The University of Minnesota is tapping into a new source of power. With approval from the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents last week, the U’s Twin Cities campus will purchase two megawatts of community solar garden subscriptions from Minneapolis-based Geronimo Energy, LLC.
“This is an important step for the University and our sustainability efforts,” said Shane Stennes, Director of Sustainability. “We anticipate significant savings of nearly $800,000 over the 25 year contract while supporting the development of new renewable energy resources in the State of Minnesota.”
A community solar garden is a centralized, shared solar electricity facility connected to the energy grid that has multiple subscribers. Currently being built in Dakota County, the community solar garden will produce electricity and renewable energy certificates to be provided to Xcel Energy. The University pays Geronimo fees based on the amount of the subscription and the actual production from the solar garden. The University receives credits from Xcel on the University’s electric bill based upon the production of the solar garden and the University’s subscription share of the garden.
The University has been exploring renewable energy opportunities as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of fossil fuels. Most recently, this work has focused on accessing the emerging Minnesota solar energy market.
In 2015, the University hired Eutectics®, a local clean energy advisor, to assist the University in assessing risk and determining the financial feasibility of purchasing solar electricity through various mechanisms. At the same time, the University’s Energy Transition Lab and Institute on the Environment collaborated with three other Midwestern universities and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association on a U.S. Department of Energy–funded project called “The Solar Endowment: A PV Investment Roadmap for U.S. Universities and Foundations.” The project created teams of students that worked with University staff and faculty to evaluate solar potential, to develop financial models for solar, and to organize campus outreach.
The University is currently pursuing other renewable options in addition to the community solar subscription. Recently, the institution submitted a letter of support to the Public Utilities Commission for Xcel Energy’s Renewable*Connect pilot program. The proposed program will allow Xcel customers to designate that a portion of their electricity come from a blend of wind and solar resources. Later this month, the University is also releasing a request for proposals for on-campus solar installations at four of its campuses.
Photo Credit: Marufish (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Over the past year, the Energy Transition Lab has been involved in research regarding Duluth and Northeast Minnesota’s Energy Future. By integrating renewables such as bioenergy and solar along with Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems and energy efficiency into Northeast Minnesota’s existing energy system, the region will be able to increase local resiliency while also having positive impacts on the local economy and environment. In total, this research included bioenergy, solar, energy efficiency, district energy systems and CHP projects to show the pathways that could be involved in developing a truly integrated hybrid energy system.
In September, 2016 Ellen Anderson and Research Assistant Megan Butler traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to present the Energy Transition Lab’s work on Duluth’s Energy Future at the Energy Policy Institute’s 6th Annual Energy Policy Research Conference.
The full Duluth’s Energy Future Report is composed of chapters focusing upon three main priority areas which were identified after an extensive stakeholder engagement process in Northeast Minnesota:
- An Economic Modeling of Proposed Biomass and Solar Opportunities in Northeast Minnesota
Read MoreWorking with the Labovitz School of Business and Economics Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the Energy Transition Lab utilized an IMPLAN analysis to model the economic impacts of clean energy projects in the region. This research shows that transitioning from fossil fuels to local and regionally-sourced bioenergy and other clean energy resources has the potential to create jobs and economic growth in the city of Duluth and the heavily forested northeast “Iron Range” region of Minnesota.
- Strategies for Transforming Building Stock to Zero Energy
Read MorePartnering with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research, we developed a prototype for measuring the impact of energy efficiency measures on public buildings. Using this model we demonstrated how to transform an existing public building into a Net Zero Energy/Carbon building. This research allowed us to provide building owners with actionable, cost-effective strategies for reducing the energy footprint of existing building stock. Using this experience, we worked with local partners to develop recommendations for using energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to transform the existing building stock in Duluth.
- Combined Heat and Power Barriers and Opportunities in Northeast Minnesota.
Read MoreCHP is far more efficient than conventional power production, which wastes up to 60% of the energy value of the fuel. If we can capture the heat or thermal energy released during electricity production, it can be a valuable energy resource instead of being released to the atmosphere as wasted heat. Through interviews with organizations that have recently converted to CHP in Minnesota as well as organizations in Northeast Minnesota currently considering CHP, the Energy Transition Lab evaluated and developed recommendations for the legal, regulatory, siting, and other platforms that will enable CHP’s development.
Together, these three areas of research serve to provide a valuable resource for the City of Duluth and Northeast Minnesota to engage key stakeholders in a conversation about how they envision Northeast Minnesota’s energy future. This research will help the city of Duluth take some transformational steps towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy system. In this way Duluth, a blue-collar, industrial, coal-dependent, and extreme climate city in America’s heartland, can also serve as a model for energy transition in the United States by showing that it is possible to transition to cleaner energy systems and benefit the local economy.
Cover Photo Credit: Jim Brekke
In early 2015, several dozen community leaders from Duluth’s city government, local businesses, electric utility company, nonprofit organizations, and the University of Minnesota Duluth participated in a charrette to determine an Energy Future Vision for the city. The goal of the charrette was to capture “the ambitions and concerns” of the key stakeholders, with relevant economic, social, environmental, [and] sustainability aspects.” One of the group’s priority conclusions was the need to understand jobs and economic development impacts of different energy options. They asked the Energy Transition Lab to help Duluth analyze the economic and jobs implications of more locally produced energy from biomass and solar energy. The Energy Transition Lab partnered with UMD’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) to model the potential economic impact of of five proposed projects on Northeast Minnesota. Each of the five projects was selected based on local feasibility and interest. Projects selected for modeling included the following:
- The Grand Marais Biomass District Heating System
- The Duluth Energy Systems Plant Retrofit and Biomass Conversion
- A Torrefaction Processing Plant
- Two Biorenewable Chemical Production Plants
- The Installation of Solar Power Production Arrays in the Region
These five projects, were they to occur, could represent a significant increase in the use and production of renewable energy in the Arrowhead region. Four of the five projects included in the analysis involve the use of biomass as a fuel source or feedstock. The total economic impacts from the construction of these four projects could support nearly 1,600 jobs in the eight-county region, an additional $83 million in labor income, and would contribute roughly $154 million in value-added spending to the region’s Gross Regional Product (GRP). The combined effects for a typical year of operations from the four projects would equate to more than 1,000 new jobs in the eight-county study area, an additional $54 million in wages, benefits, and proprietor income, and an $80 million contribution to the region’s GRP.
Come see Catching the Sun, a documentary about the race to clean energy, in Minneapolis on Thursday May 26. Catching the Sun tells the story of the global energy transition from the perspective of workers and entrepreneurs building solutions to income inequality and climate change with their own hands. The documentary is coming to Minneapolis as part of its National Screening Tour which aims to spark new conversations in over 30 cities across the United States! http://www.catchingthesun.tv/seethefilm/
Time: Thursday, May 26 7:00PM – 8:28PM
Location: St Anthony Main Theater. 115 SE Main St, Minneapolis, MN, US, 55414
Energy Transition Lab Executive Director & Adjunct Associate Professor Ellen Anderson will speak at Sabo Symposium, Augsburg College, Minneapolis at a forum entitled, “Climate Change After Paris: How do We Get There?” The forum will be held Tuesday, March 8, at 7 pm, at Hoversten Chapel, 625 22nd Avenue South, Augsburg College, Minneapolis.
Other panelists include Anne Hunt, Environmental Policy Director, City of St. Paul, and Amy Fredregill, Resource Planning and Strategy Manager, Xcel Energy. The panel will be moderated by Sabo Center Senior Fellow Tom Berg. The forum is named after former Congressman Martin Olav Sabo. The panel will discuss the Paris Cllimate Change Conference and offer thoughts on how we take action.
Cover Photo Credit: jmdigne (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Community Solar Gardens are centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers. A free public seminar hosted by Clean Energy Resource Teams will provide participants with information and resources to better understand community solar gardens (http://www.
Time: 3:30–4:30 p.m Wednesday, January 27.
Place: 105 Cargill Building, University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus.
Community solar projects have been enabled by the Minnesota legislature and provide and opportunity for individual participation in larger scale solar. Called Community Solar Gardens, these are centrally located solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers. The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) provide consumers with resources to better understand community solar garden projects and implement community based clean energy projects. .
In this free public seminar, CERTS Director Lissa Pawlisch will provide an overview of community solar gardens and resources available to consumers.
Photo Credit: Westmill Solar Park (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The 2nd Annual Climate Adaptation Conference will be held on January 28th in Minneapolis. The conference is organized by University of Minnesota’s Water Resource Center and is open to the public. For more information about the Climate Adaption Conference visit the Water Resource Center Website or see the conferences Climate Adaption Conference Agenda.
The conference will include panels involving corporate leaders, tribal communities, and local mayors. Breakout sessions will involve themes such as: emergency management and climate adaptation, climate change communication, local foods and climate change, energy, and climate impacts on water resources.
Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service (CC BY 2.0)
On Wednesday Night over 100 people packed the Reflections from the Paris Climate Talks Forum hosted by Climate Generation at The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.. A full web recording of the post-COP21 panel discussion can be found here.
Energy Transition Lab executive director Ellen Anderson and two seniors from Macalaster College explored connections between global climate change and peace at in this editorial which originally appeared as an article on the MINNPOST
Written by: Ellen Anderson, Laura Humes and Kayla Walsh Read more →
Pathways to Renewable Energy
This spring semester at the University of Minnesota Energy Transition Lab Executive Director Ellen Anderson and Engineering Professor Paul Imbertsen are partnering to co-teach a cross-disciplinary course focusing upon renewable energy transition as part of the University’s Grand Challenge Curriculum. The 3 credit course, entitled GCC 3011/5011 Pathways to Renewable Energy, will meet Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9:45 to 11:00 AM on the East Bank and is open to all University of Minnesota students.
GCC 3011/5011 will closely examine the Realpolitik of energy and the technical, legal, regulatory and policy underpinnings of renewable energy in the United States and Minnesota. Students participating in GCC 3011/5011 will gain an understanding of how political, economic and social structures in the United States and Minnesota bring competing and often contradictory forces to bear upon energy transition. This cross-disciplinary course fulfills honors experience as well as Technology and Society LE theme requirements, and is open to all students. For more information and to register visit z.umn.edu/GRANDCHALLENGE