Category Archives: local economy

Support LOCAL Community-Building Resources This Season

Many people make end-of-year financial gifts to charities, either in the name of a family member as a holiday gift, or for tax purposes. If this is part of your tradition, consider adding local community-building organizations to your list of gift recipients. Without these civic-minded folks, it would be much harder to connect.

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Do You Dream of Going Solar?

Fall is the time to start planning for a solar PV (electricity) installation for the coming year.

You can learn more about solar energy by taking a class at the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES). This organization also offers site assements. A preliminary site assessment can be done quickly using Google, but if your site looks promising, a more detailed assessment will be needed. MRES does this for $175 for homeowners.

You should also talk to one or more solar installers. If you live in Longfellow, you can contact the solar installer located right in our neighborhood: Applied Energy Innovations at 4000 Minnehaha Avenue (612-532-0384).*

In the past, property owners would have submitted the paperwork for their project to  the Xcel “Solar Rewards” program, which offered incentives and rebates for solar PV installations. Xcel is no longer accepting submissions for that program. Xcel’s website says that they will be “working with the MN Department of Commerce” to “interpret” the [heavily watered-down] energy bill that passed the 2013 legislative session before it takes any future action. I take that to mean ‘see how little action the state will force us to take and how little we will have to do to meet the letter of the law,’ but I’m cynical in that way.

The Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) is offering low-interest loans for homeowners of single-family, owner-occupied primary residences who want to install PV technology. Through their program, you can get a loan up to $20,000 at 5.001% APR for up to 10 years. There is no maximum income limit. The loan is secured by a mortgage on your property. The maximum system size you can install is 8kW. Contact Stephen Hines, loan officer for the energy program, for more info: 612-335-5851.

No room on your roof? Can’t afford a loan? You can still support solar power by investing in the community solar garden in the works on Lake Street, on the roof of Northern Sun. This project is selling “subscriptions,” allowing any Xcel customer to buy a portion of the solar installation and to reap the financial benefits from the power it produces with a reduction on their monthly energy bill. (Follow the link to learn more.)

The community solar garden concept isn’t new. There are solar gardens in other parts of the country and the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association (Wright County) dedicated its first solar community project on September 9 of this year. Its project was unique in that it combined solar energy with battery storage so stored energy could be deployed when it was needed. (One of the greatest benefits of solar power is that peak production occurs in the middle of the day, which is also the time of highest demand, especially in the hot summer months. One of the greatest drawbacks, of course, is the fact that production decreases long before demand decreases. The battery system will begin to address that problem.)

Want to stay up-to-date on solar developments and other clean-energy opportunities? Subscribe to the CERT e-newsletter.

*I am not paid by any of the companies mentioned in this post, nor am I recommending any specific products or services. I am providing information.

This Blog is a Denial-Free Zone

I’ve been hit by a lot of spam since my last post (could be a coincidence …). One post actually did relate to the contents of this blog. For that person’s benefit I am going to repeat what I’ve posted before. This is a denial-free zone on the topic of climate change. I’m not going to argue with you about climate science, neither am I going to allow you to post climate-denial claims. I believe what 98% of the climate scientists in the world are telling us. That does not make me an extremist – it makes me mainstream.

I am going to take this opportunity to respond to your assertion that people who accept personal responsibility for their impact on the environment by acting to reduce their carbon footprint are anti-science, anti-technology and anti-trade.
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Low-Carb Vacation (carbon, that is)

Last week we took a mini-vacation to Hastings, Minnesota for an overnight stay at The Classic Rosewood Inn. I wanted to bring this lovely B&B to your attention for a couple of reasons.

  • Hastings is a short drive from the Twin Cities so no need to burn up a lot of gas for a nice little getaway. There is a nature center that would interest kids. Lots of antique shops close by each other for a day of walking. For history buffs, there’s a historic estate down the road — the LeDuc Estate. A winery just south of town offers tours in the spring and summer. And the town is located at the convergence of two rivers so plenty of boating opportunities, as well as many trails for walking and biking.
  • The Rosewood is an 1880 Queen Anne building with beautiful, unique rooms, an interesting history and, I hope, a long future. The owners, Dick and Pam Thorsen, are committed to the three R’s — reduce, reuse and recycle.
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