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Stories: renewable energy

macalester college

"Macalester has been selected to participate in the Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality program. Over the next six months, the college’s Facilities Services and Sustainability Office will receive pro bono energy planning and consulting services from Ever-Green Energy, a St. Paul-based company that partners with community utilities, health care and higher education institutions to develop and operate sustainable energy systems.

"Ever-Green’s goal is to help higher education institutions identify the most implementable solutions that can improve energy system reliability and efficiency, while simultaneously developing a long-term strategy to achieve carbon neutrality. The final plan will be tailored to Macalester’s needs and be ready for implementation right away. "

Learn more about the project here.

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insight brewing co.

"IPS Solar installed this 19.8kW Photovoltaic solar electric energy system in Minneapolis, Minnesota to offset the electricity load of Insight Brewing. Insight Brewing will be one of the first breweries in the state to be powered with 100% renewable energy. 

The panels will produce roughly 23,500 kWh per year. Over 30 years the solar panel system will offset roughly 1,200,000 pounds of CO2, the equivalent of adding nearly 21 acres of trees to our forests. The system is highly flexible, allowing installs around HVAC units, so space is not wasted. IPS expects at least 30-40 years of useful life out of the system."

Project size: 19.825 kW

Learn more here.

mounds view

public schools

"Mounds View School District recently flipped the switch on thirteen rooftop solar projects in the district which are anticipated to save the district roughly $900,000 in electricity costs over the next 25 years. The solar panel systems will not only save energy dollars but also provide science learning opportunities for students and help to meet the district’s sustainability goals.

These arrays were installed at no cost to the district by IPS Solar’s Solar4Schools Program. Over the next 30 years, our systems will save hundreds-of-thousands in taxpayer dollars by lowering operational costs for school districts."

Total Project Size: 520 kW

Learn more here.

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As quoted in the Park Bugle, "As a congregation, we see this project primarily in terms of caring for the earth as stewards,” Pastor Glenn Berg-Moberg said. “There may be a financial advantage from the lowered energy costs, but that is not the first motivation for taking on this project. SAPLC is hopeful that others may be inspired to take measures to reduce our carbon footprint for the sake of a healthier world.”

Learn more about the church at saplc.org.

st. anthony park lutheran church

The Saint Anthony Park Lutheran Church values strong stewardship among its leadership and congregants, and has demonstrated this through a solar array install in 2016, added organics recycling in 2019, and a water conservation Sunday School curriculum this past fall in 2020. 

Bjorn Gangeness has been involved in some of the energy upgrades:

 

"The congregation at SAPLC feels a strong call to be good stewards of the earth. We have made big and small decisions with environmental impacts in mind. Over the past 5 years, we have reduced our electricity and heating use by roughly 30% each through repairing and replacing HVAC and lighting equipment and the installation of a 40kW solar electric array visible on the roof from Como Ave. There is still more to be done for weatherizing entrances and additional lighting upgrades, as well as maintaining existing equipment at peak performance.

 

Enerchange.org is a Minnesota non-profit that helps other non-profits maximize their energy efficiency projects. They were a huge help in identifying different aspects to prioritize and validate in our HVAC upgrades in particular."

church of corpus christi

"Corpus Christi’s call to action was to form a group of parishioners with experience in renewable energy and have them look at a plan for our property.

The team looked at our space and energy use. They then looked at church and other commercial solar installations in the area, attended renewable energy society meetings and governmental renewable energy conferences. In the fall of 2016, competitive bids were gathered from multiple commercial solar firms. In 2017, Apex Efficiency Solutions was selected to manage our solar array project.

 

Construction of the array will take place this spring. The array will have 180 individual solar panels generating 77kW DC (60kW AC) at peak. The panels will be installed on ground-mounted racks within a fenced southwest corner of Corpus Christi’s property (South of the Giving Garden).

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Pollinator-friendly wildflowers will be planted under and between the panels to promote local pollinator health and greatly reduce mowing. Wildflower seeds have been donated by the General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios Marketing Team as part of their #BRINGBACKTHEBEES program."

Find out more here.

district energy st. paul

"District Energy provides energy to downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota, and the adjacent West Side neighborhood. Through district energy infrastructure, we send hot water and chilled water to customer buildings to meet all of their heating and cooling needs. Our team is dedicated to exceptional service, operational excellence, environmental stewardship, and community engagement.

District Energy is a nonprofit utility. The system is the largest hot water district system in North America and an industry leader in system integration featuring biomass-fired cogeneration, thermal storage, and solar thermal technology. District Energy has been recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme as one of three systems in the United States serving as an international model for best practices."

DistrictEnergy.com

wellington

management

"Wellington Management believes that being environmentally aware and energy efficient is simply good property management. WMI makes sure that all of our buildings operate with the most environmentally-friendly lighting systems available. Such improvements are often the most cost-effective techniques for reducing energy use while making the workplace more appealing to tenants in the long run. We often work with local utility companies to complete comprehensive energy assessments on our properties. These help us evaluate when to replace boilers and other mechanical equipment and control systems. We have added solar panels on a number of different Wellington properties over the past few years, and have also incorporated green roofs and urban apiaries into some of our buildings. Such alternative energy systems often provide a way to substantially reduce our carbon footprint while keeping energy costs under control over the long term. 

Furthermore, Wellington Management has kept a keen eye on the Twin Cities' continuously developing transit system, and have worked on developing properties along Light Rail and Greenway lines. 

Our green initiatives result in a win-win outcome for the environment, for our buildings, for our tenants as well as for investors who entrust us to manage their assets effectively and with care."    - Wellington Management

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zvago 

saint anthony park

At the housing cooperative Zvago Saint Anthony Park, the majority of the residents are active participants in the community — serving on the board or committees, taking on volunteer tasks, checking in on one another. 

 

They have several committees and most consider sustainability in their decision making. Two are focused more wholly on it — the Waste Reduction Committee and the Committee on Energy Resilience and Sustainability (COERS). 


As the name of the COERS group indicates, we are interested in all ways we can reduce our carbon footprint and make our building more sustainable in terms of energy, natural gas, and water use. Last year, we had a building energy audit done by through the Multi-Family Building Efficiency Program. Because the building is new, was built well, and was supplied with more energy efficient equipment than necessary to meet the building code, there were few things they could recommend to make substantial improvements. A small step was to find agreement among the members to set the thermostats in common spaces a few degrees lower in winter and higher in summer than 72 F. 

 

This building has several electric and natural gas meters — for each of the 49 residential units and separate meters for the common spaces. Members receive their own utility bills. We have encouraged them to sign up for Windsource and are now seeking opportunities for them to subscribe to a Community Solar Garden.

 

We are planning to purchase some power monitoring equipment so we have a more granular understanding of when and where electricity is used in the common spaces. We’ll need that as we consider the feasibility of battery or generator backup power. We have two Level 2 battery chargers for electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. Many are talking about switching to those types of vehicles, but only two residents now have them. 

We spent many months investigating details about installing solar photovoltaics on the roof and ways to finance it. We eventually settled on a proposal for a 90kW array. We have made an effort to educate and inspire the membership about this proposal and to answer their questions and concerns. This involved written descriptions and plans as well as community meetings to describe the physical, financial, and logistical aspects of solar arrays. Unfortunately, although the joists under our roof are strong enough, a decision was made during construction to install a ballasted roof rather than a fully adhered roof. The river rock that serves as ballast for the impermeable membrane added too much weight for us to install a standard PV array, which also needs ballast to hold it in place against the wind. We’re on pause with this project while the installer is looking into engineering solutions. 

 

A long-term goal is to electrify the building to minimize use of natural gas. This will require increasing the electrical service to the building, which is an expensive proposition, but necessary as Saint Paul and the state approach the goal of being carbon neutral.

saint anthony park UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

Saint Anthony Park United Church of Christ converted to renewable electricity and reduced its natural gas usage by a third by:

        *  Signing up for Xcel Energy’s   

           Renewable*Connect program,

        *  Air-sealing and insulating the attic,

        *  Replacing the 50-year old boiler with a

            pair of high efficiency boilers, and

        *  Replacing the water heater with a high

            efficiency unit.

 

The attic had been compromised by having numerous openings to the space below and by having HVAC equipment placed above the inadequate amount of insulation. The openings were sealed and new insulation was sprayed and blown on a new surface above the equipment.

 

In summer, the sanctuary is not air conditioneed. So, the controls for the sanctuary’s air handler were upgraded to include “free cooling.”  When indoors is too warm and outdoors is cool – typically nighttime – outdoor air is brought in to cool the sanctuary. It’s not the same as full air conditioning, but it helps.

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Most of the double-hung windows have been replaced, eliminating the weights, adding new, tightly sealed jamb liners, and installing new, double-pane sashes. At the same time, storm windows were replaced. Many of the old windows and storms were functionally compromised, and in winter sitting near some windows was uncomfortable. The new window combinations are, in effect, triple-pane with no sensible air leakage. Their benefit is comfort; they don’t contribute much to energy reduction.

 

Two other possibilities for renewable electricity remain for future consideration.The church has a generous south-facing roof, but installing solar panels has not been considered because of the initial cost and because of concern about complicating existing issues with ice dams. The other possibility would be to subscribe to a community solar garden which would reduce the electric bill. The Twin Cities is fortunate to have a local co-operative solar garden developer which is unique in accepting subscriptions from anyone with an electric bill, not just people with high credit scores. Some churches have been “anchor subscribers” for this developer, taking on unused subscriptions as other subscribers leave and join.