Kevin & Donna Blanchette farm twelve acres near Richmond, MN in the Avon Hills area. A 9.8 kW solar array is the newest addition to the pasture they share with chickens, sheep, and a variety of other creatures. The sheep have been happy to keep the weeds down under the solar panels in exchange for a shady place to rest! We interviewed Kevin Blanchette to learn more.
Many American cities over the past decade appointed sustainability directors to create strategies for tackling energy-saving projects and meeting other environmental goals. Now the trend has begun to take off even in smaller Minnesota towns that have hired part-time or assigned existing employees to oversee sustainability initiatives. Within the past few years, La Crescent, Northfield, and Grand Marais have added the title of “sustainability” to new hires.
The Bemidji Community Food Shelf (BCFS) distributes food to just under 3,000 qualifying families in Beltrami County and the Bemidji School District every year. BCFS has always had a commitment to sustainability and energy conservation, evidenced by their cutting edge farm project. We talked to Executive Director Mary Mitchell to learn more about their recent upgrade to LED lighting.
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.
Habitat for Humanity homes and solar energy seem like a natural combination, since the solar installation can help reduce energy burden—the percent of household income spent on energy bills—and increase the resources that families have for other expenses. But there have been relatively few such projects in Minnesota. That’s one reason that the 3.9 kW solar project installed by RREAL on the Jensen family home in Foley, MN is special.
Insights from four existing structures in Minnesota
A sprawling community solar installation on the top floor of the A Ramp in downtown Minneapolis offers the most recent example of a Minnesota project combining solar panels and parking. The solar carport allows parking to continue underneath the arrays as they capture energy from the sun. The A Ramp is among a handful of projects where public entities have built solar carports. The agencies and developers who installed them say solar carports cost more than traditional solar projects but pay off with other dividends that can make the investment worth it.
What if all schools in Minnesota utilized solar power?
Imagine this headline in the near future: “All Schools in Minnesota Utilize Solar Power.” Wouldn’t it be amazing if solar energy powered the education of our state’s 845,404 students? It might not be so far off. Most schools in Minnesota do not currently have solar, but there has never been a better time for them to take advantage of clean energy opportunities. A dramatic drop in the cost of solar panels, combined with new financing choices, has now made solar widely available.
Building and programming a 120-pound robot that can drive, pivot, and pick things up is part of the challenge Minnesota’s more than 200 high school robotics teams are getting set to take on as the official “build season” begins in January. But during the off-season, the Plaid Pillagers, a high school robotics team in Morris, solved an engineering puzzle even more complex—finding a way to turn renewable energy into a sustainable source of funding for their high school team.