New installations save money, engage students, and demonstrate leadership
While back-to-school at Edina Public Schools looks different this fall due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, new solar investments by the district are a welcome bright spot in otherwise challenging times. Three installations completed this year provide the district with opportunities to save money on energy use, engage students, and demonstrate leadership in local sustainability efforts.
Scarlets YES! team takes action with CERTs Seed Grant
Students at Mankato West High School participating in the Youth Eco Solutions (YES!) program will help reduce the electricity used to light school hallways by almost 50%. The Scarlets RetroLED the Hallways project was a tangible way for students to put their values into action and save serious energy for their school. This summer school electricians installed 1,333 LED tube lights (15-watt) in place of the existing fluorescent bulbs (28-watt). The upgrade will save over $5,000 per year by reducing electricity used, and pay for itself in under 2 years.
Movement created in response to COVID-19 recession
Led by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), Rise Up Midwest is a coalition of businesses, individuals, organizations, jurisdictions, and workforce development partners working in coordination to create a groundswell of support for commonsense, strategic, and swift policy action and market development in response to the COVID-19 recession. Joel Haskard with CERTs interviewed Nick Hylla, MREA Executive Director, to learn more.
Increasing access to clean energy jobs & training opportunities
Jamez Staples, president of Renewable Energy Partners, a clean energy training and construction services company based in North Minneapolis, sat down to talk with CERTs about the challenges and opportunities in the development of a clean energy workforce training center that empowers both youth and adults from North Minneapolis to engage and have access to opportunities in clean energy. He emphasizes the need to prioritize equity in decision-making and to include those who have “been traditionally left behind” when forming partnerships and building projects—from electric vehicle charging to microgrids and beyond.
500 kW of solar. 2.3 MW of wind. Residential water heaters. What do these things have in common? They are all part of a strategy at Lake Region Electric Cooperative to pair local, renewable energy with beneficial electrification in a way that reduces costs to the cooperative and its members.
Considering a career in clean energy? You’re not alone. In 2019 Clean Jobs Midwest reported that there were more than 61,800 people working in clean energy jobs across the state—1 in 3 of them in Greater Minnesota—an increase of over 1,000 jobs just that year. There are myriad ways that those looking for work in an in-demand field can benefit from building Minnesota’s clean energy future—and new resources from CERTs to help.
How they went from 0% to 70% renewables in three years
"St. Cloud is most proud of our renewable energy actions," shared Liz Kramer, Public Services Analyst with the City of St. Cloud. "Starting at almost 0% of energy coming from renewable sources in 2016, we are at 70% from renewables in 2019." Learn how the city has innovated across their operations, in particular at their Nutrient, Energy, and Water Recovery Facility.
From solar to electric vehicles and everything in between
"Elk River has completed numerous sustainability actions over the years, many of which we are very proud of and have resulted in benefits to our city and community," said Amanda Erickson, Environmental Coordinator with the City of Elk River. "Most recently, we are proud of the progress we have made related to electric vehicles and EV charging stations in our city." Learn how the city is charging forward, in part through their participation in the GreenStep Cities program.
Eric Pasi with Impact Power Solutions sat down virtually for a conversation with Marie Donahue at CERTs. Pasi shares encouraging trends in the clean energy sector and his observations of how solar developers navigated challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He speaks to the need for increasing opportunities for everyone to participate in the clean energy revolution and highlights his forthcoming book, Clean Wave, featuring stories and tips for those interested in pursuing careers in clean energy.
Stations to be installed in 18 member municipalities
Electric vehicle (EV) ownership in Minnesota is on the rise: the number of EVs registered in the state more than doubled between 2017 and 2019, rising to over 10,000 (just less than 2% of all vehicles). To get from A to B, they sometimes need to charge away from home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center, there are 335 public electric vehicle charging stations in Minnesota where these EVs can charge, but only 125 of those are outside the 7-county metro area. The Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) and its member municipal electric utilities will be helping solve this problem when they increase the number of EV charging stations in greater Minnesota by almost 50% this year.
As many across Minnesota look for new ways to explore the outdoors this summer, Bjorn Watland of Saint Paul and his family found a way to do so with the help of their electric vehicle. An active member of the MN EV Owners community, Watland shared on social media how he and his family organized weekend road trips to Minnesota state parks using their electric vehicle, a growing network of EV chargers, and a little creativity.
In June of 2020, Lissa Pawlisch, CERTs Statewide Director, sat down virtually for a conversation with Marie Donahue, Sustainability Storyteller with CERTs. It was just a month into Marie's time at CERTs, a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis that sparked uprisings demanding racial justice across the state and country. We discussed where the work of CERTs and partners to advance clean energy in the state fits in this landscape and what might come next.
Employers throughout Minnesota have long voiced concern over the lack of young people training to become weatherization and building contractors. Minnesota State College Southeast in Winona saw a potential solution to this problem by launching its 2-year construction technology A.A.S. degree program in 2018. The goal was to increase the pool of contractors available for commercial and residential weatherization projects and other construction jobs. Since the degree program’s formal launch, enrollment in the program has grown.
Evaluating resiliency, voltage control, power quality
MiEnergy Electric Cooperative, with territory in both Southeast Minnesota and Northeast Iowa, is a little over two years into a five-year pilot project studying residential battery storage systems. The cooperative has partnered with the Iowa Energy Center, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and National Rural Telecommunications Council (NRTC) to install six residential battery systems at member’s homes. Chris Meyer spoke with Ted Kjos and Kent Whitcomb to learn more.
There is something happening in Ponsford, MN near Pine Point. A new generation of energy entrepreneurs are building solar thermal panels for use in Minnesota and across the continent. We spoke with Ava Mart and Nick Bellrock with 8th Fire Solar to learn more, starting with a little background on the new company.
Bob Heers and his family farm 2,600 acres near Owatonna, MN, and were named Steele County Farm Family of the Year in 2010 by the University of Minnesota. They finish 10,000 pigs a year and row crop corn, soybeans, and peas. Though the farm has expanded, it was started by Bob’s father and grandfather in the 1950s when they moved to Steele County. In 2015, when his sons Matt and Nate entered the farm operation, Bob invested in the future by adding 80kW of solar energy.
For the past three years, family-owned Virnig Manufacturing in Rice, Minnesota has been home to a 500 kW solar array. The skid-steer attachment manufacturer started considering solar in 2015, when they were approached by a local installation company about the benefits of adding solar to their 70,000 square foot facility.
Driven by cost savings, education & sustainability
Mounds View School District recently finished installing solar PV systems on the roofs of 13 school buildings. The projects are estimated to save the district nearly $1 million in electricity costs over the next 25 years, while also enhancing student education and helping the district meet its sustainability goals. Peter Lindstrom with CERTs interviewed Mike Cartwright, Mounds View High School physics teacher and sparkplug behind the effort, to learn more.
Weatherization service providers are on the front lines when it comes to assisting under-resourced community members with lowering their energy bills and keeping their dwellings affordable, comfortable and safe. United Community Action Partnership (UCAP) shows how a little bit of seed funding for in-home one-on-one visits mixed in with traditional utility and governmental dollars can lead to big results.