Celebrating 20 years

Top 20 CERTs Seed Grant stories

March 2023

CERTs Seed Grants spark action! Since 2006, we’ve awarded over $1.6 million to 467 projects across Minnesota.

That action isn't just from the funded-projects, it's also from the inspiration sparked by the project stories we love to share.

For this installment of our CERTsiversary Top 20 lists, we’re sharing our favorite CERTs Seed Grant stories. We hope you'll be inspired by the ideas, old and new, from every corner of Minnesota, as you consider what's next for your community's energy journey. Enjoy!


  1.  Hands-on clean energy education at Two Harbors High School | Solar on school pioneers! We’ve been working with schools interested in solar for a loooong time. Way back in 2004, the good folks at Two Harbors High School were moving forward with solar, later funded by CERTs and others. 
  2.  40 kW solar array finds forever home at Paws + Claws Rescue | This was not only a great project, and a model for other veterinarians, but it is one of our best titles, in our humble opinion!
  3.  Citizen group in Winona County powered up about community solar gardens | Serendipity! We never know where we’ll meet our next clean energy bestie. We met former SE CERT Coordinator Chris Meyer when she organized a group residents and businesses around the idea of a Community Solar Garden, which received a CERTs Seed Grant.
  4.  Bemidji music and arts organization gets energy efficiency tune-up | This recent lighting upgrade was music to our ears! 
  5.  Duluth’s Lincoln Park Resilience Hub envisions powerful community support | We have been fans and supporters of Ecolibrium3 for a long time. This story is a fine example of why.
  6.  Creating a climate for community change in SE Minnesota | Growing Up Healthy has become a crucial CERTs partner. Their groundbreaking work with manufactured home parks is a guiding star with our own statewide work. They are a Justice40 Accelerator organization along with CERTs, and director Jennyffer Barrientos is on our steering committee. This story highlights some of our recent support.
  7.  Metro area faith communities explore energy efficiency options through outreach pilot project | We love supporting communities who live out their values like Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light. This outreach project exemplifies how equity and sustainability go together.
  8.  Flipping the switch on LED lighting at Discovery Woods School | YES! is another group that we have adored and supported over the years. Originally launched by the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center, YES! supports high school students doing amazing things around sustainability. This story highlights a project from back in 2016, though there have been countless projects that we have supported and cheered on over the years. 
  9.  Nature center's solar + battery project offers model for energy self-reliance | Net zero? Yes, please! We’ve worked with nature centers across the state over the years. We loved being a tiny part of Quarry Hill Nature Center’s journey towards demonstrating what sustainable building design can look like.
  10.  Morris Robotics team engineers new funding stream with solar array | What an idea! The Plaid Pillagers, a high school robotics team found a way to turn renewable energy into a sustainable source of funding for their team. Oh fer smart!
  11.  CERTs does A LOT of work with schools. This year we will be working across Minnesota with the Solar for Schools grant. Back in 2009-2011 we had our Schools Cutting Carbon program with over 100 public schools. An idea out of this program received a CERTs Seed Grant in 2012 — Shakopee High School's Environmental Learning Center.
  12.  Home Remedy: saving money through energy efficiency | From way, way back, a project that ended up at our fundamental beginnings: energy efficiency and community.
  13.  Grant enables Elk River energy efficiency project at "Energy City" ice arena | Minnesota loves hockey, and CERTs loves energy efficiency. Here we highlighted Elk River — otherwise known as “Energy City” — and their energy saving upgrades at the ice arena. 
  14.  Warren, MN: A small town doing big things with clean energy (including drones)! | We’ve worked with Warren — and local sparkplug Shannon Mortenson — for a number of years. This little town has big energy ideas, and a few seed grants under their belt, however we picked this story as a favorite for one reason… Drones!
  15.  Fond du Lac Band offers tour of solar installations and green buildings | In 2022, Fond du Lac received a CERTs Seed Grant to create informational brochures about the awesome clean energy projects they share with visitors through tours, including a 2017 tour for a CERTs event. 
  16.  Conservation Corps Minnesota and RREAL bring solar heat to Leech Lake families | Based in Backus in the Central CERT region, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) has been making solar thermal and photovoltaic a viable solution to reducing energy poverty since their founding. CERTs has supported RREAL’s inspiring work for years; this story from eight years ago is just one example why.
  17.  UCAP provides In-home education and energy savings for those in need | You know who is working day in and day out to reduce the energy burden for people who need it the most? The weatherization service providers across the country. Here in Minnesota, we’ve got some great ones, like United Community Action Partnership serving southwest & west central Minnesota.
  18.  Helping elders save energy, make their homes more safe and comfortable | This is similar in theme to #17. Working with Bois Fort housing staff and elders was right in our wheelhouse.
  19.  Little Milan pulls off a big LED retrofit project | OK, they aren’t exciting, and some might say they are down right boring: lighting retrofits. But we love ‘em, and we’ve supported a bunch of ‘em! Like this example from Milan (pop. 354 in 2019). Lighting retrofit + community center = pinch me, I’m dreaming!
  20.  Do you want to learn more? Visit our CERTs Seed Grant Project Map to find snapshots of all the community-led clean energy projects we’ve supported over the years. There are way too many great projects to fit into a list of twenty, so dig into all 467 and get inspired!

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