Utilities Blog Posts


Castle Community
Chris Meyer
Wed, 01/23/2019 - 4:37pm
A unique collaboration brought energy modeling and efficiency measures into the renovation of the former National Guard Armory in Rochester—now dubbed the Castle Community. The measures are expected to reduce energy use by 20% when the building reopens as a multi-use space consisting of a restaurant, artist studios, gallery, and community gathering and events center. Building a Team General contractor Benike Construction wanted to promote efficiency in the Castle Community redevelopment. They approached the project owner, Scott Hoss, and then enlisted the help of Dru Larson from Rochester Public Utilities (RPU), and Kevin Bright, Energy and Sustainability Director at Destination Medical Center (DMC). Together...
Minnesota Energy Efficiency Potential Study
Dept. of Commerce
Thu, 12/13/2018 - 2:05pm
Minnesota utilities should be able to continue to meet or exceed their annual energy-savings goals over the next decade, according to the Minnesota Energy Efficiency Potential Study: 2020-2029 prepared for the Minnesota Department of Commerce and released on Dec. 4. The study was led by the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) and funded by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program. The study outlines how utilities can continue their success with both existing and new energy-saving measures that benefit Minnesota households and businesses. It estimates that by 2029 utility conservation programs could decrease demand for electricity by 14% and by 11% for natural gas....
David and Lissa facilitate conversation after the film screening and presentations
Lissa Pawlisch
Mon, 12/03/2018 - 4:43pm
On November 27, over 140 people from the Red River Valley attended a film screening of the new documentary, The Power of Minnesota, that took take place at the Historic Fargo Theatre. Event highlights included a social with appetizers, presentations from local speakers, a screening of the documentary, and a community conversation to explore the Red River Valley’s clean energy developments. Read on to see all of the details!   The Program   The Historic Fargo Theatre was bustling with more than 140 attendees chatting over appetizers before the program started. At 7pm David Ripplinger from North Dakota State University Extension welcomed everyone and, with help from Lissa Pawlisch at the Clean Energy Resource Teams, thanked partners (Prairie Public, City of Moorhead, NDSU Extension, UMN Extension, and CERTs). We...
Local government staff join tour of energy efficiency improvements at Mankato State University
Chris Meyer
Tue, 11/20/2018 - 2:43pm
On Thursday, November 1st, Southeast Clean Energy Resource Teams (SE CERT) hosted a “Capturing Savings from Public Building Energy Efficiency: Benchmarking through Financing – Getting your Project Done” session at the Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Centennial Student Union. CERTs has worked for years to reinforce that the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use. Turns out that the 50 attendees at the event know that’s true and were enthusiastic to hear from the range of speakers about varying strategies for reducing the impact of energy costs on their bottom line.   Strategy 1: Energy Benchmarking!   Cheri Schneider of the Weidt Group kicked off the session with an introduction to the key elements of the Buildings, Benchmarks and Beyond—B3—Benchmarking Tool. Cheri highlighted the different...
Bill Sanford at Lakeland PBS leading a tour. Photo by Sarah Gazelka
Joel Anastasio
Thu, 10/18/2018 - 4:43pm
Back to back clean energy events at Lakeland PBS on Thursday October 11th featured a tour of solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency projects, a screening of a new MN clean energy documentary, and local speakers.   Geeking out: Touring clean energy projects at Lakeland PBS in Bemidji   An afternoon event featured a behind-the-scenes tour of the Lakeland PBS facility, including their cost-saving solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency projects. Over 40 people from Bemidji and across the region attended the tour, with interests ranging from sustainability to economics, and from technology to community engagement. Bill Sanford, CEO and Director of Engineering at Lakeland PBS, led the tours and elaborated on their energy projects and how others could do the same. “We’re excited to be partnering with...
The Power of Minnesota evening in Canby
Lissa Pawlisch
Mon, 10/01/2018 - 4:56pm
On September 18th, over 100 people gathered at the Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Canby for the first official screening of The Power of Minnesota documentary. Pioneer Public Television also unveiled a segment of an upcoming Prairie Sportsman episode that features solar and pollinator habitat (and honey and beer and cider). The Power of Minnesota film is about people, their communities, and their stories about clean energy development around the state. Following the screenings, participants shared conversations with their neighbors about what they learned and what surprised them about the film. For example: people we shocked to learn that there are nearly 60,000 clean energy jobs in Minnesota! They shared their clean energy questions: for example, how do we get more youth engaged in the clean energy industry and careers?...
Diamond Pointe Apartments in South Minneapolis
MN Dept. of Commerce
Fri, 09/14/2018 - 9:47am
There are great incentives for multifamily building owners—and their tenants—to make energy efficiency improvements. Just ask Grant Hartley, building manager and co-owner of Diamond Pointe Apartments in South Minneapolis. “With the change-out to LEDs and other energy-saving measures, tenants may only see savings of $2-3 a month on their electric bills. But collectively, the savings are significant and add up,” shared Grant Hartley, co-owner and manager of Diamond Pointe Apartments in Minneapolis. “The program is really a win-win situation for my tenants and me.” Hartley learned of the Multifamily Building Efficiency Program, a joint Conservation Improvement Program of Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy, in a flyer inserted with his monthly utility bill. He learned more and signed up for the program...
Xcel Energy Partners In Energy Program
Tami Gunderzik
Fri, 05/11/2018 - 11:36am
Although Minnesota communities share a common belief of how important a healthy environment is to both our economy and lifestyle, there are many ways of putting that value into action. Finding ways to engage local businesses and residents to make a contribution toward a clean energy plan is an approach that works. Eighteen communities in Minnesota have participated in Partners in Energy to develop a plan that helps them identify where they want to go with respect to energy and how to best achieve those goals, and now there is an opportunity for even more to share in their success. Xcel Energy is now accepting applications for the next cohort of communities to join Partners in Energy....
Photos from the 2018 CERTs Conference
Lissa Pawlisch
Fri, 04/06/2018 - 12:54pm
Over 500 Minnesotans attended the seventh statewide CERTs Conference, connecting to build a clean energy future in their communities! March 28-29 were two truly energizing days in St. Cloud, MN for the 2018 CERTs Conference. Communities, organizations, and individuals showed up to figure out how they can get projects done, save money, and be part of Minnesota’s fastest growing jobs sector. See photos from the event:   Conference presentations available for download   The 2018 CERTs Conference featured 80 speakers who shared their experience and expertise. Their presentations are now available so you can see what you...
Tina Koecher with Minnesota Power
Dan Thiede
Wed, 02/28/2018 - 3:55pm
The Minnesota Women in Energy series highlights influential women who are part of our state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. CERTs is highlighting these leaders during the month of March in 2018, which is Women’s History Month, culminating in a reception at the 2018 CERTs Conference in St. Cloud on March 28th. As part of the series we interviewed Tina Koecher, Manager of Customer Solutions with Minnesota Power, to learn more about her work, what inspires her, and how other women can get involved in the industry. Read on to learn more! Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in the energy world in Minnesota?   Tina Koecher: I work for Minnesota Power, an electric utility based in Duluth that is...
CERTs Seed Grants
Lissa Pawlisch
Thu, 02/01/2018 - 4:55pm
The Clean Energy Resource Teams are excited to announce 39 Seed Grant awards to organizations in our seven regions! Each region awarded around $20,000, catalyzing energy efficiency and renewable energy across the state. CERTs has awarded more than $1 million to over 300 projects since 2006. Continue reading to explore a map of projects and see details about each of the grants. To learn more about past funded projects, visit our CERTs Seed Grants page. Download a PDF with all projects   |   Download a Press Release   |   Share on Facebook and Twitter...
Pictured is the 7 MW Buffalo Solar installation
Joel Haskard
Thu, 01/25/2018 - 9:54am
The Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (MMPA) has committed to purchasing 100 percent of the renewable power output from the Buffalo Solar facility. The 7 Megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar facility, located in the Agency’s member community of Buffalo, Minn., has entered commercial operation and is now providing power to local homes and businesses. Joseph Steffel, Utilities Director for Buffalo Municipal Utilities said, “We are excited to have this renewable power generation asset in our community.” The Buffalo Solar facility, comprised of more than 25,000 solar panels, connects directly to the City of Buffalo’s electric distribution system. Power from the facility will help MMPA meet the Minnesota Renewable Energy Standard, which requires 25 percent of the Agency’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. Oncu Er...
Map of Xcel Energy’s hosting capacity analysis
Laura Hannah
Wed, 01/24/2018 - 11:38am
This blog is being re-posted with permission from the original by Laura Hannah at Fresh Energy. It’s here! The highly anticipated second iteration of Xcel Energy’s hosting capacity analysis has been published. The tool provides public transparency into the results of 1,047 feeder models analyzing the ability of the grid to host distributed energy resources (like a community solar garden) without adversely impacting power quality or reliability. This user-friendly tool tells us where new energy systems can be connect to the grid most efficiently. A (much) better mouse trap: This year’s version is accompanied by a map! The image at the top of the post is a snapshot of Xcel’s twin cities service territory. The...
Image credit: Wikimedia
Trevor Drake
Thu, 01/11/2018 - 11:33am
This blog is an excerpt from an article in Utility Dive. Some say pilot projects are a way to avoid the risk of real innovation, but a proposed Xcel Energy pilot to test time-of-use (TOU) rates is charging at innovation and winning praise as it goes. Xcel’s objectives are to find out how to effectively engage customers and if price signals can get customers to shift energy usage away from the peak, Aakash Chandarana, Xcel VP of Rates and Regulatory Affairs, told Utility Dive. Utility surveys consistently find customers “don’t really care,” he said. “This pilot will allow Xcel to test what our customers truly want.” The program is expected to drive greater use of renewables and reduce peak demand. Initial reactions are positive from a range of stakeholders...
Solar Plus Storage at Hartley Nature Center in Duluth, MN
Lissa Pawlisch
Thu, 12/14/2017 - 9:58am
On Tuesday, December 5th nearly 30 hardy Minnesotans ventured out on one of the first really cold days of the season to join Northeast Clean Energy Resource Team (NE CERT) to learn about the solar plus battery storage project at Hartley Nature Center. While solar and storage are frequently discussed, there are few examples up and running in Minnesota that one can actually visit and learn from. Not only that, there are even fewer such systems that are done as retrofits to older solar arrays. Hartley’s project is an excellent example of both! What is Hartley Nature Center all about? Hartley Nature Center is an environmental learning center that hosts a pre-school as well as numerous kid summer camps and adult educational forums (such as this Regional CERT Meeting!). As a center designed around environmental education, this energy project falls...
Kim Norton from Rochester
Chris Meyer
Wed, 12/13/2017 - 2:06pm
Kim Norton is currently a member of the Rochester, MN Rochester Energy Commission. Kim and her husband Randy have recently subscribed to the Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) Solar Choice community solar garden to reduce their use of fossil fuels while powering their electric vehicles. Chris Meyer with CERTs asked Kim to share her experience signing up to RPU’s community solar garden. RPU Solar Choice is made available through the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, which has contracted to buy electricity from a 5 megawatt solar PV garden near Owatonna, MN. The solar array is powering several other Solar Choice programs for SMMPA member utilities (such as Austin Utilities SolarChoice). The RPU Solar Choice program is accepting subscriptions through the end of December 2017....
Blower door test to find leaks during energy audit. Photo courtesy Home Energy Squad
Chris Meyer
Wed, 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...
Tour participants gathered for a big group photo in front of Detroit Lake’s Community Solar Garden
Maggie Kozak
Tue, 10/10/2017 - 4:27pm
On October 3rd, over 30 people joined a clean energy tour in Detroit Lakes hosted by Detroit Lakes Public Utilities, Missouri River Energy Services (MRES), and Central Clean Energy Resource Team (Central CERT). Community Solar Ribbon Cutting: Tour participants boarded a charter bus (kindly provided by Missouri River Energy Services!) and set off to see the Ribbon Cutting of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities’ Community Solar installation. Red ribbon and scissors in hand, folks from the Chamber of Commerce, local officials, Detroit Lakes Public Utilities Commission, Senator Kent Eken, and Josh Mason of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities cut the ribbon and made an official welcome. As folks gathered around to learn about the system, Vernell Roberts of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities explained, “We wanted the solar panels to be in a visible spot...
In 2016 there were 57,351 clean energy jobs in MN
Dan Thiede
Thu, 09/07/2017 - 2:49pm
Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM) today released a new report called Clean Jobs Midwest from Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs that finds that Minnesota now has 57,351 total clean energy jobs. In the last 12 months, Minnesota’s clean energy industry grew by 5.3 percent, adding 2,893 jobs—3.8 times faster than overall job growth in the state. Despite the rapid growth that has already occurred, clean energy technology continues to present a significant opportunity for business and job growth. “This report tells the story of how Minnesota’s rapid transition to cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy is driving job creation all across our state,” said Gregg Mast, executive director of...
Drive Electric MN in Duluth
Pam Schmitt
Fri, 09/01/2017 - 4:15pm
More than 150 people recently checked out a 100 percent battery-powered Nissan Leaf at two Whole Foods Co-op stores in Duluth. Minnesota Power, in collaboration with Drive Electric Minnesota, showed off the vehicle at “Kick the Tires” events this summer. “We had so many good conversations!” said Pam Schmitt, customer solutions analyst for Minnesota Power. “Using Drive Electric MN’s Nissan Leaf was a great way for us to connect with folks and answer the endless questions people have about this technology. People are often afraid of what they don’t know, so it was fun to dispel some of the common myths about EVs, but also provide information that can help individuals and families make a decision as to whether an EV is right for them.” Minnesota Power employees were on hand at the events to answer questions...
Photo by Baltine, Creative Commons
Frank Jossi
Fri, 08/11/2017 - 11:28am
Interested in battery storage? Connexus, Minnesota’s largest retail electric cooperative, is working toward building Minnesota’s largest energy storage project supporting three of their solar projects. Reposted with permission from original article by Frank Jossi for Midwest Energy News. Minnesota’s largest retail electric cooperative is in negotiation with vendors to build the largest storage energy project in the state alongside three solar installations. Connexus Energy plans to install storage capable of storing 20 megawatts, the equivalent of 40 MW hours of energy, according to Brian Burandt, vice president of power supply and business development. “I believe it’s the largest project being contemplated at this time,” he said. “There are larger projects in...
Electric school bus takes part in Lakeville Pan-O-Prog parade
Frank Jossi
Thu, 07/13/2017 - 12:18pm
The Midwest’s first electric bus has arrived in Minnesota! How did this happen? “We’re nimble,” said David Ranallo Manager, Marketing & Member Services at Great River Energy. “The right time isn’t always the obvious time, but we’re always looking for innovation opportunities for Great River Energy and our cooperative membership. We’re taking steps to prove that this technology can work here, today.” The article below is re-posted from the original at Midwest Energy News by Frank Jossi. The electric school bus will begin transporting students in a suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul school district this fall, but for now it’s on a tour of the state, stopping at GRE member coops along the way. Unveiled...


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