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.”
A new combined heat and power facility (lower left) is under construction at the University of Minnesota. (Courtesy photo)
Two dangerous warning signs occurred separately a few years ago to remind staff at the University of Minnesota that the sprawling campus needed a new source of heating and electricity.
The University’s main campus, along the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, is largely heated by the Southeast Steam Plant, a 1903 facility located upriver from the campus. Jerome Malmquist, the university’s director of energy management, says a major crisis was narrowly averted when a freeway bridge between the steam plant and the main campus suddenly collapsed in 2007.
Fortunately, underground steam tunnel beneath the freeway bridge was undamaged. But around the same time, two boilers went offline on a particularly cold day, an episode that sent shivers up the spine of Malmquist and his staff that had nothing to do with the weather.
Minnesota is already well on track to meet a solar power goal established by the legislature last year, according to a report released today by Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center.
The state currently mandates that investor-owned-utilities produce 1.5 percent of their electricity by solar by 2020. The legislation includes a goal — but not a requirement — of producing 10 percent from solar by 2030.
The photovoltaic capacity in Minnesota increased 61 percent per year from 2010 to 2013, states Star Power: The Growing Role of Solar Energy in Minnesota. By merely seeing that figure sustained at 43 percent annually between 2013 and 2030, Minnesota could achieve the 10 percent level.
(Photo by David Goehring via Creative Commons)
At a recent solar conference in suburban Minneapolis, a jam-packed ballroom of more than 100 people gathered for standing room-only presentations on community solar gardens.
Perhaps no other renewable energy opportunity has gathered so much excitement so quickly, in part because no other state has so far taken the route Minnesota has.
Community solar garden customers pay a fee based on the cost of panels they buy. In return they receive a reduction on their monthly utility bills based on the energy generated by those panels. It provides a lower point of entry for people who lack either a suitable location or sufficient funds for a full solar array.
Sponsored by the Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association (MnSEIA), the two-day conference featured a brief talk by J.W. Postal, senior vice president of sales for SunShare, a major community solar player in Colorado.
The reason for Minnesota’s likely fast uptake on community solar is that the legislation does not cap the number of projects that can be built annually or for the duration of the program.