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

Metro CERT welcomes Gordy Moore to their crew for the school year!

Gordy will be assisting the Sustainable Communities team at Great Plains Institute (GPI), working most closely with the Metro CERT program in addition to supporting Minnesota GreenStep Cities and the Grow Solar partnership.

Katie Hosch joined the Great Plains Institute in September of 2016 as a Minnesota GreenCorps member for one year of service. Welcome!

Katie will be fulfilling a unique position, working to help cities improve and maintain energy efficiency in public buildings.

Katherine Hosch

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson proclaimed August 26th to be “Solar Storage Awareness Day” in Duluth during the commissioning ceremony of a new solar PV and battery storage system at the Hartley Nature Center. We spoke with Bret Pence, project specialist with Ecolibrium3 and co-leader on the Hartley Nature Center Solar Plus Storage Upgrade project, which can now store 14.2 kWh of energy.

Hartley Nature Center in Duluth renovated its solar energy system and added battery backup

On September 20th, 2016 nearly 40 people gathered at the Shoreview Community Center 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.

Trevor Drake, Metro CERT Co-Director, speaks with event attendees

Bemidji State University was a hotbed of clean energy activity on August 31st as folks gathered for two consecutive events.

First up was the Association of Energy Service Professionals (AESP) meeting, where over 40 attendees gathered to learn about clean energy projects in Bemidji.

First they heard about the City of Bemidji’s $2.

Kicking the tires on electric vehicle charging stations in Bemidji, MN

As another Minnesota winter approaches, homeowners may be looking to replace an old, worn-out or inefficient heating system with a new high-efficiency model.

Most furnaces have a useful life of 15-20 years, while most boilers will last 20-30 years.

If your furnace looks like this it may be time for an upgrade

This past spring, thanks to support from the University of Minnesota’s Central Region Sustainable Development Partnership, Central CERT Coordinator Sarah Hayden Shaw had the opportunity to work with Connor Schaefer, a Masters student at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Community solar garden resources

What do people living and working in your community want in energy efficiency and sustainability? Communities can partner with Xcel Energy to identify and prioritize their energy needs. The utility provides tools and resources to develop a plan and then supports putting it into action.

It’s called Partners in Energy.

Xcel Energy Partners in Energy Program

The Minnesota Renewable Energy Society’s Sustainable Home Tour (formerly known as the Solar Tour) has annually featured energy efficient, renewably powered, and all around sustainable homes around Minnesota for 25+ years. This year the Sustainable Home Tour will be on Saturday October 1, 2016 with hours from 10am to 3pm.

Sustainable Home Tour

The School of Music & Mayhem in West Lakeland, MN recently flipped the switch on a new solar PV system that covers 100% of their needs, becoming the first music school in the Midwest to be powered entirely by the sun! Rock on!

To commemorate the event, owner Joe Schertz and eight of his students wrote and recorded a Solar Suite song that is long— 8 minutes and 20 seconds long to be exact.

Joe Schertz of The School of Music and Mayhem plugs in to solar energy

If you are a nonprofit hoping to save money on your energy bills, and you are located in Xcel Energy and/or CenterPoint Energy service territory, you might want to schedule a visit with EnerChange.

We spoke with Michael T’Kach, Energy Manager with EnerChange, to learn more about how they are helping nonprofits save energy and money to better serve their missions.

EnergyChange helps nonprofits in Minnesota save energy

The 417-foot, 32-story First National Bank Building in downtown Saint Paul was constructed in 1931 and competed with New York City’s Empire State Building for construction materials. Madison Equities, the new owner of the building as of winter 2015, worked with Petros PACE Finance and the Saint Paul Port Authority to make $6.8 million in energy efficiency upgrades ($5M from Petros and $1.

First National Bank getting energy performance overhaul financed with PACE

Tesla is hoping that owners of Minnesota hotels and resorts will want to attract drivers of Tesla vehicles to their property by joining Tesla’s destination charging network. As part of their current program, properties will receive their first two Tesla wall connectors free of charge as long as they are installed in visible or convenient locations.

Tesla offering free chargers to Minnesota hotels and resorts

This article is being re-posted from the original at Midwest Energy News by Frank Jossi.

A new solar installation added to the parking garage roof of a Twin Cities apartment building the largest investment in renewable energy at a multi-family housing site in Minnesota. The 148 kilowatt (kW) project at CityVue Apartments in Eagan sits a top a parking lot next to the 11-story, 113 unit building.

Solar installation on CityVue Apartment roof