Latest News

Woodbury OKs solar garden, as long as nearby homes won’t see it

Minnesota-based solar energy developer GreenMark received the go-ahead from the Woodbury City Council to build a 3-megawatt solar garden in a rural-residential area of the city.

The approval however, came with an added condition to shield the solar panels from nearby houses.

The proposed facility would cover 17 acres of land off Military Road in Woodbury’s southwestern corner, operating on a 25-year lease with the landowners.

The council late last month approved terms of a permit, adding a requirement that GreenMark work with neighbors and city staff to reasonably ensure the 9-foot solar panels are not visible to neighbors. Read more

Minnesota leading the way for renewable energy grid batteries

Renewable energy is still a contentious subject in many parts of Minnesota, and across the country as well. The reliance on fossil fuels remains strong, and, even for those that support renewable energy and converting to renewables to meet our energy demands, the technology hasn’t quite made it as attractive, affordable, and efficient as it needs to be.

But this is changing. And quickly. Read more

A high-stakes dispute over Minnesota pipeline taxes

When the votes were tallied, a question on the property tax dispute between Enbridge Energy, a Canada-based energy company, and 13 counties in Minnesota rose to the top.

We soon learned why. Enbridge, which pumps 2.8 million barrels of crude oil a day through its Minnesota pipelines, is embroiled in a yearslong dispute with the state over the way it values that property. And what emerges from the dispute could ripple far beyond the pipeline counties.

First, a little background. Unlike other properties they assess, counties must use state valuation guidelines for pipelines, utilities and railroads. But if the assessment is successfully challenged, counties are mostly on the hook for repayment, along with their school districts, cities and townships that benefited from the tax revenue. “State agencies create the valuation method, but they’re not responsible for the amount,” said Warren Strandell, a commissioner in Polk County, one of those affected. Read more

America’s Electric Power Industry Supports More Than 7 Million Jobs

Each day, the men and women of the electric power industry deliver the safe, reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean energy that powers our nation’s economy and our way of life. A new report by M.J. Bradley & Associates analyzes the role that electric companies—and their employees—play in the nation’s labor force and economy. Powering America: The Economic and Workforce Contributions of the U.S. Electric Power Industry reinforces that the electric power industry is vital to American jobs and our nation’s GDP.

Among the report’s key findings:
The electric power industry directly provides nearly 2.7 million jobs across the United States through its employees, contractors and supply chain, and investments. More than 4.4 million additional jobs are supported through the induced effects of these jobs.
In total, the electric power industry supports more than 7 million American jobs—or 1 out of every 20 U.S. jobs.
As a whole, the electric power industry contributes $880 billion or 5 percent of total GDP. We might think of this as the first 5 percent of the American economy because virtually every other sector of the economy depends on the safe, reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean energy delivered by the men and women of the electric power industry. Read more

Beyond Rooftops: States Move To Encourage Community Solar

Community solar can drastically expand the base of people and business that can access solar power. But regulating the evolving industry is tricky. Read more

Gas pipeline around Rochester moves ahead

Dear Answer Man, whatever happened to that big natural gas pipeline project that was to be built in Rochester? I assume it's not going forward?

It's going forward. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved a route permit for the project on May 5 and it's now considered under construction, with work to be completed in 2022.

How come you haven't heard of this? Because as far as I can tell, it hasn't been in the media until now.

In late 2015, Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. proposed the $44 million, 14-mile pipeline around the west and south sides of the city. The high-pressure line is part of a long-term plan to increase transmission capacity in the area, and Minnesota Energy has an agreement with Northern Natural Gas to make that happen over the next 30 years. Read more

Wind power growing in Minnesota, and around U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy found a growth spurt in the wind power industry last year, both in Minnesota and nationally.

New data from the U.S. Energy Department shows Minnesota wind energy capacity increased about 9 percent last year.

Minnesota added enough new wind energy last year to power about 150,000 homes.

The cost of wind power rivals other forms of electricity generation, said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.

"Wind is now turning out to be one of the lowest cost alternatives — competitive with natural gas, and with other forms of electricity," he said. "That's why we're seeing such a huge growth in the wind energy in Minnesota. Read more

ALLETE Clean Energy Announces $80 Million Turbine Refurbishment Initiative

DULUTH, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- ALLETE Clean Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALLETE Inc. (NYSE: ALE), today announced a strategic initiative to refurbish 385 wind turbines at three wind farms in Minnesota and Iowa.

The project includes replacing select blades, gearboxes and generators on turbines at the Lake Benton wind site in Lincoln County, Minnesota, and the Storm Lake I and II wind sites in Buena Vista and Cherokee counties, Iowa. The project will improve turbine performance and reliability, generate federal production tax credits at each site and support the renewal of power sale agreements at the Storm Lake sites.

"As a central part of ALLETE Clean Energy's multifaceted growth strategy, this $80 million reinvestment will contribute to future earnings growth," said Allan S. Rudeck Jr., president of ALLETE Clean Energy. "Revenue from our existing wind sites such as Lake Benton and Storm Lake is the foundation for ALLETE Clean Energy's momentum and growth. Neighboring communities also benefit by keeping these older sites viable and valuable, which maintains jobs and landowner lease payments."

The refurbishment will be staged from 2017 through 2020 to minimize turbine downtime and maximize safe energy production at each site. In total, the sites produce approximately 700,000 megawatt hours of energy per year, representing about 50 percent of ALLETE Clean Energy's current electricity sales.

In addition to the turbine refurbishments, the project includes installing new communications infrastructure at the sites to better integrate them into ALLETE Clean Energy's corporate operations structure. New fiber optic connections, servers, and data acquisition and management systems will improve the operation of each site and secure the best performance.

Energy from the Lake Benton site is fully contracted through 2028, and approximately 8 megawatts of Storm Lake I production is contracted through 2032. ALLETE Clean Energy is working to recontract the balance of the Storm Lake I and II power sale agreements which expire in 2019. Read more

U.S. Electric Power Industry Supports More Than 7 Million Jobs

The electric power industry supports more than 7 million American jobs, equivalent to about 5 percent of all jobs in the United States, according to a detailed analysis of the role that electric companies play in the nation's labor force and economy.

M.J. Bradley & Associates (MJB&A) today released the report, Powering America: The Economic and Workforce Contributions of the U.S. Electric Power Industry. The analysis was conducted for the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the American Public Power Association (APPA), and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), and features employee profiles illustrating the high-quality jobs in the industry.

Specifically, the report finds that the electric power industry directly provides nearly 2.7 million jobs nationwide through its employees, contractors and supply chain, and investments. More than 4.4 million additional jobs are supported through the induced effects of these jobs. Read more

Minnesota, 14 other states appeal EPA delay of stricter air-quality standards

WASHINGTON — Attorneys general from Minnesota and 14 other states filed a legal challenge Tuesday over the Trump administration’s delay of Obama-era rules reducing emissions of smog-causing air pollutants.

The states petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s extension of deadlines to comply with the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Pruitt announced in June he was extending the deadlines by at least one year while his agency studies and reconsiders the requirements. Several pro-business groups are opposed to the stricter rules, including the American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was among the state officials who filed the lawsuit, said EPA’s delay violates the Clean Air Act.

“Yet again the Trump EPA has chosen to put polluters before the health of the American people,” Schneiderman said. “By illegally blocking these vital clean air protections, Administrator Pruitt is endangering the health and safety of millions.”

Ground-level ozone can cause serious breathing problems among sensitive groups of people, contributing to thousands of premature deaths each year.

In addition to Minnesota, New York was joined in the case by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Read more