Metropolitan Council’s pilot Solar-for-Vouchers Program set out in the fall of 2020 to help address the demand for affordable housing and sustainability in the metro, resulting in new housing units for 30 Minnesota families.

Metropolitan Council logo on solar panel

The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) and our partner, the Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) at University of Minnesota Extension, are delighted to welcome Emily Haeg Nguyen to our team as our new Sustainability Storyteller.

Emily Haeg Nguyen

It is an energizing and inspiring start to 2022 for communities across Minnesota. CERTs awarded seed grants to 74 innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in communities from Warren to Winona, Morton to Mountain Iron, Long Prairie to Lindstrom. These awards mark the 11th round of CERTs Seed Grants, totaling over $1.6 million to 467 projects since 2006.

seed grants

Greater Minnesota residents with an idea to strengthen their community can now apply for partnership support from the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.

RSDP Call for project ideas

The Department of Commerce will conduct engagement sessions to share solar for schools grant program structure and requirements, the application process, and to provide technical assistance.

Solar PV

Do you represent and serve communities who have traditionally been underserved or underrepresented in the state-based energy conversation? The Minnesota Department of Commerce Division of Energy Resources is planning to issue three to five awards ranging from $10,000-30,000 to qualified organizations or individuals to develop an equitable process(es) to engage these communities in state-level energy planning, with the goal of establishing long-term trusting relationships. 

Commerce Department logo

Our 2021 Metro CERT Annual Event was online for the safety of all the participants and speakers. The event was in many ways a follow up to the 2020 Annual Event focused on the role of clean energy in the rebuild following the murder of George Floyd. The keynote presentation was by Abe Demmaj and the rebuilding of his business, G & L Furniture. Instead of our traditional Metro CERT “year in review," we asked some of our steering committee members to share work they participated in via lightning talks. The final presentation came from 2020 seed grant recipient Shannon Crabtree, Senior Planner & Community Development Manager with HOURCAR.

Metro CERT team members

CERTs formed a partnership to host the first electric vehicle event in Roseau, MN on September 29, 2021. This event was an opportunity for over 150 attendees to experience electric vehicles firsthand.

Attendees at Northern Exposure

One of my goals when starting my internship with Minneapolis Climate Action was to connect more directly with Minneapolis communities. As a college student living in Saint Paul, it is sometimes difficult to get out of the Macalester bubble, but it is necessary for growth and learning. Actually speaking to your neighbors and the neighborhoods around you is what gets you connected and allows for relationship building.

Minneapolis Climate Action group

Abby joins the Great Plains Institute, working on electric vehicles (EVs) with the Communities team and Metro CERT for an 11-month service term. In this role, Abby will conduct outreach and education encouraging the use of EVs and EV infrastructure in the Metro area and greater Minnesota.

Abby Hornberger

The Clean Energy Resource Teams are delighted to welcome Shaylyn Bernhardt as our new Communications and Engagement Manager! 

Shaylyn will work to advance CERTs’ clean energy mission through timely and relevant storytelling, engagement, and education, providing strategic direction to CERTs’ communications work.

photo of Shaylyn

The Twin Cities Grow Solar initiative (a past Metro CERT seed grant) is building on their 2018 and 2019 successes by hosting additional Solar Power Hours!

They will share information about solar energy, their program, and how to access solar via volume purchasing to save money, for homeowners and businesses wanting to add solar to their rooftops.  After the session, you can schedule a free, no-obligation site assessment/cost estimate for a solar array on your home. 

Solar on house

If Minnesota’s utility service areas were a jigsaw puzzle, it would take a long time to complete!

This was one of the thoughts that led to the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL), the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS), and the Center for Urban and Rural Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota to co-create the Totally Awesome Map for Renewable Energy Collaboration

MN renewable energy collaboration map

In a year of transitions and change, it is with bittersweet news that we bid a fond farewell to CERTs Communications Director Dan Thiede this week, who will be moving into a new communications position with the McKnight Foundation. Lissa Pawlisch and Joel Haskard penned a send-off that outlines his truly incredible contributions to CERTs and the work advancing clean energy across the state. Dan, we are grateful to you for all you have done to make CERTs what we are. Cheers to you on your next career adventure!

dan conference

Wondering what strategies were particularly effective for CERTs Seed Grant recipients in the past? Learn about the top ten things that have come from the project reflections of recent grantees. Now we can all benefit from them! Read on to learn more, then go apply for support for your own community-based clean energy effort, due October 8th, 2021.


Know someone looking to kick off their green career by increasing energy efficiency and solar energy across Minnesota? There are incredible opportunities to make an impact through the Home Energy Corps with AmeriCorps! Six organizations across the state are hiring 1-3 members to do this important work starting in September. Applications due August 25, 2021.


The project aims to understand the implementation rates of commercial energy efficiency utility programs among Latinx-owned businesses in Minnesota, identify and document participation barriers, and assess the potential to improve implementation rates throughout these communities while also working with business owners to increase understanding of existing program offerings and opportunities. | El proyecto tiene como objetivo comprender las tasas de implementación de los programas de servicios públicos de eficiencia energética comercial entre los negocios de propiedad latina en Minnesota, identificar y documentar las barreras de participación y evaluar el potencial para mejorar las tasas de implementación en estas comunidades, al mismo tiempo que se trabaja con los propietarios de negocios para aumentar la comprensión de las ofertas y oportunidades del programa.


In these challenging times, Minnesotans may find themselves having to choose between paying their energy bill and other necessities — food, medicine and healthcare. Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program offers eligible residents help to pay their energy bills so they do not have to choose between life’s necessities. Since COVID-19, there have been some big changes in the Energy Assistance Program.

energy assistance

Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program coordinated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The program places members with organizations throughout the state to spend a year of service addressing critical environmental issues while gaining experience and learning valuable job skills. MPCA is currently accepting applications, due March 16, from organizations interested in hosting a Minnesota GreenCorps member for the 2021-2022 program year.


After learning about solar energy from another local business, Bill Hanisch, owner of Red Wing's popular Hanisch Bakery, decided to go solar himself. "I looked at all the numbers and said, I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to do this. The payback is very quick," Bill shared. "We're in our second year with solar now and it's going great. It's cool to look down at your roof and see it covered in solar panels. Good feeling to have—to know you're doing something right." Learn how he did it and the tools you can use to cook up solar and energy efficiency projects!


The Office of Enterprise Sustainability is a small office within the State’s Department of Administration with the mission to assist state agencies in meeting sustainability goals across energy, water, solid waste, procurement, fleet, and greenhouse gas reductions—driving toward the state’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2025. They now have a master contract for solar energy procurement that can speed the process for local governments and schools interested in going solar. We talked to Marcus Grubbs with the State of Minnesota Office of Enterprise Sustainability to learn more.

woodbury solar

Metro CERT is excited to welcome three new members to our Steering Committee as we kick off 2021: Marisa Bayer, Gardyartu M. Freeman, and Bill Sierks. We asked them to introduce themselves, talk a bit about their background and interest in clean energy, and let us know what drew them to help guide our work. Welcome!


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.

Energy-themed pumpkin stencils

CJ Denney, a sophomore studying biology and environmental studies at Macalester College in Saint Paul, will be serving Minnesota communities as an intern with Metro CERT for the 2020-2021 academic year. "I’m excited to learn more about clean energy initiatives and how we can implement them in our very own communities."


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