Laying the foundation for solar with Re-Energize Maplewood

Interview with Shann Finwall

Re-Energize Maplewood! was a yearlong initiative intended to increase energy efficiency and solar in the community. Through combining innovative marketing strategies with expert knowledge and resources, Maplewood laid the groundwork for reshaping their energy future and meeting their ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals. It builds on the city's energy action plan in a number of critical ways:

  1. Providing solar information to homes and businesses who previously participated
  2. Expanding Home Energy Squad services for low-income manufactured home communities
  3. Identifying the top 40 solar sites in the city and expanding the program for businesses
  4. Engaging and educating the community about energy efficiency

We spoke with Shann Finwall, Environmental Planner, to learn more about the effort.

Can you tell us more about your project?

Re-Energize Maplewood! built on the success of the City’s Energize Maplewood! energy efficiency program and was an important first step towards achieving the City’s 2040 Comprehensive plan’s renewable energy goals and Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction goals.

  • Expanded energy efficiency program participation with a focus on low income residents and local businesses. Through the City’s Battle of the Parks, two Maplewood manufactured home parks representing over 500 homes, battled to be the “biggest energy losers.” Energy Efficiency outreach and education as provided to these communities and homeowners signed up for Home Energy Squad visits provided by the City’s project partner CEE.    
  • Re-Energize Your Home developed site-specific solar suitability assessments for 98 households and provided solar educational materials and financing and funding information to all of the households to help them begin their journey towards on-site solar.
  • Re-Energize Your Business developed detailed solar feasibility assessments with economic payback projections, as well as solar educational content and funding information for businesses and congregations who had previously completed significant energy efficiency measures through the City’s earlier programs.  
  • The Solar “Top 40” identified top solar potential sites throughout the City and developed detailed solar feasibility assessments and economic payback projections for each. This information, educational materials, and additional resources were provided to the owners of each of these sites with an encouragement to explore the economic payback solar could offer each site.
  • Community engagement and education was provided through energy efficiency outreach events, a promotional video reviewing Home Energy Squad visits, solar educational content and presentation materials.

In total, the solar potential identified in the Re-Energize Maplewood! project represents:

  • 29,169,900 kWh of solar electricity generated annually – 190% of the 2025 Renewable Energy goals included in the City’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan
  • 286,300 metric tons of greenhouse gases avoided
  • 4,162,000,000 gallons of water conserved
  • Up to $109,000,000 in lifetime electricity cost savings to the building owners
  • Potentially 8 full time solar array maintenance jobs in the community

How did people in Maplewood learn more about the project?

The City engaged in significant community outreach and education:

  • Sending property specific information to over 130 properties throughout the City
  • Developing video content that is now posted on the City’s YouTube station and cycles on the City’s cable station and public service
  • Providing overview presentations at the City’s Environmental Commission meetings, developing content and distributing it citywide in the City’s public Seasons Winter 2018/2019 Newsletter
  • Creating web content now posted on both the City’s website and our consultant’s website.
  • Holding a community event supporting the Battle of The Parks aspect of the program

Home Energy Audit Videos

Did you come away with any lessons learned?

There were two main lessons:

  1. Work with partners to complete your project. The City of Maplewood partnered with paleBLUEdot LLC, to complete the Re-Energize Maplewood! projects. We were able to leverage the skills of paleBLUEdot on energy planning and the resources available at the City including for communications and outreach. Other partners included Center for Energy and Environment (Home Energy Squad Visits) and Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Energy Smart (Business Energy Assessments).  
  2. Follow-up in person. Re-Energize Maplewood! projects included analysis and outreach to participants via mail. If we had more time and resources, we would recommend more in-person follow up.

The CERTs Seed Grant was a superb support to help the City of Maplewood take a serious first step in addressing our newly established 2040 Comprehensive Plan Renewable Energy goals. The support we’ve received through the CERTs program has helped us lay a great foundation for advancing solar throughout our community!

Ted Redmond, Chair, Maplewood Environmental and Natural Resources Commission

What’s next for your project?

Following the completion of this effort, the City is:

  • Participating in a solar group buy program and promoting that opportunity as a great next step for residents and businesses to make solar happen.
  • Looking to study in detail the development of solar for all city facilities in line with the City’s goal of achieving 100% renewable energy for these facilities.
  • Considering the development, distribution, and promotion of a Maplewood Solar Ready Guideline document to help educate community members on solar strategies, financing, funding, and resources.

We think Re-Energize Maplewood! serves as a model for cities throughout Minnesota on ways to support the advancement of renewable energy and energy efficiency within their community.

  • Technology: low-cost/no-cost upgrades, building insulation and sealing, lighting upgrades, heating and cooling equipment, study of solar electric potential
  • Metro CERT Seed Grant: $11,273
  • Total Project Cost: $18,373
  • Other Funds: city budget for staff time, consultant in-kind contributions
  • Project Team: Shann Finwall (City of Maplewood), Terry Chaney (Center for Energy and Environment), Ted Redmond (paleBLUEdot llc), Chris Swanson (formerly City of Maplewood)
  • People Involved and Reached: 14,112
  • Annual Energy Savings: 25,000 kWh

Video about Re-Energize Maplewood!

With the CERTs Seed Grant, Maplewood was able to begin a new phase of energy planning to include education and outreach on the feasibility of solar energy at residential and commercial properties. It allowed us to leverage the grant funds with City resources to follow-up with our Energize Maplewood! energy efficiency programming and expand that to solar energy.

Shann Finwall, Maplewood Environmental Planner

We encourage reuse and republishing of this story. All Clean Energy Resource Teams stories are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution license, meaning you can share and adapt the work as long as you give us credit. We'd also love it if you link back to the original piece. Have questions or want to chat? Drop us a line.