For Minnesota churches, clean energy is a higher calling

Bethel Evangelical Lutheran and Minnesota Community Solar came together earlier this year to promote a solar garden that will sit atop the roof of the Minneapolis church. Without a panel yet installed, the 40-kilowatt (kW) solar garden attracted enough support from the church’s members and surrounding Bancroft neighborhood to be fully subscribed. The project encapsulated for Rev. Brenda L. Froisland a deeper spiritual tug that speaks to her faith and the teachings of Christianity.

“Part of our vision is that in gratitude, Bethel amplifies God’s grace, nourishes God’s creation, reaches out and builds community,” she said. “This is very much a manifestation of those points and our vision. “We’re noting this incredible resource called solar energy God gives us, and we’re nourishing God’s creation by reducing our carbon footprint and consuming less coal — all that’s connected to global warming, sustainability and simplicity.”

Bethel is not alone. A growing number of Minnesota churches and faith-based institutions are building solar projects, installing extensive geothermal heating and cooling systems and adding energy efficiency features — such as sensor-controlled lighting and improved energy monitoring — to their buildings.

Clean Energy Resource Teams Communications Manager Dan Thiede said churchgoers interested in renewable energy tend to believe in the “care for creation” model of belief and have “high moral and ethical standards and a desire to want to try to do something to reduce their impact on the environment.”

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Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Clean Energy Resource Teams Request for Proposals for 2014 Seed Grants

Need project funding? CERTs can help!

The Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) seeks proposals for seed grant funds. These grants are designed to provide limited financial assistance for energy efficiency and/or renewable energy projects. Project funding can support assistance services (labor costs only, such as for a consultant, design professional, installer, or student labor), for projects in all seven MN CERT regions.

The deadline to apply is Friday, October 18th, 2013 at 4:00pm.

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Small Wind Makes Big Gains In US

Distributed wind in the U.S. has neither the high profile nor, to be honest, the big potential of solar power. But this bit player is growing fast, according to a new federal report.

Some 812 megawatts of distributed wind capacity were installed over the past ten years, according to the first-ever 2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications. But it’s the 2012 data that’s particularly impressive: The year saw nearly 3,800 wind turbines totaling 175 MW of capacity go in. That’s 22 percent of the 10-year total.

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Pete Danko, EarthTechling

US Passes 10 GW Installed Solar PV Capacity Milestone

America’s solar market has broken through the clouds to shine as only the fourth nation to pass the 10 gigawatts (GW) installed solar capacity milestone.

Fast-growing solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment levels since 2010 pushed the US into the ultra-exclusive 10 GW club, reports NPD Solarbuzz in the latest North America PV Market Quarterly report.“The US has now joined an elite group of maturing solar PV markets,” said Christopher Sunsong of NPD Solarbuzz. “Only Germany, Italy, and China have more installed PV capacity than the US.”

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Silvio Marcacci, Marcacci Communications

New Q1 solar PV installations in US up 33% over same period in 2012

GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) forecast that during 2013, the industry will install 4.4 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic power facilities - enough to power about 800,000 average American homes. That will rise to nearly 9.2 GW annually in 2016. As the cost of solar photovoltaic panels declines, solar power is one of the fastest-growing new energy sources in United States.

"Installations will speed up over the next four years as projects become economically preferable to retail power in more locations," said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at renewable power information company GTM, a unit of Greentech Media.

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Minnesota’s first community solar project powers up

Steve Schmidt teaches a college class on renewable energy and always wanted to install solar panels on his Corcoran home but found the cost prohibitive. Yet last year he became an energy producer after buying one panel in Minnesota’s first community-based solar project.

Sponsored by Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association, the community solar project will be built on a small, treeless hill behind its Rockford office.

“To put a few panels on my roof along with the micro-inverters would cost more than $30,000, and I don’t have that much money,” Schmidt said. “This program is an easy way into supporting solar.”

A community solar program offers utility customers or residents in a neighborhood or city a chance to buy panels and have them installed in a communal area that might be a community center or a library rooftop or on the grounds of a utility. A nonprofit, utility or municipality typically organizes the projects. If Wright-Hennepin’s experience is any indication, it could be popular in other places.

The utility, which serves cities in the western suburbs, sold 171 panels at $869 each in just four months. The project will use solar panels from Bloomington-based TenKSolar, which will provide 53,000 kilowatts of power, enough to take care of the energy needs of four homes. Wright-Hennepin’s is the first community solar project in the nation to incorporate battery storage, which will be provided by Baxter-based Silent Power Inc.

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Managing more wind power in Minnesota: An update from the Midwest Independent System Operator

If you didn’t know, the Midwest Independent System Operator or MISO is responsible for delivering cost-effective electric power to Minnesota and 14 other states in the U.S., as well as parts of Canada. MISO and its members attempt to strengthen the transmission network while bringing benefits to their consumers.

One way they do this is through adding forms of renewable energy to the power grid. Currently in Minnesota and the Midwest, wind is the most abundant clean energy resource. In addition to wind, we also utilize biomass power from trees, animal waste and plant matter, and hydropower from flowing water. Over the past several years MISO has been integrating more wind power initiatives into the power grid, and we dug a little deeper to find out what this means for Minnesota.

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Kiley Bastian, Clean Energy Project Builder

Developer flips the switch on 7,040-panel solar PV project near Slayton (Minnesota's largest)

SLAYTON, Minn. - A new system built near Slayton with more than 7,000 solar panels is part of the boom in solar installations in Minnesota and across the United States—the latest sign of a banner year for solar installations.

Renewable power developer Ecos Energy said 7,040 solar panels outside of Slayton, MN began producing power Friday after being connected to Xcel Energy’s distribution system. The solar array is the largest in the state, with 2 megawatts of output, the equivalent of the power used by 250 homes.

The project has 32 rows of solar panels covering an area the size of 7.5 football fields on what once was a cornfield. “There was no celebration, but it is nice to get these things running,” said Chris Little, director of development for Ecos Energy, based in Minneapolis.

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David Shaffer, Star Tribune

Wind Energy Tax Credits Survive as Congress Passes Fiscal Cliff Deal

Washington, D.C. - The wind energy industry in the U.S. breathed a sigh of relief as Congress passed a fiscal cliff deal on Tuesday that included an extension of the wind energy tax credits for wind projects that start in 2013. The wind energy tax credits — which began in the early 1990s but have expired at least three times over the years — were set to expire at the end of 2012, and if expired, would have frozen wind project construction in the U.S.

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Katie Fehrenbacher, GIGAOM

Downward pricing for solar projected to continue; Opportunities to reduce soft costs exist

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE)’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) jointly released two reports examining solar photovoltaic (PV) pricing in the U.S.

The first report, Photovoltaic (PV) Pricing Trends: Historical, Recent, and Near-Term Projections, examines progress in PV price reductions to help DOE and other PV stakeholders manage the transition to a market-driven PV industry and to provide clarity surrounding the wide variety of potentially conflicting data available about PV system prices. By examining progress in PV price reductions, the report will also help DOE track progress toward the SunShot goals of reducing the installed cost of solar energy systems by roughly 75 percent between 2010 and 2020. The joint report indicates that PV system prices in the U.S. have been falling rapidly during the past decade, and are likely to continue their downward trend through 2012 and into 2013.