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Mankato to Xcel: Go west with proposed power line

MANKATO — Three months ago, North Mankato city officials told Xcel Energy they'd prefer to not have a new transmission line running through their backyard.

Now, Mankato has suggested that the high-voltage line doesn't really work on its side of the Minnesota River.

Xcel's predicament is the transmission line has to go one way or the other.

"What they're trying to do is find easement corridors through an urban area," Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said of the power company's challenge.

Xcel announced earlier this year it is imperative to build a 345-kilovolt transmission line between its Wilmarth substation on Mankato's north side to a new substation being constructed near Huntley about 40 miles south of Mankato. Congestion on the transmission grid is keeping clean low-cost energy produced by wind farms from reaching customers, according to the utility, and the new line would fix the problem. Read more

Will going green leave some taxpayers in the red?

(KMSP) - The landscape is changing on the outskirts of the Twin Cities metro area.

Vast stretches of farmland are planted with semiconductors instead of crops--row upon row of steel, glass and plastic, here to stay for at least the next quarter century.
"We're on a real growth trajectory right now for solar development," said Dan Thiede, a green energy expert from the University of Minnesota.
But private developers are rushing to lock in land leases to install massive solar arrays that turn sunbeams into electricity.

The community solar gardens range in size from six acres to as many as forty, giving consumers an opportunity to go green without the expense or hassle of having to install solar panels on their own property.

"They allow for people to subscribe to a project and actually see a bill credit on their utility bill," said Thiede.

Subscribing to a solar garden can, over time, save customers hundreds--even thousands--of dollars on electricity.

The sweet spot for these community solar gardens is along Xcel Energy's power grid. The utility claims to have the largest solar garden program in the country, producing enough power to supply about 14,000 homes.

Part of what's driving this growth is a state requirement for Xcel to sell electricity made from renewable resources, leading private solar energy developers who are eager to get a piece of the action to stake out land around the metro for projects that can easily connect to Xcel's distribution system. Read more

Xcel Energy: Celebrating a Cleaner Kilowatt Hour

The kilowatt hour you use today isn’t the same as yesterday. When you flip the switch, the electricity you consume is about one-third cleaner than it was a dozen years ago, and it’s going to be even cleaner in the future.

We’ve been steadily transforming how we produce, deliver and encourage the efficient use of energy, and doing it while providing service that is reliable and affordable. Since 2005, we’ve reduced our carbon footprint 30 percent and aspire to do even more as we work toward a 60 percent reduction target by 2030.

A Cleaner Kilowatt Hour: Our company-wide progress reducing carbon emissions while providing customers with reliable, affordable energy. Read more

Nuns bring another solar array to Mankato

MANKATO — When a developer suggested in 2015 that the Mankato-based School Sisters of Notre Dame sign up as a subscriber for the power generated by a planned solar array in the area, the nuns had a more ambitious idea: build the array on our land.

Two years later, Innovative Power Systems of Roseville is beginning construction on a 1.3 megawatt solar array with roughly 40,000 solar panels capable of creating enough energy to power 165 average Minnesota homes.

The School Sisters will be a major subscriber for the new power, expected to go on line by late winter, as will Blue Earth County, the Hilton Garden Inn and the city of New Richland.

"To be able to collaborate with others is a great gift," said Sr. Mary Kay Gosch, campus administrator of the provincial headquarters on Good Counsel hill.

During a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday, Gosch said the nuns feel a moral obligation to support non-polluting sources of energy. Read more

Two big new Xcel wind farms in Minnesota to be built by Mortenson

Xcel Energy Tuesday announced the prime contractors for four Upper Midwest wind energy projects, and Golden Valley-based Mortenson landed two of the deals.

The projects are part of Xcel’s plan to add 1,850 megawatts of wind energy in the Upper Midwest over the next four years, enough power for nearly one million homes. The contracts unveiled Tuesday cover 750 megawatts of generation capacity. (A megawatt is one million watts).

Mortenson, one of the largest U.S. wind energy contractors, won bids for the Blazing Star 1 and Blazing Star 2 wind farms in Lincoln County in southwestern Minnesota. Each Blazing Star project will have the capacity to generate 200 megawatts of power, utilizing about 100 turbines a piece.

Construction on the Blazing Star wind farms will start by 2019. Read more

Minnesota one of the most energy efficient states

KNSI) - Minnesota ranked high in a report of the Most and Least Energy-Efficient States.

The study says Minnesota is the fourth most energy-efficient state out of 48 states, Alaska and Hawaii weren't included.

Only New York, Vermont and Utah rank higher. Read more

MN Tops in Midwest for Energy Efficiency

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota gets the number one spot in the Midwest in a new report from the American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy.

The state ranks ninth in the nation, up one place from last year.

The council comes up with its rankings by comparing states' building codes, transportation, appliance standards, utility programs and other state initiatives that encourage energy savings.

"In the U.S., a lot of the innovation and a lot of the driving forces behind energy efficiency really occur at the state level,” says Weston Berg an analyst with the council, who worked on the report. “We hope as part of the state scorecard, by tracking each state's efficiency policies, we can kind of create some friendly competition between states, as well as highlight some best practices." Read more

Minnesota Power updates Hydroelectric system at Island Lake Dam

DULUTH, Minn. – Minnesota Power is currently undergoing a unique construction project on the Island Lake Reservoir. Crews are working to replace several gates under one of its hydroelectric dams. It’s a two-year project aimed at modernizing the more than 100-year-old hydroelectric system.

“It’s a once in 100 year project,” hydro operations manager Chris Rousseau said. “It’s not often that you’re doing this kind of work, but we need to continuously invest in these assets if we want them to have the longevity that they’ve had.”

Almost all of the work is being done under-water, which means much of the construction crew is made up of divers. They are moving and setting parts about 30 feet under the water surface. Read more

Minn. conservatives praise Clean Power Plan rollback

While environmental groups admonished the Trump administration for rolling back President Obama's signature climate policy, some Minnesota conservatives welcomed the news.

The Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants and set emissions reduction targets for each state. But President Trump has said the policy amounts to a "war on coal," and on Tuesday EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt began the process of eliminating it.

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, a Republican, said the Clean Power Plan was "federal overreach."

"I am proud that Minnesota companies and elected officials have taken it upon themselves to work to reduce carbon emissions without the heavy hand of the federal government demanding so," Emmer said in a written statement. Read more

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fall 2 percent in 2016, led by power industry: EPA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Greenhouse gas emissions from America’s largest industrial facilities fell 2 percent in 2016 to 2.99 billion tonnes, led by a large cut from the power sector, according to data published on Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The decline, which came in the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency, brings the total drop in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial facilities over the past five years to nearly 10 percent.

The decline in emissions in 2016 was led by a 4.6 percent cut from U.S. power plants, to 1.88 billion tonnes from 1.97 billion tonnes in 2015, according to the data. That marks an 18 percent decline from five years ago, when the EPA started gathering data.

Emissions from the natural gas and oil sectors, however, including pipelines and gathering systems, rose to 283 million tonnes in 2016 from 233 million in 2015. Read more