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The Get Answers series offers useful tips from CERTs and our partners to help you get to the bottom of your energy efficiency and renewable energy questions.

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36 Lyn Refuel Station
Joel Haskard
Fri, 04/03/2015 - 9:06am
The Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTs) is spearheading a statewide campaign, Light Up Your Station & Save, to help convenience stores reduce energy and maintenance costs and improve their businesses with LED lighting. We spoke with Lonnie McQuirter, owner of the 36 Lyn Refuel Station at 36th Street & Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis. Joel Haskard: Why did you decide to upgrade your canopy lights to LEDs? We have been familiar with LED technology for some time. However, price and financial incentives as well as the long-term reliability of LED lights became clear to us a couple years ago (2013). I was tired of pulling out our 24-foot ladder in the brisk winters to change out our old metal halide bulbs. The ballasts, which use even more energy beyond the bulb itself, also were a pain to deal with. Joel Haskard: Have you seen a reduction in...
Made in Minnesota Solar Thermal Rebate Program
Joel Haskard
Fri, 03/27/2015 - 1:44pm
More Minnesotans will have access to affordable solar thermal systems after the Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that it will offer rebates beginning March 18 to residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government entities as part of its Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program. “Moving to solar thermal can help smooth spikes in heating costs by using renewable energy as a complement to current heating sources, whether it’s propane, natural gas, wood or electricity,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “The rebates will now help make installing solar heating a more affordable option for Minnesota businesses and residents.” The solar incentive program includes up to $250,000 per year in rebates for the installation of “Made in Minnesota”...
Lake Region Electric Cooperative's Community Solar Garden Project
Dan Thiede
Mon, 03/23/2015 - 4:50pm
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet Jim and Carol: Jim Johnson serves on the Board of Directors of the Pelican Rapids Area Economic Development Corporation. Recently, he and his wife, Carol, decided to invest in the Lake Region Electric Cooperative’s solar garden because of their green values and their appreciation for home-grown energy projects. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the Lake Region Electric Cooperative community solar project? Jim & Carol: I decided to purchase a solar energy panel because I believe in self-sustaining...
Lake Region Electric Cooperative's Community Solar Garden Project
Dan Thiede
Sun, 03/22/2015 - 4:41pm
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet Gary and Betty: Gary and Betty Dagen are both retired and live in Barnesville, MN. Based on their desire to reduce their environmental impact, they bought as much solar from the Lake Region Electric Cooperative (LREC) as the community solar program would allow. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the Lake Region Electric Cooperative community solar project? Gary and Betty: We decided to lower our carbon footprint and solar panels at our home in the woods were not feasible. CERTs: What was the...
Tri-County Electric Cooperative Renewable Rays community solar garden
Dan Thiede
Fri, 02/06/2015 - 4:06pm
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet Douglas: Douglas Falch and his brother Denis of Winona, MN are now retired after working at the Winona Dairy Queen for many years. They found the community solar subscription process very straightforward and are happy with Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s management of the Renewable Rays community solar garden project. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s Renewable Rays community solar project? Douglas: My brother Denis and I were...
Tri-County Electric Cooperative Renewable Rays community solar garden
Dan Thiede
Fri, 02/06/2015 - 3:55pm
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet Christine and Tom: Christine and Tom Custer live in Brownsville, MN and are both wildlife biologists at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, WI. They’re offsetting much of their average monthly electrical usage with the solar panels they purchased through Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s Renewable Rays community solar garden. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s Renewable Rays community solar project?...
John and Rachel Egan - community solar subscribers to the Connexus Energy SolarWise program
Dan Thiede
Fri, 01/23/2015 - 3:24pm
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet Rachel & John Egan: Rachel Egan of Blaine, MN is a hand therapist with NovaCare, and her husband John is a primary care physician in an internal medicine private practice on the Abbott Northwestern campus. When their new neighborhood association forbade solar installations on homeowners’ roofs, they turned to community solar as an alternative. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the Connexus Energy SolarWise community solar garden? Rachel & John...
Eric Schilling and family - community solar subscribers to the Connexus Energy SolarWise program
Dan Thiede
Fri, 01/23/2015 - 3:15pm
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet Eric: Eric Schilling of Ham Lake works on designs for next generation pacemakers and defibrillators as a biomedical engineer at Medtronic. He and his family are also proudly powering half of their home energy use with community solar. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the Connexus Energy SolarWise community solar garden? Eric Schilling: I’ve always been interested in minimizing my environmental impact. I had been hoping to install a solar array on the...
David stands in front of the WHE community solar project with his yard sign
Dan Thiede
Mon, 01/12/2015 - 10:46am
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers, and they’re taking root in Minnesota. Here at CERTs we wanted to learn more about the experiences of subscribers in Minnesota and share them with others who are curious about community solar. Meet David: David Schmidt is a research engineer at the University of Minnesota and teaches a course on renewable energy. He had already cut back on his energy use at his home in Corcoran, MN and converted to LED lights. For a long time he was intrigued by the idea of generating power from the sun, but had never taken the next step—until community solar came along. CERTs: Why did you decide to subscribe to the community solar project at Wright-Hennepin Cooperative...
Snow sits on traffic lights in the winter
Sarah Hayden Shaw
Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:34am
I heard a question recently about LED traffic signals and wanted to craft a response. Check out the question and answer below, then learn more about a Minnesota community’s experience. Question: I’ve heard LED traffic signal lights can present a problem in the northern climates. The concern is that the efficient LEDs, which put off very little heat, will need to have snow and ice removal maintenance, because the waste heat that previously melted the snow/ice is no longer there. Is this true? Answer: To find an answer to this question, I started by asking Andrea Lauer, mayor of Royalton, MN about her experience. Sarah: Your LED signals have been up for a few years now, has your city experienced any problems with this? If so, how do you address it? Andrea: We discussed the issue of possible snow/ice build up on LED lights before making the switch. We felt that if we had a...
USDA Rural Development
Alexis Troschinetz
Wed, 01/07/2015 - 4:28pm
The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) from USDA Rural Development is a great opportunity for Minnesota farmers and rural businesses to save energy with efficiency work and add renewable energy systems. Grants can cover up to 25% of eligible project costs, and loans can cover up to 75% of eligible project costs. The funding has just been opened for 2015, and there is twice as much money available as usual (which may mean you have an even better chance of being funded). There is also a shorter application that can be completed without the help of a grant writer for smaller projects. See details below!   What is REAP all about, and how can I learn more?   The Basics: This year there will be two application windows for the renewable energy or energy efficiency grants: April 30 and June 30 Projects requesting grants of $20,000 ($80,000 total project cost) or...
Made-In-Minnesota Solar Rebate Program
MN Dept. of Commerce
Mon, 01/05/2015 - 4:38pm
Applications for the second year of the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program will be accepted beginning January 1 and ending February 28, 2015. The program, entering its second year, helps fund new solar electric and solar thermal systems for Minnesota residents, businesses, and communities. The program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.   Program’s first year boosts state’s solar capacity   In 2014, the first year of the Made in Minnesota program, funding was awarded for 343 solar electric (or photovoltaic [PV]) projects and 20 solar thermal installations. The PV projects equal about 5.1 megawatts (MW) of electric capacity—equal to more than one-third of the state’s total solar capacity of 14 MW when the program began January 1, 2014. Over 10 years, the program is expected to help fund 4,000 solar installations and increase...
Keep your home cozy while saving energy this winter
Dan Thiede
Mon, 01/05/2015 - 1:54pm
It’s cold again (really cold), which means we’re all looking for ways to save on energy costs. From the high-tech to the practical, here are some ways to make this winter an energy-saving (and money-saving) opportunity! Follow these tips and enjoy low energy costs from the warmth of your home: Install weather-stripping, caulk leaky doors, and seal your home. If you’re able, adding insulation to your walls and attic is another key way to keep that precious heated air from escaping. Turn down the heat! Lower your thermostat before leaving the house for extended periods. Using a programmable thermostat is a great way to effortlessly adjust the temperature based on your schedule. Change the filter on your furnace once a month so your furnace can breathe easy...
Recycle your holiday lights
Dan Thiede
Mon, 01/05/2015 - 1:19pm
As you’re taking down the holiday lights in the coming weeks, you now have the option to recycle any that didn’t make it and avoid having to deal with a tangled mess of lights next season! The Recycling Association of Minnesota, ACE hardware stores, WCCO TV, and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) are once again working together to provide the Recycle Your Holidays program to Minnesotans. RYH is the only holiday light recycling program of its kind in the country. Who is involved? RAM provides the collection bins and collection services for ACE store customers and other businesses and organizations across Minnesota to recycle holiday lights during the holiday season. CERTs provides the map of these nearly 500 drop-off locations. Vocational centers and their clients are contracted by RAM to provide the pick-up service and sort the thousands of pounds of holiday...
CERTs Community Solar Garden resources
Lissa Pawlisch
Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:35pm
The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) have been receiving questions from across Minnesota about Community Solar Gardens. During many of these conversations it became clear that communities needed resources they could use to help subscribers understand how community solar works and what they needed to know. To meet these needs, CERTs and our partners have compiled a suite of resources open for use by individuals, communities, and solar companies alike to help everyone make well-informed decisions regarding Community Solar Garden projects.   CERTs Guide to Community Solar Gardens   The CERTs Guide to Community Solar Gardens provides an introduction to key concepts and definitions. It was created to illustrate how community solar gardens work, why people might be interested in subscribing, how...
EV event at the capitol
Joel Haskard
Thu, 09/18/2014 - 9:26am
The big National Drive Electric Week event is coming up this weekend—Sunday, September 21st from 1:00 to 4:00pm at the State Capitol Mall. To learn more about the event and electric vehicles (EVs) in general, we spoke with Matthew Blackner, Founder of ZEF Energy. Joel Haskard: Who should come out to this event? Matthew Blackner: Ever wondered what the fuss was all about? Want to cut through the marketing guff and ask ACTUAL owners what the limitations are and how to deal with them? Then this event is for you! If you like what you hear, or want to feel what it is like to drive a car with instant torque, there is a test drive of a fleet electric vehicles round a track on the Thursday afterwards. Joel: What is something surprising folks might not know about EVs in...
A home with solar in Minneapolis
Trevor Drake
Thu, 07/10/2014 - 11:23am
We often receive questions from homeowners about how to get started with energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Recently a gentleman named Jim in Corcoran, MN reached out to us with a question on this topic, and we decided to share the answer with everyone in the hopes that it will help you, too.   The Question Hello, I am a homeowner in Corcoran (Hennepin County). My family and I are very interested in learning more about energy alternatives for heating and cooling our residence. Last winter, we, like many others, took a big financial hit with the cost of propane; we’d like to reduce — or eliminate — our dependence on it. We are especially interested in a system that would include the integration of solar and geothermal. (And anything else you may suggest.) Can someone come out to our home and assess our energy needs, then make some recommendations to us?...
Installing LED street lights | Photo courtesy Lyon-Lincoln Electric
Lissa Pawlisch
Wed, 07/09/2014 - 1:52pm
An LED street lighting forum was hosted at the League of Minnesota Cities Annual Conference on June 19th, where a packed room of 40 people learned first-hand from a tremendously knowledgeable line-up of speakers from across Minnesota. Is your city in the dark about LED street lighting retrofits? Learn how the technology works, as well as the benefits to your city’s operational budget. See presentations below from city representatives about their experiences and lessons learned, and get tips for picking the right kind of light and selecting a lighting contractor for your project.     Presentation – LED street lighting: What it is and how it has worked for us   Blake Redfield, City of St. Cloud Download presentation   |  ...
Saving Energy and Money at Home When You’re Away on Summer Vacation
MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 5:12pm
Are you planning an extended summer vacation—one week, two weeks, or more? Before leaving town, there are several simple steps you can take to save energy in your home—and save money. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has come up with the 5 money and energy saving tips: Turn down the temperature on your water heater. Water heating accounts for up to 20 percent of annual energy costs in a Minnesota home. No sense heating the water if you are not home to use it. Instead of the recommended setting of 120 degrees F, lower the temperature 10-20 degrees or turn the control knob to “vacation mode.” Read more to cut water heating bills. Set your thermostat (programmable or manual) at a higher temperature than usual. Again, no sense cooling your home if you’re not there. The Environmental Protection Agency...
Discovering answers to questions about LED Street Lighting
Lissa Pawlisch
Wed, 06/11/2014 - 2:00pm
During our February CERT Conference back in 2013 several regions expressed interest in LED Street Lighting. Since that time interest has only grown and there are many local governments starting to move forward with projects – including a few CERT Seed Grant Recipients. To help ourselves better respond to questions about LED street lighting we began to sift through recent reports to tease out answers to the most common questions we were hearing. Rather than keep that to ourselves, we decided we’d be better off sharing that information with all of you. Here goes! The first question we were often asked was, “Is there funding for LED Street Lighting Retrofits?” The short answer is, maybe. The longer answer is that some utilities in Minnesota have LED Street Lighting rebates. Your best bet would be to talk directly with your local utility about what rebates they have to support this sort...
Made-In-Minnesota Solar Thermal Rebate Program
MN Dept. of Commerce
Tue, 05/20/2014 - 2:48pm
Are you on delivered fuels and looking for a way to supplement your winter heating needs? Or perhaps you’re just ready to transition to renewable energy? Solar thermal may be a good fit… and better yet there are rebates to help buy down the cost for those systems. Read on for details! What’s the rebate? Solar thermal energy is a technology for harnessing solar energy for thermal energy (heat). A Made-In-Minnesota Rebate Program is available in Alliant Energy, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power Company, and Xcel Energy territory for people who install solar thermal systems made by certified solar thermal system manufacturers and installed by a factory authorized solar thermal installer. For the purposes of the Made in Minnesota program, a “Solar Thermal System” means a flat plate or evacuated tube with a fixed orientation that collects the sun’s radiant energy and...
Healthy, green homes
Stacey Pederson
Thu, 04/24/2014 - 2:13pm
Both homeowners and renters can benefit from home improvements that promote energy efficiency and improve indoor air quality. Raising the bar on air quality and energy performance at home helps reduce heating and cooling costs, saves energy, and improves occupant health and comfort. To help consumers better understand the strategies and product options available to them, HUD’s (Housing and Urban Development) Office of Policy Development and Research has developed the Guide to Energy-Efficient and Healthy Homes. The Guide is a new section of their website that provides concise descriptions in an easy-to-navigate format. Adopting energy-efficiency measures can also reduce both a home’s carbon footprint and the nation’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. This guide...

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Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission