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

Eight communities are receiving 2016 Minnesota Clean Energy Community Awards from the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The program recognizes communities that contribute to the state’s clean energy goals by implementing programs, policies, and technologies that encourage energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy generation.

Clean Energy Community Awards

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has been awarded a $2 million grant that will help realize Minnesota’s goal of generating 10 percent of its electricity from the sun by 2030.

The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, is called “Project North Star: Illuminating the Way to PV Integration.

Project North Star in Minnesota receives funding from DOE SunShot Initiative

Bemidji’s AirCorps Aviation specializes in the restoration, maintenance, and rebuilding of vintage WWII aircraft. They’re now working from more comfortable, well-lit, and energy-efficient buildings thanks to lighting and insulation improvements financed with PACE.

Working on a plane in the newly insulated AirCorps Aviation shop

On October, 5th, 2016 GreenStep Cities staff from across Minnesota gathered for the monthly workshop and webinar, this time to learn all about Energy, Data, and Action—Oh My!

About 25 people attended the workshop in total, including those who attended in person and those who watched via webinar.

Minnesota GreenStep Cities

Today, students from Holy Rosary School in Duluth made a positive difference in native northern eastern Minnesota habitats by planting common milkweed, wild bergamot, fragrant giant hyssop and lindleys aster around a new solar PV array at the Laurentian Environmental Learning Center near Mesabi, Minn.

Holy Rosary students from Duluth plant pollinator habitat around solar installation at Laurentian Environmental Learning Center

The Clean Energy Resource Teams is pleased to announce that Brian Bluhm has been hired as our new coordinator working with communities to advance clean energy across Northeastern Minnesota. Welcome, Brian!

Brian is based at the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency. Brian has a B.A. in Anthropology and a M.Ed. in Environmental Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Northeast CERT Coordinator Brian Bluhm

The Minnesota State Fair set an attendance record of 1,943,719 this year, and the Eco Experience likely set a record of its own as more than 260,000 passed through its doors.

At the center of the Eco Experience was the Home Energy Exhibit, coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

This year's Energy Home in the Minnesota State Fair Eco Experience building

Midwest Energy News’ 40 Under 40 award program highlights emerging leaders throughout the region and their work in America’s transition to a clean energy economy.

This year’s cohort of Midwest-based leaders and innovators from all sectors—industry, government, regulatory, business, academic, and advocacy—have just been announced.

Midwest Energy News 40 Under 40 award program

The 23rd Annual Lake Superior Harvest Festival took place at Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park on Saturday, September 10th. Nearly 6,000 people attend this popular event to chat with their favorite local farmers, pick up delicious local produce, jams and baked goods, and explore local arts and crafts vendors.

Lake Superior Harvest Festival

I have always wanted a space of my own to work on my varied and numerous projects—everything from painting to furniture restoration to various excuses to use all of my power tools. A need to store work equipment and tools helped push me to action, so three years ago I finished half of my detached two-stall garage in order to create this space.

Solar air heat system on Sarah Hayden Shaw's "Shopfice"

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson asks livestock producers to apply for a portion of $2 million in grants available for on-farm improvements.

“Livestock Investment Grants help farmers stay competitive and reinvest in their industry. Last year, we had 104 livestock farmers receive grants to improve their operation,” said Frederickson.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture