Star Tribune - Grants kick-start energy efficiency projects around Minnesota

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by Matt McKinney
Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Department of Commerce program to kick-start energy efficiency around the state named 39 projects, from LED lighting in La Crescent to solar panel systems analysis for dairy farmers in west-central Minnesota, in its latest round of grant awards.

The projects were chosen from 72 requests from cities, churches, nonprofits, American Indian bands, a food co-op and other groups looking for ways to go renewable or cut their energy bills, or both.

Many of the grants provide something to get projects started but will not cover the entire cost, according to spokesman Dan Thiede of the Clean Energy Resource Teams. The CERT group is a partnership created by the Legislature and funded by the Department of Commerce. It has given away more than $1 million to 300 projects since 2006.

The grants go to programs that both implement green energy ideas and educate others about renewable energy and efficiency, Thiede said. Some of this year’s winners, along with the grant sums:

• The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in Cass Lake will develop a solar master plan; $4,600.

• A Brainerd charter school will replace its library lighting with LEDs; $3,000.

• The Crosslake Lutheran Church will install an 87-panel solar system that produces 31.32 kilowatts a year at an annual savings of $4,223. The system payback will be 17 years; $8,400.

• A nonprofit, Journey Home MN, will build four houses for veterans with disabilities. The houses will be affordable and energy neutral; $5,000.

• The city of Maplewood will find the best spots for solar in the city as part of its comprehensive plan; $7,500.

• The city of Mountain Iron will identify the best spots for community solar and develop plans for solar implementation on city-owned facilities; $4,750.

• The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa will hire a contractor to install weatherstripping, caulking and window coverings on the residences of up to 50 elderly and disabled residents on the Bois Forte reservation; $4,350.

• The Barnesville Municipal Utility will install an 80-panel solar array for customers who want to participate in solar generation; $5,000.

• The Harmony Natural Food Cooperative in Bemidji will replace fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights with 351 LED lights; $3,000.

• Private investors renovating the former Rochester Armory will hire a specialist to design energy efficiency into the renovation plans; $1,500.

• The city of Whalan will replace its 29 streetlights with LEDs; $1,000.

• About 20 homeowners in Marshall will be shown how to lower their energy bills through conservation and have LED bulbs, pipe wrap, low-flow shower heads and weatherstripping installed; $5,000.

• The University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center will study the costs of installing solar panels and battery storage systems on swine and dairy farms in west central Minnesota. $5,000.

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