Tim Johnson, pastor of Cherokee Park United Church in St. Paul, says visitors frequently inquire about the church’s solar array. (Photo by Ken Paulman / Midwest Energy News)
Bethel Evangelical Lutheran and Minnesota Community Solar came together earlier this year to promote a solar garden that will sit atop the roof of the Minneapolis church.
Without a panel yet installed, the 40-kilowatt (kW) solar garden attracted enough support from the church’s members and surrounding Bancroft neighborhood to be fully subscribed. The project encapsulated for Rev. Brenda L. Froisland a deeper spiritual tug that speaks to her faith and the teachings of Christianity.
“Part of our vision is that in gratitude, Bethel amplifies God’s grace, nourishes God’s creation, reaches out and builds community,” she said. “This is very much a manifestation of those points and our vision. “We’re noting this incredible resource called solar energy God gives us, and we’re nourishing God’s creation by reducing our carbon footprint and consuming less coal — all that’s connected to global warming, sustainability and simplicity.”
Cattle graze at Cedar Summit Farm near New Prague, Minnesota, in this June 4 picture. The CapX2020 transmission line can be seen in the background. (Photo by Cedar Summit Farm via Creative Commons)
While science has all but ruled out the most persistent health claims about transmission projects, high-voltage lines are still perceived by many as posing a risk to humans and livestock.
And in a recent Minnesota case testing the state’s Buy the Farm law, that perception — rather than the science — was the deciding factor.
A Scott County judge ruled last week that utilities in the CapX2020 project have to buy the Cedar Summit Farm based on “subjective concerns” about the power line’s impact. Cedar Summit is a grass-fed, organic dairy operation — the only 100 percent grass-fed creamery in the state — and its products are sought-after for their high quality.
Minnesota’s unique statute requires utilities to buy entire properties if they’ll be negatively impacted by a transmission project. Cedar Summit’s owners, David and Florence Minar, had argued that the CapX2020 project would have a potential adverse effect on milk production as well as damage the farm’s pastoral, rural image.
But for District Judge Caroline Lennon, the latter argument was what mattered.
Ron Lehr is a former Colorado Public Utilities Commissioner and author of a chapter on new utility models in America’s Power Plan.
Attorney, former regulator and activist Ron Lehr has been thinking about the future of utilities and how they survive and flourish in a new world of distributed, renewable energy.
The former Colorado Public Utilities Commissioner and author of a chapter on new utility models in America’s Power Plan will be speaking at the meeting of Minnesota’s Legislative Energy Commission on Thursday in St. Paul.
In a chat with Midwest Energy News, Lehr spoke about how utilities could adjust to a future where distributed energy will have a much greater role in energy production. He plans to elaborate on the ideas presented in America’s Power Plan, a project sponsored by the Energy Foundation and Energy Innovation Policy & Technology LLC that involved interviews with more than 150 experts.
Minnesota’s first community solar project was developed by Wright Hennepin Cooperative. (Photo via WHC)
Minnesota regulators on Thursday unanimously decided to take a pass on using the “value of solar” (VOS) to calculate how to pay community solar garden developers.
Although the state’s Public Utilities Commission did not move VOS pricing forward it did ask for interested parties to continue to add commentary prior to its Oct. 1 meeting concerning potential changes to the VOS rate.
For now that methodology, however, will not be in use for paying subscribers of solar gardens for their power generation.
The PUC established a rate of roughly 11 to 15 cents per kWh to developers of solar garden, a sum that includes compensation for renewable energy credits. Those sums — called “applicable retail rates” (ARR) in the regulatory parlance — are paid to solar garden subscribers, who in turn pay developers to manage the installations.
(Photo by Oregon DOT via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
There’s a new cash crop coming soon to the Twin Cities — electric power from community-owned solar gardens.
But just how much interest there is in harvesting the sun’s rays from jointly owned solar-electric systems could be dictated by state regulators in a key decision today. [UPDATE: Regulators sided with Xcel Energy in the case, updated story coming later today]
A 2013 law requires Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc. to administer a program for community solar gardens — centralized solar electric systems whose production is shared by people to buy stakes and get a credit on their power bills.
Cross-posted from Greentech Media with permission
By Stephen Lacey
Aside from hosting a majority of the nation’s wind farms, the Midwestern U.S. is not known for aggressively pushing the agenda on clean energy issues. But that may be changing as Minnesota joins other leading states in the effort to remake the electricity sector.
Over the last year and a half, Minnesota has emerged as more than just a wind state. In May 2013, the state’s legislature passed a bill that would expand the solar market by 450 megawatts. And in March of this year, regulators agreed to create a value-of-solar tariff to complement net metering.
Minnesota’s solar targets aren’t enough to threaten utility revenue or overload the distribution system quite yet, but it’s set in motion a conversation about how the power sector should adapt to accommodate more distributed generation. And that means proactively thinking about the utility business model itself.
(Image via MyMeter)
As utilities seek to cut energy use, one of the tactics they’re employing is encouraging customers to modify their habits.
And while data is limited on how effective these so-called “behavior” programs are, some recent reports show promising results.
Four rural electric co-ops in Minnesota, for instance, were able to reduce demand in 2013 between 1.8 and 2.8 percent using MyMeter — a program that gives utility customers more detailed information about their energy use.
While the results trended slightly higher than those of two other carefully-evaluated programs in Massachusetts, their importance goes beyond that. More significant, according to an expert in behavioral energy-saving programs, is the fact that the report adds to the very limited reliable data about the effectiveness of behavioral strategies.
Jay Miller, photo by Jeremy Kalin.
The company Crankshaft Supply takes old crankshafts and reconditions them for resale. Hence owner Jay Miller sees his operation as “an enormous recycler.” He wanted to get greener still by producing some of the energy his re-manufacturing facility consumes in large quantities.
Solar panels were appealing, but the capital cost was beyond his reach, and he couldn’t get enough financing from a banker he consulted.
“They wouldn’t have loaned us money for the entire project,” Miller said. He was told that photovoltaics in the upper Midwest “don’t have the track record” to justify the funding he sought.
But Miller was able to get his solar installation thanks to an increasingly popular funding mechanism known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE.
The Flambeau River Papers mill in Park Falls, Wisconsin, uses combined heat and power to cut energy costs. (Photo by Wisconsin DNR via Creative Commons)
The hulking pulp and paper mills built many decades ago in Wisconsin, Michigan and other Midwestern states have had their share of environmental impacts.
But the mills were decades ahead of the game in adopting technology now seen as an effective tool to fight greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts. That would be the use of combined heat and power (CHP, also known as cogeneration), promoted by President Obama with a 2012 executive order and lauded by environmental and energy efficiency advocates.
Like any industry that generates electricity onsite, paper and pulp mills can take the heat from their generators to create steam that can be used to generate more electricity. More importantly, the heat can also be used directly for mills’ industrial processes, including for drying pulp.
“We were doing this before people were using the term ‘sustainability,’” said Jerry Schwartz, senior director of energy and environmental policy for the American Forest & Paper Association, a trade group. “A lot of it made economic sense.”
(Photo by Joseph Mietus via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
That was the underlying message from two Minnesota agencies in recommending the Public Utilities Commission adopt federal “social cost of carbon” values to help guide utility decisions about electric generation.
A law enacted by the state more than two decades ago requires the PUC to establish “externality” values for carbon dioxide and other power plant pollutants to help shape planning decisions. The commission this year ordered an update to some of the values, including CO2, at the request of clean energy advocates.