Tag Archives: solar power

A 2-Step Plan to Kick Fossil Fuels

A Life-Changing Talk Leads to an Energy Plan

Like many people, I want to do what I can to live more sustainably and to reduce my carbon footprint and dependence on fossil fuels. But once you get past the obvious stuff (changing light bulbs, adding insulation), the next step – and the one after that – is not always clear.

That’s what I wanted to know when I attended a seminar at the U of M called “Energy from Renewables: Confronting Global Collapse” in October 2016.

That event changed my life. Here’s why.

Continue reading

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.

Mark Your Calendar, Opportunities Galore

I’m sorry so much time has gone by but a life change took all my attention for six months. Now I’m back on track and ready to o help you get on track for 2012. Here are some classes/events/talks you may want to get on your calendar.

Solar Hot Water 103
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Century College, 3300 Century Avenue N., White Bear Lake, MN 55110
$90.00 for members of MRES, $100.00 for non-members
A one-day introductory course for homeowners interested in learning how to design a solar hot water heating system. You will learn to evaluate solar site resource, when solar hot water is the right solution, the economics and incentives for solar hot water, and system design principles. Topics covered include system components, system sizing, solar thermal panels, storage tanks, heat exchangers and plumbing connections.

Build a Personal Solar Station

Thursday, March 22, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
At the Seward Co-op, brought to you by GoSolar!
$50/$45 members
The class will teach you how to build a Personal Solar Station that can be used in your home, cabin, or RV to run 12V kitchen appliances for cooking or lights for a shed. Learn the basics of solar energy and electricity. Solar kits will be offered during class.

Your Longfellow sustainability group (called Transition Longfellow) will be hosting a workshop to make a solar cooker in April of this year. Watch for more info.

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is doing a congregation book read of “Earth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet,” by Bill McKibben. Learn how climate change is/will affect both people and the planet and how we can begin to respond to and prepare for it. Book discussion is held in the Holy Trinity library at 9:55 am on Sunday, March 11. Books are available for sale at the church.

Community Garden Spring Resource Fair, organized by Gardening Matters
Saturday March 31st
Neighborhood House, 179 Robie Street, St. Paul, MN 55107
Connecting gardeners with resources, information and people for a successful 2012 growing season. Workshops on topics such as backyard chickens and beekeeping, food swaps and coops, addressing food justice at a local level, and composting options for community gardens. Keynote speaker is Karen Washington, an urban farmer and president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition and founding member of Black Urban Growers (BUGs). Karen has developed abandoned lots into successful community gardens and food initiatives. She will be sharing her work advocating for land permanence for community gardens and the power of working in a coalition to achieve common goals.

Urban Chicken 101 Lecture
Wednesday, April 4, 6:30-8:30
Seward Co-op
$12/$10 members
This class will cover everything you need to know to start up a small flock of chickens in your back yard, with an emphasis on coop design.

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.