Rochester Post-Bulletin - Greenspace: Local clean energy projects awarded seed grant funding

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by Ryan Faircloth
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Eight clean energy projects in Southeast Minnesota received seed grant funding from the Clean Energy Resource Teams earlier this month.

CERTs announced it would fund 39 clean energy projects across the state on Feb. 1. Two Rochester projects received funding along with several others in neighboring communities.

Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, a Twin Cities-based organization that encourages faith communities to take action on climate, received a $3,500 grant to expand its presence to Rochester. The grant will help support the establishment of a Rochester Faith and Solar Coalition, which will encourage adoption of solar power among local faith organizations.

“Our goals are to educate Rochester residents about what are the mechanisms to which they can get solar, to educate the faith communities about the role that they can play,” said Julia Nerbonne, executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light.

Last year, MNIPL received a grant to form a similar coalition in Duluth. Nerbonne said the organization wanted to shift its focus to southern Minnesota with this year’s funding.

MNIPL hopes to attract around 25 faith organizations to its new Rochester network, she said.

Brett Benson, operations director for MNIPL, said churches and other faith organizations face unique challenges in embracing solar power.

“Churches are not eligible for some of the tax benefits of solar installations,” he said. “Which makes it harder to figure out the financing.”

Despite financial challenges, Benson said he hopes the project will encourage Rochester faith organizations and residents alike to choose solar.

“The best way we know to normalize … support for solar is to make it visible, and the best way to do that is to engage faith communities, which often are at the center of communities,” he said.

Benike Construction also received $1,500 in seed grant funding to help with energy efficiency decisions and recommendations for the renovation of Rochester’s former Armory building.

The incoming development, dubbed the “Castle Community,” will include a restaurant, an art gallery and studios, a bookstore and a public common space.

Here are six other southeast Minnesota projects that received seed grant funding:

City of Albert Lea — Solar Ready Albert Lea: The City received $3,500 to assess the feasibility of solar energy implementation in all primary government buildings in Albert Lea.

Minnesota State College Southeast — Winona area weatherization installers pool: The school received $3,500 to include Building Performance Institute (BPI) Air Leakage Control (ALC) installer training in its curriculum. The grant will help give ALC training to local contractors.

City of Faribault — promoting solar PV on school and city facilities: The City received $3,500 for a project to establish a solar PV master plan that will chart a path for solar PV implementation at certain City and school sites.

City of Red Wing — demonstration electric vehicle charging station: The City received $2,000 to install a twin plug EV charging demonstration station in a public parking ramp. The station will serve four parking spots.

City of La Crescent — public facilities LED lighting upgrade: The City received $1,500 to upgrade 22 outdated exterior light fixtures with LED light technology. The improvements will be made in parks, on streets and at the city’s water plant.

City of Whalan — new LED street lights: The City received $1,000 to upgrade all of its 29 street lights to the more energy-efficient LEDs.

Greenspace is a weekly column on environmental and energy issues.

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