Cities across Minnesota and the country are working to reduce costs and fuel consumption by greening and electrifying their vehicle fleets. The City of Elk River recently produced a Green City Fleet Guide as part of a Metro CERT Seed Grant funded project that can guide other cities in taking action.

City of Elk River Green City Fleet Guide

According to a recent article by Elizabeth Dunbar at Minnesota Public Radio, “It took about 10 years to go from virtually nothing to 35 megawatts of capacity in 2015, but last year that jumped to 250 megawatts.”

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More and more cities, counties, businesses, and homeowners are finding that solar makes sense for their bottom line.

Although still in the early stages of planning, there is an exciting model brewing to help residents of the Hillcrest Community Cooperative in Clarks Grove, MN reduce their energy costs and power their manufactured homes with community solar.

Community Solar Garden

Electricity at Timm’s Trucking in Morristown is now provided by the company’s new 30.5 kW Solar PV array, locking in today’s energy costs for years to come.

Business owner Randy Timm described the double benefit of installing a renewable energy system that was “not only good for the environment, but saved money on my electric bills and improved my bottom line.

Solar PV on top of Timm's Trucking in Morristown, MN

Building operation is a huge cost that most cities, counties, and other local governments have in common. But often there’s a disconnect between building operation and energy savings, one that a new manual available to Minnesota local governments is designed to fix.

City of Farmington

St. Cloud is one of eight communities in Minnesota recently recognized at the 2016 Clean Energy Community Awards sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The awards recognized communities that contribute to the state’s clean energy goals by planning and implementing programs, policies, and technologies that encourage energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy generation.

Getting to 80% renewables in St. Cloud, MN

Applications for the fourth year of the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program will be accepted beginning on Jan. 1, 2017, and ending Feb. 28, 2017. The 10-year, $150-million program helps fund new solar electric and solar thermal systems for Minnesota residents, businesses, and communities. The program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive

The Groom Room dog boarding and grooming in Hawley, MN is one example of a small business reaping the benefits of renewable energy. Inspired by another local business, owner Jane Anderson recently installed 72 solar panels to cover her electricity needs.

The Groom Room in Hawley, MN with solar array in distance

St. Olaf College, located in southeast Minnesota, is taking energy matters into their own hands and making the leap toward 100% renewable energy. This great feat has taken commendable initiative in order to completely relinquish dependence on non-renewable electricity sources.

According to Pete Sandberg, St.

On December 1st, a small team of community members and folks from the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) went out in pairs to doorknock in Chisago City and the City of Lindstrom to encourage small business owners to participate in a free energy and/or solar assessment of their business through the Chisago Clean Energy Hub.

Diana McKeown with Metro CERT talks to a Chisago business owner about energy efficiency

Are you still stringing the same old incandescent decorative lights for the holidays?

 
For many Minnesotans, the house, porch, shrubs and trees are donned with holiday lights. Depending on one’s holiday lighting enthusiasm, a home can save between $10 to $250 each holiday season by switching to LED holiday lighting.

LED holiday lights - More merry and less money

When you visit the Franconia Sculpture Park between Shafer and Taylors Falls, MN, a brightly-lit tree sculpture stands out, far away from any buildings.

Ever wonder, like us, what it’s all about? We interviewed the sculptor, Asia Ward, to learn more.

Solar Tree by Asia Ward at Franconia Sculpture Park

Imagine a project combining efficient housing that can be assembled on-site with solar panels made in Minnesota and manufacturing and deployment all taking place on Native American lands. It’s real! We dug into the details with Wakaigon Innovations CEO Mike Myers about just such a project coming to life in Leech Lake.

Wakaiagon Innovations, LLC home

With the help of a $5,000 CERTs grant, The Barn Theatre in Willmar, Minnesota upgraded their 100 year-old building by installing 139 new LED light fixtures. Due to the success of the project, future renovations are planned to improve the lighting in the lower level green room, dressing room, and the third level floor area!

The Barn Theatre has served the City of Willmar for many years.

LED lighting upgrades at The Barn Theatre in Willmar we funded in part by a WC CERT seed grant

Over 500 individuals attended the one-day EarthFest Expo, which is a part of a weeklong EarthFest celebration hosted at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota. This celebration brings people together to learn about environmental products and services, get involved in local sustainability efforts, and take part in clean-up events.

Students support the environment at 2016 EarthFest Expo in Rochester

Background: Pomme de Terre Foods has rented many spaces in Morris since it opened in 1971, but they purchased a building and renovated the north end of it so they could reopen for business in 2014. The south side of the facility was unable to be renovated due to a lack of funds. Their goal was to renovate this second side, so it could eventually be rented out by a complementary business.

Aisles in Pomme de Terre Foods in Morris

Shortly after receiving a Central CERT Seed Grant, the Lutheran Church of the Cross (LCC) in Nisswa, MN installed a 7.56 kW ground-mounted photovoltaic system. This system not only saves the church 10% on their electricity costs, but also educated their youth and demonstrated the benefits of renewable energy to their community to ensure environmental stability and sustainability.

Solar installation at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Nisswa, MN

The City of Biwabik is located in Northeast Minnesota with a population of about 1,000 citizens. As of late, this town has been actively focusing efforts on reducing their electricity usage. They decided to begin with Biwabik City Hall, which had been illuminated with 62 inefficient lights for the past 20 years. A $2,000 Seed Grant from Northeast CERT provided funding for project labor costs.

Biwabik City Hall

In the 2015-2016 school year, 5th grade students at St. Dominic Parish School in Northfield focused their learning on helping the environment. Their mission was to find all the electronic devices in their school and identify the biggest ‘energy hogs.

Austin Utilities is a community-owned, not-for-profit electric, water, and natural gas utility, serving more than 12,000 customers within a community of over 23,000 people in Austin, MN. The utility officially opened its new, energy-efficient 105,000 sq. ft. Service and Operation Center at the end of July. We interviewed General Manager Mark Nibaur to learn more.

The Greenway Office Building—located a block from the intersection of Lake Street and Hiawatha in Minneapolis—epitomizes green buildings both in design and location.

Built in 1999 by the Green Institute (a former CERTs partner organization), the building includes solar PV, geothermal heating and cooling, and a green roof.

Solar array financed with PACE atop the Greenway Office Building in Minneapolis

There are some basic energy-saving steps we can all take to keep the warm air in and our utility bills down this fall and winter. A few simple no-cost or low-cost measures can make a big difference for the safety, comfort and efficiency of our homes.

The Minnesota Commerce Department, which includes the State Energy Office, offers the following tips:

Get an energy audit.

On October 27th, 2016 around 40 people gathered at Woodbury City Hall to learn about community solar gardens and network with experts and developers.

Community Solar Gardens are centrally located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that produce electricity for participating subscribers. They’re great for people that want to go solar but are unable to do so on their own.

Attendees at Woodbury community solar gardens workshop

On September 26, over twenty five people joined the Southeast CERT tour of the City of Red Wing’s clean energy projects.

SE CERT tours Red Wing solar projects, including this carport at City Hall

Nearly 200 people attended the 9th annual Metro CERT event on October 18th at the University of St. Thomas for a two-part afternoon event followed by networking.
 

An energy-efficient venue: Elise Amel, psychology professor welcomed attendees to the Anderson Student Center, the first LEED certified project on the St. Thomas campus.

Diana McKeown introduces Metro CERT Staff at Annual Event