The Popp family children are learning first-hand how solar photovoltaic panels and their wind turbine create energy on their farm

Youth efforts, on-farm clean energy & city innovations focus of Royalton tour

Over 30 people gathered July 16, 2014 in Royalton to tour and learn about exciting clean energy accomplishments and happenings in Royalton, Minnesota! Central Clean Energy Resource Team (Central CERT) hosted the tour in collaboration with the City of Royalton and its local Youth Energy Summit (YES!) Team. Participants heard from Mayor Andrea Lauer and learned about Minnesota GreenStep Cities, community-scale energy efficiency measures, solar energy, energy retrofits, and projects by Youth Energy Summit (YES!) Team, including oil recycling, and more!

Who is CERTs, anyway?

Sarah Hayden Shaw, Central CERT Coordinator, kicked off the event by talking about community energy and the value of collaborating together and learning from each other’s projects. The City of Royalton is a perfect place to highlight this sort of collaboration. The City is part of Minnesota GreenStep Cities and has been implementing several best practices in order to become more sustainable and resilient. There are also a number of projects underway in the community and the day’s event gave attendees a snapshot of all sorts of efforts underway in and around Royalton. Download her presentation >>


Retro Green Energy recently fixed significant air leakage at local congregation

We kicked things off with a presentation from Chris Froelke, owner of Retro Green Energy. After working with a few local residents, Chris was recruited to help a local congregation. During a free energy audit, he noted that there was significant air leakage in the roof area of Holy Trinity Church. The old insulation was removed (seven 30-yard dumpsters worth); exposing a 1 1/2-inch crack running the entire length of the church roof, which had caused paint issues and high air leakage. “We spray-foamed everything and then blew in cellulose insulation,” said Froelke. Check out Chris’ presentation (with pictures!) below. Download his presentation >>


What about Royalton Mayor Andrea Lauer and her groupies?

Much to the delight of the Andrea Lauer groupies in the room (many CERTs folks among them), next up was Mayor Andrea Lauer to talk about the city’s efforts in implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Andrea spoke about her approach to getting things started in Royalton. As the economy was taking a downturn, she felt that the City needed to look at options to really save tax payer dollars. Royalton started with a project that would let them get their feet wet, but hopefully really deliver some savings: replacement of the traffic signal bulbs with LED bulbs. By changing bulbs that were 100-150 watts each to bulbs that were 10-watt LED bulbs, Lauer stated “we were excited to see the benefit to the environment and to the bottom line for our city”.

“It’s not often I look forward to receiving bills, but I could hardly wait to get that first utility bill!” said Lauer excitedly. “It was cut in half. That very first success prompted us to look further.” They deemed the next natural step would be to have an energy audit completed on city buildings and school buildings. They uncovered big savings potential. With those successes on efficiency under their belts, they decided to look into renewables. Andrea proudly shared “the best story of all”. Royalton’s 7.55 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system was manufactured by tenKsolar and installed by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance. The solar installation is located on the roof of City Hall. Comparing the baseline year 2010, before the solar PV installation and other efficiency measures were implemented, City Hall’s electric use has decreased from about 50,000 kWh to 31,000 kWh.

“The total cost of the project would be $83,000. So we tried something pretty ‘off the wall,’” Lauer said. “We leased the roof to a for-profit company, Sundial Solar. They received a federal tax credit of 30 percent. The city then received a rebate from our local utility for $16,000.” Lauer explained that the remaining cost to the city was $8,200, paid over five years for an annual payment of about $1,600. Being that the efficiency measures and solar PV generation combined reduced the energy use for the city by 39 percent and $1,700 per year, this means the city actually made money on the project.

This solar photovoltaic system contributes to the stats of the Minnesota B3 Benchmarking rating, which deemed the building uses only about one fifth of the energy compared to a new building built to current energy codes. Learn more by visiting the B3 Benchmarking tool if you’re interested in learning about how your city can save energy and money by managing your buildings, improving your building portfolio efficiently, and monitoring the improvements.

Royalton in the design phase for project with Sheerwind

Building on these effort, the City of Royalton has also begun working with a local venture called Sheerwind. This Minnesota company has 14 projects in the design phase, including one in Royalton. They gave an overview of their technology and their vision for its implementation. Download their presentation >>

What has the YES! Team been working on at the Royalton High School?

The Youth Energy Summit (YES!) Team shared YES’s work with Royalton High School. Soon-to-be-sophomores Molly Presler and Alli Moga wowed and engaged the attendees by explaining projects they’ve been working on since eighth grade with YES!. After the presentation at City Hall, attendees carpooled to visit Youth Energy Summit (YES!) team’s oil recycling facility at the high school. Both Molly and Alli, proudly positioned next to their bikes, waved attendees to the site down the road. The oil recycling facility makes it easy for everyone to discard their used car oil in an environmentally friendly fashion, where previously there hadn’t been any good options. Molly and Alli explained that the oil collection bin was donated by East Side Oil Company and the operation was started in the 2012-2013 school year. Download their presentation >>


Touring Popps’ family farm with solar and wind installations

Following the short oil recycling pit stop, attendees again carpooled in order to see the Popps’ family farm which included both a wind turbine, a solar photovoltaic installation, adorable animals and four of the nicest people you’ve ever met! Doug and Jane shared their process and approach to making the best decisions they could for the future of their farm and their kids. The Popps engaged the 30+ people on the tour by walking everyone through how they applied for grants, how the installation process worked with both projects, and how they have saved money by implementing both solar photovoltaic and wind turbines on their property.

Doug Popp reiterated a good point that many folks may or may not know, which was that his solar panels did very well this last winter with the late spring, due to the sun’s reflection off of the snow. “It’s been more cost-effective to use the solar power,” said Popp. Doug noted that their solar panels do not require the maintenance that the wind turbine does; also the solar panels were slightly cheaper to install. Concluding the tour, the family was very generous in offering a tour of their family farm, followed by serving everyone ice cream (with a delicious array of toppings) in their nicely decorated barn. It was a perfect way to end the day.

Thanks to all of our wonderful speakers and hosts!

See more photos from the event:

See presentations below and more info:

Local Government Energy Action About the Local Government Energy Action Series:

This effort tells the stories of Minnesota municipalities, counties, and schools and the tangible results of their energy-saving efforts to inspire others to take their own actions. See all stories in this series >>