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Kruse Motors in Marshall builds solar panels for energy efficiency

MARSHALL — Over the past few months, Heather Westman said, there have been plenty of questions from the community about the solar panels going up behind the Kruse Motors dealerships in Marshall.

“It’s been really positive. The biggest question has been whether they belong to the hockey arena, or to the city, or us,” said Westman, dealer at Kruse Buick GMC in Marshall.

Although they are in the same neighborhood as the Red Baron Arena and Marshall High School, the two rows of solar panels running behind the dealerships are part of Kruse Motors. Since the beginning of the January, they’ve been helping to generate electricity for Kruse Ford Lincoln and Kruse Buick GMC.

“For us, it’s a huge cost savings,” Westman said. Being more energy-efficient also helps make it easier to provide services to customers, like the car wash at the Kruse Ford Lincoln dealership, she said.

Construction for the solar panels started in fall 2016. Novel Energy Solutions, a Minnesota-based solar company, installed a 189-kilowatt solar system for Kruse Motors. Read more

Norman County East schools receive rebates for geothermal and lighting updates from Otter Tail Power

Two Norman County East schools received rebates from Otter Tail Power Company for upgrading to new energy-efficient technologies.

Norman County East Secondary School’s geothermal upgrade began with a phase one replacement of 13 heat pumps in the facility. The project will continue with phases two and three, replacing the remaining geothermal heat pumps throughout the school. “This is a timely upgrade of a well-designed and well-used system,” said Otter Tail Power Company Energy Management Representative Roger Garton. “The new geothermal heat pumps will serve the district well into the future.” Otter Tail Power Company provided a rebate of $28,200 for this energy efficiency upgrade.

Norman County East Elementary School upgraded its lighting system building-wide. The school replaced old fluorescent lighting systems with energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) technology, which will bring reduced maintenance costs and energy savings to the district. “Some of the ballasts removed as part of this project were from the 1970s,” said Norman County East Elementary School Facilities Manager Dennis Jacobson. Otter Tail Power Company provided a $4,500 rebate for upgrades to 125 fixtures. Read more

Xcel Offering Homeowners Green Energy Opportunities

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Xcel Energy is now offering up some new opportunities for people to power their homes using wind and solar energy.

The effort is part of Xcel’s Renewable Connect program.

The pilot program was given the OK by Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission and it allows Xcel customers the choice to use wind or solar energy to power all or just a portion of their energy needs. Read more

The suburbs are leading the charge on energy efficiency

Right now, not much but mounds of snow sit atop the roof of Edina’s public works building. But that will change in the spring, when the city installs solar panels to create a community solar garden.

Clean energy advocates say the solar array is just one way that metro area suburbs are leading the charge on energy efficiency in Minnesota. The suburbs make up a major part of the state’s carbon footprint, and in more affluent suburbs the reason is simple, Abby Finis said: Larger homes and longer commutes.

“We’re seeing a big shift in the general consciousness of energy among residents and among cities,” said Finis, senior planner for the Great Plains Institute, a sustainable energy nonprofit. “I think they are in the early stages of big change.”

St. Louis Park last month unveiled an energy plan with the goal of drawing all the city’s energy from renewables by 2025. Bloomington is in the process of forming its first sustainability commission. Edina hired its first sustainability coordinator last year, and its Energy and Environment Commission is behind the upcoming solar garden.

Throughout the west metro, Xcel Energy has begun switching its streetlights to LED lights that it says are cheaper and greener. Read more

2016 was a bright year for solar energy in Minnesota

Minnesota's solar energy capacity is skyrocketing after a breakthrough year. It took about 10 years to go from virtually nothing to 35 megawatts of capacity in 2015, but last year that jumped to 250 megawatts.

State officials don't expect the pace to slow. Within the next two years, they expect solar panels scattered throughout the state will be capable of producing as much electricity as a coal-fired power plant.

The biggest chunk of last year's jump in capacity occurred in the solar capital of Minnesota — Chisago County, just northeast of the Twin Cities. It has more solar capacity than any other Minnesota county.

It's there you'll find Minnesota's largest solar energy facility — the newly constructed North Star project. Xcel Energy is buying the power the panels produce — up to 100 megawatts. That's enough to power 20,000 homes. Read more

Solar panels pop up in Northfield

Northfield has a new way of contributing to renewable energy, as solar panels have risen from the ground on St. Olaf land in the northwest corner of the city.

The panels, which are on land leased by St. Olaf, make up five community solar gardens, as defined by Xcel Energy, and in all, produce 5 megawatts (5,000 kilowatts) of power. The site is owned and operated by BHE Renewables, which purchased it from the original developer, Geronimo Energy.

The power from the gardens is purchased by Xcel Energy and added into the company's overall power grid. To support the construction and operation of the gardens, organizations and/or residents subscribe to them. Those entities and people still buy their power regularly through Xcel, but they get credit on their power bill for the investment in community gardens. Read more

I-94 corridor promotes electric cars

Imagine zipping down the road in your new electric car but with one nagging question: Is there a charging station nearby?

Soon you won't have to worry as much.

The Interstate 94 corridor from Detroit, Mich., to the Minnesota/North Dakota state line is one of 55 routes the Federal Highway Administration has designated nationally to promote alternative fuels and help drivers find vehicle charging stations nationwide.

Spanning 35 states and covering 85,000 miles, the new network was created under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act.

The alternative fuel corridors designation will be used to promote electric, hydrogen, propane and natural gas vehicles by encouraging development of fueling and charging stations along these routes.

Electric vehicle sales continue to grow nationally. From January through June of this year, more than 64,000 electric vehicles were sold in the U.S., setting new monthly sale records along the way. Read more

Governor Dayton Appoints Senator Katie Sieben to Public Utilities Commission, Appoints Commissioner Nancy Lange as Chair

ST. PAUL, MN – Governor Mark Dayton today announced the appointment of Senator Katie Sieben to serve a six year term on the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. She will be replacing Commissioner Beverly Jones Heydinger, who currently serves as Chair of the Commission and did not seek reappointment. Governor Dayton has selected current Commissioner Nancy Lange to serve as Chair of the Commission, for a term expiring on January 7, 2019. Commissioner Lange and Senator Sieben will assume their respective duties on January 23, 2017. Read more

Xcel Energy flips switch on new plant, more than doubling solar energy generation in Minnesota

After years of talking and planning, solar energy in Minnesota is finally starting to shine.

Xcel Energy last week flipped the switch on the North Star project in Chisago County, one of the largest solar plants in the Midwest. It by itself more than doubles the state’s total solar energy generation.

Also this month, Xcel’s promising but much-delayed Community Solar Garden program is rolling out in a significant way. Around 20 megawatts of solar garden power are online, and up to 35 more megawatts are expected to be running by Jan. 1.

Another large project that will feed power to Xcel — called Aurora — has been largely energized since mid-November. Read more

Xcel Energy Foundation and employees celebrate another year of giving

Minneapolis–-Dec. 21, 2016-– In this season of giving, Xcel Energy’s commitment to communities shines through as employees volunteered more than 20,000 hours and donated more than $3 million to support local nonprofits this year. Xcel Energy Minnesota employees and families also volunteered an additional 2,000 hours packing food for families, filling backpacks with school supplies for low income students , and painting, cleaning or doing yard work as part of the company’s annual Day of Service.

In addition to matching these employee contributions dollar-for-dollar, nearly $4 million in nonprofit grants were awarded by the company’s foundation nationwide, with about half that amount supporting the work of 250 Upper Midwest organizations.

“Our nonprofit partners work every year to meet the needs of the community while making every dollar count,” said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. “They balance countless demands and determine the best way to use contributions in their communities. We thank them for all they do.” Read more