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Light Rail Trains Will Be Powered By Wind On Earth Day

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Metro Transit’s Blue and Green lines are going green for Earth Day.

Metro Transit and Xcel Energy announced Friday both light rail lines will be powered by 100 percent wind energy Saturday.

Metro Transit partnered with Xcel’s Windsource program to purchase credits to power both lines for 24 hours. Read more

Minnesota continues to be a top state for wind power

Minnesota continued to be one of the top wind power states in 2016, and Xcel Energy the nation’s top wind energy utility.

The annual report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), released Wednesday in St. Paul, showed wind power had a strong year nationally, with generating capacity increasing 11 percent or 8,203 megawatts. A megawatt is a million watts, and 2016 marked the second consecutive year the industry topped 8,000 megawatts after a couple of lean years. Read more

Solar energy disparity emerges among Minnesota schools

Mounds View High School's flat roof sports a colorful solar array capable of reducing the school's electricity costs and giving students a real-world learning experience.

"Look at the solar through the course of the day and see how that peaks and see if there's any correlation at all with cosmic ray collection data," teacher Mike Cartwright suggested to one of his physics students recently.

In just a couple clicks on the computer, Cartwright can pull up data on how much energy the panels are producing at a given time. Meanwhile, the school district expects to save $1 million on its utility bills in the next 25 years from six different solar projects scattered throughout the north-metro district.

"It's a no-lose for the school district," Cartwright said. "We're collecting energy, we're doing carbon offsets, we can use it educationally, and it's good public relations."

The school district doesn't own the solar arrays — Innovative Power Systems of Roseville does. The company pays the upfront and maintenance costs, then sells the power to the school district at a discounted rate.

Solar panels are becoming a common sight on school rooftops. The list includes Farmington, Waconia, Cohasset, Red Wing, Forest Lake, Becker, Chisago City, Willmar and more. Some districts are set up like Mounds View. Others serve as a community solar site and receive lease payments. And some have chosen to subscribe to an off-site solar garden.

But these kinds of opportunities are rare outside of Xcel Energy territory, where state policies have contributed to major growth in solar. Read more

Minnesota Power and Minnesota National Guard to celebrate constructed solar array at Camp Ripley

CAMP RIPLEY—Camp Ripley will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Minnesota Power and the Minnesota National Guard at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the solar array observation platform on Camp Ripley.

"Solar energy jobs in Minnesota have grown 232 percent in just the last three years. The Camp Ripley solar energy array helps continue this tremendous economic growth, while ensuring the Minnesota National Guard has a reliable energy source," said Lt. Governor Tina Smith in a news release. "Our Administration remains committed to renewable energy efforts that are good for our health, good for our environment, and good for our jobs."

A partnership between Minnesota Power and the Minnesota National Guard has produced a solar array at Camp Ripley in Morrison County that boosts clean energy production for Minnesota Power customers and provides energy security for Camp Ripley. Read more

The top 5 states for utility grid modernization and business model reform

As utilities face the rise of distributed resources and face stagnant load growth, a number of states are looking to alter the traditional sector business model through regulatory dockets.

Under the traditional model, utilities make a rate of return for investments in the bulk power system — plants, transmission lines and the like. But those revenues can be threatened in a world where customer efficiency and DER adoption slows load growth.

In response, a number of jurisdictions have adopted regulatory approaches to expand utility earning opportunities and broaden DER adoption through non-wire alternatives, data sharing and other initiatives. New York and California have long held the nation’s spotlight for their efforts, but other states are following suit. Read more

Minnesota is set to meet its carbon emissions targets under the Clean Power Plan even if the rule goes away

Minnesota is set to meet its carbon emissions targets under the Clean Power Plan even if the rule goes away under executive action signed Tuesday by President Trump, state officials said.

The federal regulations curbing carbon emissions from existing power plants directed Minnesota to reduce those emissions by about 40 percent by 2030.

Utilities are on pace to do that, thanks to changing energy economics, said David Thornton, an assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"Goals and targets that two or three years ago seemed unreachable are, all of a sudden, business as usual," he said. "I would not be surprised if that trend continues." Read more

Otter Tail building natural gas plant in South Dakota

Fergus Falls-based Otter Tail Power said Monday it plans to build a new natural gas-fired generator in eastern South Dakota, which will help make up for the planned closure of a coal-fired power plant in its hometown.

The company will invest about $165 million for the 250-megawatt plant, which will be located near Astoria, S.D., about 175 miles south of Fergus Falls. A megawatt is one million watts, and by that metric, Otter Tail is building a medium-sized plant.

Otter Tail, Minnesota's third largest investor-owned utility, has planned to retire its Hoot Lake coal-fired plant in Fergus Falls by 2021. The Hoot Lake plant has two generators built respectively in 1959 and 1964. Read more

Minnesota legislators consider annual fee on electric vehicles

The Minnesota Legislature is considering two bills that could add an $85 to $125 annual fee for electric vehicle drivers.

The legislation stems from concern over the loss of tax revenue from gas receipts, even though Minnesota has fewer than 4,000 electric vehicles on the road. State Rep. Pat Garofalo, a Tesla owner and EV supporter, authored HF 1133, which would assess an $85 annual fee.

The fee would only be paid by vehicles powered by electric motors and give those drivers the right to use MnPASS express lanes free of charge. A companion bill is in the Senate.

Garofalo told a publication that covers the Legislature that the bill is “necessary because of a problem… . But it’s a problem I’m glad to see happen.” Read more

Xcel Energy launches its largest-ever Upper Midwest wind investment

Minneapolis (March 16, 2017)—Xcel Energy announced plans today to add 1,550 megawatts of new wind generation in the Upper Midwest. The proposal is Xcel Energy’s largest to date with a total of seven wind farms to be built in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.

The nation’s No. 1 utility wind provider is continuing its low cost renewable energy leadership, growing the company’s regional wind portfolio by 60 percent while providing enough energy to power more than 800,000 homes. Xcel Energy’s Upper Midwest system serves customers in five states, including Wisconsin and Michigan.

“This investment in renewable energy keeps bills low for customers while giving them the clean energy they want and helping us achieve 63 percent carbon-free energy by 2030,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “Wind energy is at historically low prices right now so we’re able to reduce emissions while securing long-term cost savings for our customers.” Read more

St. Cloud turns to renewable energy to shrink utility bills

For most cities, wastewater and drinking water treatment plants are major energy hogs.

So when St. Cloud was looking for ways to trim its utility bills, it made sense to look at the sprawling wastewater treatment plant on the city's south side.

The city launched an innovative project to use renewable energy to power the plant. Solar panels generate electricity to keep it running when the sun is shining. Methane gas produced during the treatment process is captured and used to produce more electricity. Read more