Category Archives: Energy

Intro to Solar Cookers

Every year my husband’s family took a trip to Arizona to visit his grandmother. He has vivid memories of eating hot grapefruit and soggy crackers that were left in the back window. Despite those unappetizing memories, he’s willing to give intentional solar cooking a try, starting with a workshop on Monday, April 23rd, 7 – 9 pm, at Brackett Park.

Transition Longfellow is sponsoring the presentation by Bruce Stahlberg of Affordable Energy Solutions, located right in the ‘hood, at 3535 East Lake Street. Bruce will bring several types of solar cookers with him for you to view. He’ll be talking about how solar cookers work, what kind of cooking you can do in them, what cooker works best for what type of application, and some tips on solar cooking.

A second session will be held in May, at which time attendees can build their own solar cooker. Bruce will tell you what materials you will need to bring with you to build your cooker.

This event is FREE, thanks to Bruce’s generous donation of his time.

First Unitarian Wins Energy Competition, Tour the Building and Learn How

In 2011, the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis won an EPA Energy Star national building competition, “Battle of the Buildings,” in the House of Worship category for their efforts to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

By taking advantage of low-cost and no-cost energy-saving opportunities, the congregation saved more than $16,000 in the first year. See how they did it — and how your church can do it, too. The Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (CERT) and Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light are hosting a tour of the First Unitarian building at 900 Mount Curve Avenue, Minneapolis, on Sunday, March 18, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. This event is free and open to the public.

Read more about what the church did to achieve such excellent results.

Energy and Environment Conference at William Mitchell

At the third annual Energy and Environment Conference takes place at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul on March 14, from 11 am to 4:30 pm. Legislators and government officials, environmental advocates and industry leaders will discuss:

  • The impact of recent EPA regulations
  • Climate change and its effects on natural resources
  • Updates on environmental case law
  • The event is organized by the William Mitchell Environmental Law Society.
    Featured speakers include:

  • Robert Kaplan, regional counsel for the EPA Region 5
  • Fresh Energy’s J. Drake Hamilton, speaking about Clean Air Act regulations, and
  • U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum will present the closing address
  • It is free and open to the public but you must pre-register. Lunch is provided. Register here.

    The Truth Behind the Tar Sands

    We hear a lot in the media and from politicians about the Keystone pipeline and the Alberta tar sands but most people don’t actually know much about this unique area of the world or the impact that extracting oil would have for that region or the globe.

    The St. Anthony Park Community Council’s Energy Resilience Group is hosting as movie night on Tuesday, Feb. 28 (6:45 refreshments and 7:00 pm film), showing the film WHITE WATER, BLACK GOLD. The movie follows the filmmaker’s three-year journey across Western Canada to understand the issue presented by the tar sands from beginning to end — from the pristine mountain ice fields that are the source of the industry’s water supply to the Tar Sands tailings ponds that remain after oil is pumped out of the ground. Governments and industry spokespeople say there is no cause for concern but is that true? University scientists have made a number of discoveries that challenge that assessment, raising serious concerns for both Canada and the United States.

    The movie is showing at St. Anthony Park United Methodist Church, 2200 Hillside Avenue, St. Paul.

    Progress on Solar

    Solar Hot Air

    Solar hot air panels going up

    Made in Minnesota solar hot air panels

    Wondering what we’ve been up to with our plans for solar? We’re moving full steam ahead to meet the Sept 15 deadline for project completion for the Make Mine Solar program.

    We’ve installed two solar hot air panels on the south side of our house, which faces a street so we have very good sun exposure. The inside work — a blower fan enclosure — is being completed this weekend. We believe this system will heat the second floor more than sufficiently. We’ve been told to expect 85 degrees or more on sunny winter days and as we only heat our house to 55 degrees, that would be amazingly toasty.

    In a few weeks, we’ll have the solar electric panels installed on the roof.  Unfortunately, Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards program has run out of funds for 2011 and it’s unclear if we’ve made the cutoff. Our installer, Innovative Power Systems, thinks not.

    That doesn’t mean we won’t get our rebate – we just Make Mine Solar solar hot air panelswon’t get it this year. We’ll get both the Xcel and the federal tax rebates next year.

    What we’ll get this year is heat in our bedroom in December (yippee!) and – we hope – electricity flowing from our roof by October.

    September Sustainability Events

    As summer winds down and Minnesotans try to fit EVERYTHING into our last month of warm days, September weekends get booked up fast. Here’s some events that should get on your calendar.

    THIS Saturday, September 10Parade of Chicken Coops: 10:00AM  to  4:00PM. This is a self-guided tour of volunteers eager to show you how chickens fit with urban agriculture. Thinking of getting chickens? Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply is a one-stop shop for urban chicken-keeping.   

    NEXT Friday, September 16 — The Longfellow Sustainability Group Movie Night & Potluck: We’ll be showing “Power of Community, How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.” The U.S. embargo of Cuba and the downfall of the Soviet Union disrupted oil supplies to Cuba, causing massive disruption in systems of transportation, work and food production. People were going hungry. But this island nation showed tremendous character and caring in how it tackled the problem of forced “peak oil” and took care of its people. This is a really uplifting movie. Hope we see you there!

    Moving Planet - Moving Beyond Fossil FuelsSaturday, September 24 – MN350 Rally: People around the globe are gathering on September 24 for Moving Planet – a worldwide rally to demand solutions to the climate crisis. In Minnesota, we’ll be meeting at the State Capital to tell our legislators it’s time to move beyond fossil fuels. Minnesotans are particularly vulnerable to the coming climate crisis because of our temperature extremes — more snow means more floods, more days over 100 degrees with high humidity could mean deaths from heat. We need action! (350 is the parts per million of carbon that scientists say is safe for our atmosphere. We’re at 394 – and going up.)

    Sunday, September 25 — Tour of Minnesota’s first eco-friendly cemetery, Prairie Oaks: The tour begins at 3. Address is 8225 Argenta Train, Inver Grove Heights, MN. Call 612-250-2655 to learn more.

    Saturday, October 1 — Solar Tour: It’s called a solar tour, but it includes other forms of renewable energy as well. This is a self-guided Tour of 50+ homes, businesses, and institutions that have incorporated renewable energy, from geothermal heat pumps to wind turbines to the many incarnations of solar energy.

    Mark Your Calendar – Move the Planet – September 24


Moving Planet: a day to move beyond fossil fuels

    On September 24, thousands (we hope) of Minnesotans will gather at the State Capitol to MOVE THE PLANET toward 350 parts per million (carbon, that is).Sept 24 for Moving the Planet

    • Learn about the urgent need to move beyond fossil fuels
    • Inspire each other, our elected officials and the public about the positive steps we can take to transition to a renewable future

    2pm – State Capital Lawn
    Resource tables to educate and inspire, music, art projects, kites and frisbees and general fun until folks arrive.

    3pm – Mass Ride and Interfaith Procession (Moving Planet – Moving Faith)
    at the Capitol lawn.  Bikes will stream in from one direction, the interfaith march from the other.

    3:15 to 4:45 Program examining climate change from moral, scientific, local and global perspectives. Inspiration to action with music, dance, and spoken word)

    After the program, join the party with The New Primitives, Alicia Wiley and others.

    The Morality of Coal

    “Our people are dying from the poisonous waters and air. Cancer death rates soar in my homeland, making it one of the highest of any area in the nation. I thought I lived in the “land of the free,” but the only thing free in central Appalachia is the free hand that the coal corporations are given by our state and national representatives to bomb and kill our land and its people. It’s murder, damn it! And any state or national elected representative who supports this Mountain Bombing for coal should be charged as an accessory to Murder!” — Mickey McCoy, former mayor of Inez, Kentucky.

    Recent scientific research has shown a dramatic increase in birth defects among children born in areas in which there is mountaintop removal for coal. Millions of pounds of ammonium nitrate explosives are detonated daily in these communities, leaving toxic residue in the wind, the soil and the water.

    It’s easy to blame these problems on the coal companies and on the politicians who do their bidding. Certainly some of the blame falls there, but we also need to look in the mirror. Minnesota has no fossil fuel resources yet 57% of the energy we use comes from coal. We are #22 in fossil fuel use in the country.

    Continue reading

    Twin Cities Clean Energy Tour

    Want to learn more about renewable energy in our state? The Sierra Club is hosting a Clean Energy Tour on July 30 from 1 to 5 pm. The bus leaves the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation building on 411 Main Street, St. Paul, at 1 pm.

    Projects it will visit include solar installations and solar manufacturing, wind energy research and efficiency improvement projects.

    There is no cost. RSVP to 612-659-9124.

    Moving Forward with Our Investigation of Solar

    We had the site assessment for the Make Mine Solar program. They said the solar heat exchange would not work but solar water would. We were not as keen on solar water because of the small size of our household, but we had been told that if our roof qualifies for water, it will qualify for electric. So we moved ahead with talking to a solar installer. We’ll leave that decision for later.

    Innovative Power Systems came out last Friday to check out the house and give us a full proposal. They think we can do solar heat exchange, up to 4 panels, on the side of the house (like this). And we can fit a 3kW system for electricity generation on the roof. Our current electric use is 420, so to be independent we’d need to get down to 300. We’ve really been working on this… but clearly we’re not there yet so I need more ideas about how to reduce electricity use. The installer told me about The Energy Detective. He also suggested switching from CFLs to LEDs.

    I also moved forward with contacting a builder about the cost of installing a solarium to do passive solar heat exchange (as shown here or here). So far it looks like it will be too costly but he’ll get back to me in a week or two with concrete numbers. Of course there is a big added benefit to the solarium idea – extra living space, and we can start plant seedlings out there at the end of winter.

    So we were making progress AND THEN I saw this article in the Star Tribune about a problem with solar rebates. I’m not sure what this means for us – if anything.