A rural Minnesota co-op is offering customers who participate in a demand-response program a hard-to-beat deal on community solar.
Customers of Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric (SWCE) who want to own a photovoltaic panel in a community solar garden and add a new electric water heater to their homes can have both for just $170.
Minnesota would see more than $6.2 billion in capital investments if the state raised its renewable energy standard (RES) to 40 percent by 2030, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Meanwhile, the change would have a minimal impact on ratepayers, the UCS says.
Currently the state’s policy calls for 25 percent of energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. With Minnesota receiving 19 percent of its energy from renewable sources today, the prospect of increasing the goal to 40 percent has gotten the attention of policy groups and lawmakers.
Great River Energy’s headquarters northwest of Minneapolis has a solar array and wind turbine, but the co-op remains more coal-dependent than other utilities. (Photo courtesy Great River Energy)
More than a year after being criticized by state regulators for being too coal-dependent, a Minnesota energy provider is taking another run at planning for a lower-carbon future.
In July 2013 the five-member Minnesota Public Utilities Commission took the unprecedented move of rejecting a long-range integrated resource plan submitted by Great River Energy due to its reliance on coal-fired energy generation.
The 3-2 vote led GRE to formulate some new strategies in a second version of the resource plan — that details energy consumption and generation for the next 15 years — that was submitted last October. The new plan calls for faster depreciation of two coal-fired plants, an end to a contract with an aging Wisconsin coal-based facility, increased conservation measures and more renewable energy.
“We looked carefully at the language of the order, and we think the commission will find it very acceptable this year,” said David Saggau, chief executive officer and president. “This is a plan our members feel comfortable with and they like the balance we’re striking. They’re very realistic about the transition that’s occurring in our industry and they like the steps that we are taking to address future resource needs.”
SunShare LLC has announced a strategic alliance with Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction to develop solar gardens in Minnesota.
SunShare, which has offices in Minneapolis and Denver, has become one of Colorado’s leading solar garden promoters since that state passed a 2010 law allowing for their development.
Mortenson is a family-owned construction company that manages a variety of projects locally and throughout the country, among them the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, the Denver Art Center, The Walker Art Center and many others.
SunShare will develop, finance, own, operate and market the projects. The collaboration gives SunShare “a badge of creditability in that one of the largest construction companies in America is signing on to work with us in Minnesota,” said Jonathan W. Postal, senior vice president. “It’s just a great opportunity for Sunshare as we pivot from just the Colorado market to the Minnesota market.”
Peter Lindstrom, mayor of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, is promoting a new state efficiency program.
For two years, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has been showcasing a new approach to financing state and municipal sustainability projects around the state.
Called the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP), the concept offers organizations a way to reduce energy costs and use the savings to help pay for projects. The state created documents to help agencies and municipalities manage the program, which involves an “Energy Services Company” that develops, installs, and provides financial assistance for the projects.
It’s not an easy concept to explain even to large agencies, much less city officials. Helping to attract municipalities to the program is now the job of Peter Lindstrom, 43, former assistant director of Science Technology and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Lindstrom in November joined the Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTs) as the GESP outreach coordinator to counties, cities and schools. He is also the mayor of Falcon Heights (pop. 5,300), where since taking office in 2007 he made the small community just outside St. Paul into one of the most sustainable in the state.
Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo attends a hearing of the House Energy Committee in March 2014. (AP Photo/ The Star Tribune, Glen Stubbe)
Veteran Republican lawmaker Pat Garofalo has been driving to the Minnesota State Capitol and his private sector job in style in his Tesla Model S, which he purchased in November.
Electric cars are “where the future is,” Garofalo said. “Electric cars allow people to be in charge of their fuel bill and that money stays 100 percent in the local utility market. It’s about having better performance, being in charge of your own energy bill — if that’s not good enough for you, it’s also a lot better for the environment.”
The 43-year-old suburban legislator, who also works as a voice and network engineering consultant, won’t disclose the cost of his Tesla, which retails from $70,000 to $93,000. It replaces a more modest 2007 Ford Fusion as his primary means of transportation.
Ellen Anderson speaks at the 2008 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference. (Photo ©BlueGreen Alliance, used with permission)
Ellen Anderson has served many roles in the past, all with a major focus on energy. As a Minnesota state legislator for 18 years she helped crafted the state’s renewable energy standard and community-based energy development legislation.
She also spent around a year as a regulator heading up the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission until the Legislature failed to confirm her.
Earlier this year Anderson’s career took a new turn when she became executive director of The Energy Transition Lab at the University of Minnesota.
The lab will bring together the University’s deep strength across many disciplines related to energy — from policy to science — to create tools that communities around the nation and the world can deploy to strategies for reducing carbon, improving efficiency and increasing renewables.
By any measure, 2014 was a significant year in the energy world. the continued rise of fracking, impending EPA carbon regulations, and the ever-glacial pace of global climate negotiations are likely familiar stories to Midwest Energy News readers.
But our focus is more at the state and regional level, and over the past year we’ve helped surface and amplify stories that otherwise might have fallen under the radar.
Here are some of the biggest stories of the past year, based on readership metrics and other factors.
A wind farm near Worthington, Minnesota. (Photo by Seward Inc. via Creative Commons)
A new report suggests Minnesota could supply more than 50 percent of its power needs through renewable energy by 2030 while creating more jobs and meeting federal carbon targets.
The Wind Energy Foundation’s “Powering Up Minnesota: A Report on The Benefits of Renewable Electricity Development” offers a scenario in which Minnesota could produce 6,884 megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity under a more aggressive high growth scenario.
The report noted Minnesota has long been a player in sustainability, with $11 billion having been invested from 2004 to 2013, according to a Department of Employment and Economic Development study.
Expectations are high today as Minnesota’s largest utility begins accepting applications for community solar projects at 9 a.m. today.
It’s anyone guess show many solar garden developers will submit on the first day of business for Xcel Energy‘s Solar Rewards Community program. Some developers have already marketed and sold out projects that have been not formally approved.
“We see high interest in this and we expect we’ll see a lot of applications but we don’t know what the pace will be,” said Laura McCarten, regional vice president. “One estimated guess is we could get 100 megawatts of applications, but we’ll see how it unfolds. Time will tell.”