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Attendees chatting about super exciting energy efficiency opportunities, all made possible by building benchmarking!
Chris Meyer
12/11/2017 - 2:13pm
Remember the movie Toy Story and that phrase, “To Infinity and Beyond!”? That was the basis for the name “Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond” or B3, and it was with that same sort of enthusiasm—but for energy efficiency—that Southeast Clean Energy Resource Team (SE CERT) kicked off a workshop on December 1st for local governments and schools looking to save energy in their buildings, kindly hosted at People’s Energy Cooperative in Oronoco. Cheri Schneider of the Weidt Group started the session with a rapid-fire overview of the public building benchmarking part of B3. Click here to download her presentation. In short, Cheri’s key messages were that B3 benchmarking allows you and your decision makers to better understand how your buildings’ energy use compares with...
Community solar garden from above | Credit: Metropolitan Council
Trevor Drake
11/20/2017 - 4:31pm
Since its launch in 2014, Xcel Energy’s community solar garden program in Minnesota has driven a growing conversation about solar energy options and opportunities, especially among local government staff and elected officials. Local governments are sought after as solar garden subscribers for their large and often stable electric loads, excellent credit scores, and interest in opportunities to reduce energy costs and meet public goals on clean energy. However, local governments are also thoughtful about conducting due diligence around new opportunities like community solar. While solar garden proposals tend to be relatively low-risk, they are almost always 20-25 year contracts. The exact terms and pricing of these contracts can vary significantly among different developers, and require time and attention to compare proposals and make decisions. At the...
Students measure the heat differences of lightbulbs using an infrared thermometer during the “Get Current” with Alexis from CERTs
Ali Dahmes
11/14/2017 - 1:38pm
The 11th Annual Fall Summit, held at Saint John’s University this year, engaged over 200 students and coaches from 14 Youth Energy Summit (YES!) teams from central and southern Minnesota. Students participated in sessions like “Get Current,” “The Climate is Changing, Are you?,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Water, Water, Everywhere, We Really Need to Care,” “Waste Not,” and “Pushing Your Limits” that connected them with peers, engaged them in tools for success, and demonstrated project ideas as they head into the 2017-18 YES! season. The theme for this year’s Fall Summit was “Say YES! to Living Green.” YES! was fortunate to have multiple speakers on careers presenting on how they became successful in their environmental field. Two of the big highlights at the summit this year were the climbing wall and 34-foot Voyageur canoe from Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center. YES! works...
Waconia Public Schools third-party solar ribbon cutting
Peter Lindstrom
11/02/2017 - 4:36pm
Minneapolis, Champlin, Forest Lake Area Schools, Lester Prairie, Dakota County, Waconia Public Schools. What do these local governments and schools districts have in common? They are just a sample of public entities that have utilized third-party financing as a means to place solar arrays on their facilities. Third-party financing is an innovative tool for public entities to tap into long-term energy cost savings without requiring large up-front capital expenditures. Local governments and schools are great locations for solar: large, flat roofs, lots of expensive electrical load, a commitment to sustainability, and a guarantee that they’ll never go out of business. However, since governments can’t take advantage of federal tax credits for solar, the projects often don’t pencil out financially. Third-party financing is a popular means to overcome this barrier. It occurs in two...
Ice dam on a home in winter
MN Dept. of Commerce
11/01/2017 - 12:06pm
Before winter gets into full swing, Minnesota homeowners have the opportunity to act now to help prevent ice dams and costly water damage to ceilings and walls.   What’s the problem?   Ice dams are primarily caused by the presence of warm air in the attic, combined with snow on the roof and the right weather conditions, with outside air temperatures near freezing. When heat leaks into the attic, it melts the underside of the snow on the roof. The water then flows down the roof surface until it reaches a cold spot, such as the eaves or soffit, where it forms a frozen dam. The ice buildup can back up under the shingles, damaging the roof and allowing water to leak to the ceilings and walls below. Any penetration into the attic space (around wires, plumbing vents, light fixtures, chimneys, knee walls) is a potential for air leaks. Inadequate insulation,...
Blower door test to find leaks during energy audit. Photo courtesy Home Energy Squad
Chris Meyer
11/01/2017 - 9:25am
Safety. This is one of the unheralded benefits of a home energy audit, and a small Southeast CERT Seed Grant which helped fund 17 energy audits in Winona County led to the replacement of furnaces in two low-income households. The audits also included weatherization services and can be credited with reducing 7,500 kWh of electricity and 1,500 therms of natural gas use annually (enough electric savings for one year’s worth in the average MN home, and enough gas savings for two years). “This not only saved money for the recipients,” noted Chris Meyer, Southeast CERT Coordinator, “but each dollar spent towards energy efficiency returns four dollars of benefits to the community by reducing the need for new energy infrastructure, reducing pollution, and supporting local jobs.” Southeast CERT’s $1,000 Seed Grant contributed to a larger collaborative effort leveraging about $55,000 in...
Matt McFarland
Lissa Pawlisch
11/01/2017 - 8:10am
CERTs is pleased to welcome Matt McFarland as our new coordinator for the Northwest region! Over the past year and a half, Matt has worked at Headwaters Regional Development Commission in Bemidji, Minnesota. Some of his duties include managing projects for the subsidiary Housing Corporation, DEED Small Cities Grants administration, transportation work on behalf of MnDOT, and working with MHFA to administer Rental Rehabilitation Loan Funding. He’s excited to add work on clean energy across the Northwest CERT region to this list of projects! Matt is a native of Northwest Minnesota, growing up in the small community of Alvarado. Having grown up near North Dakota and relocating to Bemidji, he hopes to connect and represent the entire Northwest CERT region. Matt is an avid runner, enjoys books and “good” tv shows, and deeply appreciates driving by beautiful Lake Bemidji at least...
Energy-themed pumpkin stencils
Dan Thiede
10/31/2017 - 10:17am
As Energy Awareness Month comes to a close, celebrate with these clean energy-themed pumpkin stencils! It’s a fun way to energize your neighborhood and teach your kids about energy efficiency and renewable energy. While you’re at it, you can also avoid cold weather terrors like phantom power and see tips for bundling up your house before winter hits. Or check out our Right Light App to find the perfect LED bulbs to keep you out of the dark… Click here to download the energy-themed pumpkin patterns (created by the U.S. Department of Energy). Have a safe and...
City of Shorewood
Diana McKeown
10/27/2017 - 10:08am
On October 25, 2017, Metro CERT paid a visit to Shorewood, MN to talk to small businesses about energy-saving projects. CERT hoped to raise awareness about opportunities available through rebates and programs offered by their utilities. From the chocolatier to the VFW hall, we had lively conversations about how to save money for these local businesses and organizations. During the visit, Metro CERT staff were able to talk with more than 30 businesses. We even had the pleasure of Shorewood Councilmember Kristine Sundberg joining us for these one-on-on conversations with businesses. CERTs brought materials from CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy to distribute to business owners. One of the reasons Councilmember Sundberg is passionate about talking to businesses about energy saving opportunities is because Shorewood is one of Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy communities. Through this...
Solar at Enchanted Meadows
Fritz Ebinger
10/16/2017 - 3:16pm
High on the bluffs above the Mississippi River, near the town of La Crescent, Minnesota, is Enchanted Meadows Organic Dairy Farm. This enterprise is owned by Art and Jean Thicke, and has been in the Thicke family for over 85 years. The conversion to organic was completed in 2005, and they became members of Westby Cooperative Creamery in 2008. Chad and Melissa Crowley, and family, help operate the farm on a partnerships basis with Art and Jean; and three years ago (2013), the Crowley’s purchased an ownership position. Daily operations include animal care for 90 Ayrshire milking cows, and 28 bred heifers and 28 heifer calves; plus, the management and working of 230 acres of cropland. Much of this cropland is pasture, needed to help feed the cows in a rotational grazing program; moving from pasture to pasture over seven months of the year. This natural environment of pasture...


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