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Hooray for Hutchinson! Meet the Energy & Climate Winners

April 18th, 2017

The Energy and Climate category award is given to a partnership that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, cuts energy consumption, advances energy efficiency, or improves air quality. It’s projects like these that prepare our state to adapt to a changing global climate.

The City of Hutchinson, Ameresco, Xcel Energy and many more partners came together in a cross-sector partnership to do just that. Through this solar project, the City reduced emissions in their community, making a better quality of life for residents and our planet. Not only is this project innovative and groundbreaking, it transformed one of Minnesota’s brown areas blue. Join us in congratulating these project partners!



Made possible by a generous Renewable Development Fund grant from Xcel Energy, The City of Hutchinson Landfill Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System is a 400-kilowatt system supplying 15% of the power needs of the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. This project is the largest solar PV installation on a landfill in Minnesota, and the first ballast-mounted on a brownfield.

In layman’s terms, not only was this mounted and installed in an innovative way, it also transformed a landfill into something restorative that gives back to the community in cost savings, and to the state in environmental benefit. As a result of repurposing a 1970s-era municipal landfill, the City reduced CO2 emissions by 1.4 million pounds per year, roughly the equivalent of taking 133 vehicles off the road each year.


“The City of Hutchinson was able to make Minnesota’s first landfill mounted Solar PV project possible through strong partnerships with Xcel Energy, AMERESCO, Hutchinson Utilities, tenKsolar, Hunt Electric, and many more,” said Hutchinson Mayor Gary Forcier. “Being recognized by Environmental Initiative for this project affirms the importance of this unique collaboration and that our City’s commitment to innovation can foster resounding benefits to our residents as well as others across the state and region.”

“The electrical energy produced by the solar panels provides enough dollar savings such that the project is guaranteed to pay for itself in less than 18 years, and with an estimated life of over 30 years; the City and residents will receive all the financial benefits in future years.” —John Neville, AMERESCO


Join us on Thursday, May 25 to congratulate and celebrate these project partners, their positive environmental outcomes, and the lasting benefit of collaboration. To shake things up, we’re also honoring three individuals in honor of our 25th anniversary, so it’s sure to be a night of reflection and festivities for Minnesota’s environmental community. Purchase your tickets or tables here »




A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th Anniversary, four organizational and two individual awards will be presented on May 25, 2017 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Get your tickets before they’re gone »

Damian Goebel


Communications Director

Have you met the Community Action category winners?

April 13th, 2017

The Community Action category award is given to partnerships that solve environmental challenges on a community scale—which can mean a lot of things. From grassroots efforts and utilizing volunteers, to policy initiatives that contribute to improved quality of life, this award recognizes those who come together.

The Metropolitan Council, the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTs), a slew of local governments, and many more project partners came together to produce solid environmental and economic outcomes—making them this year’s Community Action winner.

An Award-Winning Effort



The Governmental Solar Garden Collaborative is a joint effort by and for 31 local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region to procure solar garden subscriptions from a single Request for Proposals (RFP) process. The goal in getting these subscriptions is to offset the energy usage at public facilities.

The results? Twenty-four of the 31 participants said that they were moving to sign subscription agreements for a cumulative 33 megawatts of solar capacity. If you’re like me, you have no idea what this means.

Basically, most participating local governments are working to offset public facility energy use by signing up for a clean energy alternative. By doing so, these local governments have added a surprising figure of solar capacity to the state. To give you an idea of how meaningful 33 megawatts is, Minnesota generated a total of 35 megawatts for community solar subscriptions during the entirety of 2015.

Perhaps more importantly, this project highlights the power of partnership—and its lasting benefit. Because of this effort, the group is continuing conversations concerning additional collaborative purchasing for public building solar and electric vehicles for local government fleets.


“By working together and sharing resources, the partners could reduce costs, create opportunities for communities of all sizes, and make a larger impact than any organization could have had alone. The result will be the development of 33 megawatts of solar electricity– enough to power over 4,000 Minnesota homes for 25 years– and a significant reduction of government spending on energy in public facilities.” –Trevor Drake, Co-Director of the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team and Project Manager at Great Plains Institute.

“What will have long lasting impact is how public and private entities combined their knowledge, skills and expertise to generate subscriptions to 33 MW of solar development… This type of procurement for solar energy was a groundbreaking, innovative approach that has applied across the nation in only a few regions.” –Peter Lindstrom, Local Government Outreach Coordinator with the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) at the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension.

“I’m most proud of the willingness and determination of everyone involved to try something new. It’s easy to look back at something that was successful and be glad to have done it. It’s much more difficult, however, to move forward with something that seems like a good idea but might not succeed. Everyone involved in this project took a risk in joining the process and seeing it through. I’m proud that our region is made up of local governments and partners that are willing and determined to be innovative in the face of great challenges.” –Trevor Drake, Co-Director of the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team and Project Manager at Great Plains Institute.


Join us on Thursday, May 25 to congratulate and celebrate these project partners, their positive environmental outcomes, and the lasting benefit of collaboration. To shake things up, we’re also honoring three individuals in honor of our 25th anniversary, so it’s sure to be a night of reflection and festivities for Minnesota’s environmental community. Purchase your tickets or tables here »




A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th Anniversary, four organizational and two individual awards will be presented on May 25, 2017 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Get your tickets before they’re gone »

Damian Goebel


Communications Director

Trending Green: Understanding Corporate Renewable Procurement in the Midwest

September 12th, 2016

More and more, the need for corporate renewable energy continues to grow. As more businesses navigate purchasing clean energy, it’s important to understand policy, strategy and best practices associated with “going green.”

To assist in the process, Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System (M-RETS), in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE), is hosting speakers and panel discussions covering these topics. The event will be focused on:

  • Business, legal and regulatory issues from organizations that have gone through the process,
  • Utility green purchasing programs,
  • Successful policies and practices in the region and how they can be adopted elsewhere.

The event is intended for both large and small businesses within the Midwest. Policy makers, business leaders, and utility professionals are also welcome to attend. This is a free event and will include a keynote speaker and two panels.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016  
9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  

University of Minnesota
200 Oak Street S.E. McNamara Alumni Center, Heritage Gallery
Minneapolis, MN
Directions and Registration » 

We hope you will join us for this session and learn to navigate corporate renewable energy procurement. For more information, contact ben@mrets.org, dan@mrets.org or visit the M-RETS website at www.mrets.org.


Sam Hanson


Director, Sustainability Program

Will We See You At The Women’s Breakfast?

March 29th, 2016

Three Wind Turbines on Grassy Hill, Summer Evening

Okay, ladies! This post is for you. I’m really excited to share that Environmental Initiative will be at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s Women’s Breakfast this April. This event educates more than 200 women annually on some of the key environmental issues facing Minnesotans. Plus, it’s just a really great crowd of smart, accomplished, professional women from all walks of life – community, business, academia, philanthropy, government, and nonprofits.

(Full disclosure, I’m serving on the planning committee for the MCEA Women’s Breakfast, which has been a lot of fun). The deadline to register is April 15, 2016 and you can get your tickets online.

Here are the details:

United We Change: What the Paris Climate Summit Means for Minnesota
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

University of Saint Thomas – Wolfe Alumni Hall
Saint Paul, MN

$35 for Individual
$125 for Table of 4
$250 for Table of 8

A dynamic and diverse panel of female leaders will discuss their experiences at the Paris Climate Summit and what the historic international agreement means to them and for Minnesota.

Kristen Poppleton, Moderator
Director of Education, Climate Generation

Ellen Anderson
Executive Director, University of Minnesota Energy Transitions Lab

Leigh Currie
Energy Program Director, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Representative Melissa Hortman
DFL District 36B, Minnesota House of Representatives

Roopali Phadke
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Macalester College

I’ll be joined at this event by Environmental Initiative staff Ellen Gibson, Meleah Houseknecht, Andrea Robbins, Dani Schurter, and Sacha Seymour-Anderson. Be sure to pop over to our table and say hi at the event!


The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is a nonprofit organization using law, science, and research to protect Minnesota’s natural resources, wildlife, and the health of its people. MCEA was involved in the founding of Environmental Initiative and has been a longtime partner in our work throughout the organization’s history.

Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

From Brownfields to Brightfields: Renewable Energy on Redevelopment Sites

January 4th, 2016

Minnesota Brownfields is hosting a session to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with developing solar energy on brownfield sites. This session, intended for solar developers and redevelopment professionals, will explore:

  • Solar energy trends in Minnesota and what it means for brownfields,
  • Legal considerations specific to developing solar energy on infill sites,
  • Incentives, policies, and programs available for brownfields and solar energy development.

Speakers will also share information from real-world cases like the Rice Creek Commons in Arden Hills, Former Ford Plant Site in Saint Paul, and a 400 megawatt landfill-mounted solar PV system in Hutchinson.

EVENT DETAILShutch-solar-array.jpg
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m., Registration and light breakfast
9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Event program (includes lunch)

Wilder Center
451 Lexington Parkway North
Saint Paul, MN
Directions »

Registration is $75 for Minnesota Brownfields members and $115 for nonmembers. The deadline to register is noon on Friday, January 29. Register »

I hope you will join Minnesota Brownfields for this session to explore the unique opportunities available to develop solar energy on redevelopment sites. For more information, including a list of speakers, visit Minnesota Brownfields website, or feel free to contact me directly with questions.

Natalie Brown


Program Coordinator, Minnesota Brownfields

Helping Monarchs and Honeybees at Scale

April 13th, 2015

We worked for years to ensure Minnesota leads the way in the transition to a clean energy economy. Homegrown renewable energy has led to billions of dollars of private investment, millions of production taxes paid to local communities, and thousands of jobs created across Minnesota.

For years, Minnesota’s leadership in energy has revolved around our significant wind power across south western Minnesota. Now, as prices continue to drop dramatically, we’re in the beginning stages of an exciting solar expansion as well. Thousands of acres of ground mounted solar are set to be installed over the next several years, and that expansion presents a unique opportunity to not only produce homegrown energy, but also to support our water and food supply.

Andrew Zimmern.JPG

These solar arrays could easily support new habitat for monarch butterflies and honey bees — simply by planting pollinator friendly native grasses rather than layer gravel or dirt. Most developers are used to building solar farms in California and Arizona (desert ground cover). In most cases, shipping in gravel is more expensive than dense beds of deep-rooted pollinator plants. (more…)

Michael Noble


Executive Director, Fresh Energy

Great River Energy Sees Utility Role in PEV Advancement

April 1st, 2015

Great River Energy provides wholesale electricity to 28 member cooperatives across Minnesota. As a cooperative, we are motivated by listening to and providing services for our member-owners and their consumers. So when we noticed a growing interest in plug-in electric Great River Energy Logovehicles (PEVs), we decided to explore the technology and our potential role in that market.

What we discovered after our initial research efforts is the important role PEVs will play in increasing energy security, improving fuel economy, lowering consumers’ overall fuel costs and reducing emissions. We also believe that electric utilities play an intrinsic role in consumers’ consideration of PEVs as a personal transportation option. Fleet electrification may also prove beneficial for business and industry.

Benefits to members
We are already looking at ways to make it easier for consumers to drive electric vehicles, and currently offer rebates for residential charging stations that encourage off-peak or time-of-use vehicle charging. This strategy enables consumers to use more electricity during night-time hours when prices are typically lower and when the electricity is frequently produced from the region’s abundant wind resources.

We are also looking at what it takes to develop PEV charging infrastructure in greater Minnesota. We have two PEV chargers for public use at our Maple Grove headquarters with plans to install additional charging equipment in 2015, including a number of Level 1 charging ports for employees. Great River Energy is proud to have been accepted as a Department of Energy Workplace Challenge partner.

Stakeholder engagement, partnerships and research
We think it’s important to listen to a variety of stakeholders and are participating in Drive Electric Minnesota, a coalition of groups that work collaboratively to bring electric vehicles and plug-in charging infrastructure here. We also conducted a summit last year to learn more about PEVs from nonprofits, government and environmental groups, subject matter experts, electric engineers as well as PEV owners.

Next steps
Great River Energy anticipates going further down the paths of stakeholder engagement, research, demonstration, infrastructure pilots and partnerships in an effort to increase PEV market stimulation.

We believe we can provide utility leadership in educating our members and promoting PEVs as a realistic transportation option. We look forward to helping promote and develop a robust PEV market in Minnesota.

Learn more about Great River Energy and the cooperative difference at greatriverenergy.com.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 101 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Gary Connett


Director, Demand Side Management and Member Services, Great River Energy

Midwest Bioeconomy and Safer Products Summit: Regional Innovations Solving Global Problems

February 13th, 2015

Strong manufacturing, retail, and human resources, supportive policies, abundant forestry and agriculture resources, and solid industries, summit logocompanies, and innovation make the Midwest well positioned to be a leader in the bioeconomy. How will stronger consumer (and business) demands for safer and environmentally-friendly products impact the Midwest economy?

Join the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum to explore green chemistry, innovation, and sustainability initiatives at the Midwest Bioeconomy and Safer Products Summit on February 19th.


Thursday, February 19, 2015
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Minneapolis Central Library, Pohland Hall
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Register »


Laura Babcock


Director, Minnesota Technical Assistance Program

Environmental Initiative Staff Tour the ‘HERC’

December 10th, 2014

When Pete Swenson at Tennant Company invited us to join members of their operations team on a tour of the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, I could barely type “YES!” fast enough. After working on the Waste Reduction Collaborative project for the past 10 months, an opportunity to see first hand where our community’s waste goes was definitely on the top of my list.

The HERC – Hennepin Energy Recovery Center – is a refuse-fired electric generating facility. Meaning, this is Group photo of staff in hard hatswhere 35% percent of Hennepin County’s waste – both residential and commercial – is burned as fuel to generate electricity. You’ve probably seen it without realizing as it’s located adjacent to Target Field.

As Pete mentioned in his initial email, the experience was definitely “eye-opening.” As I stood above the pit, the location where trash haulers dump their day’s collection, I tried to grasp the magnitude of waste that our society generates. But after watching truck after truck unload, and scoop after scoop of waste being added to the boilers, it wasn’t hard to understand.

Besides being saddened and overwhelmed by the extreme volume of waste, I stood there and reflected on what I could do to help the problem. I decided to pledge to think more critically, and encourage others to as well, about what we are throwing away. Instead of mindlessly tossing our trash into the bin (I’m guilty too), let’s actually pay attention.

For example, did you know that the HERC still receives tires, appliances, electronics, and aluminum cans on a daily basis? All of these items cause tremendous problems at HERC. At the same time, they all have reputable, mainstream recycling options available. Let’s be mindful and use them!

We also learned that wet, organic material doesn’t mix well with the boiler. What if we helped out the HERC and got our organics out of the waste stream? I encourage you to talk with your local county to explore options for organics collection in your area.

And finally, if you have a group that could use an “eye-opener” sign-up to take a tour of HERC. I promise it will be worth your time.

Dani Schurter


Project Manager

Two Sides of the Energy Savings Coin: Technology and Behavior

July 29th, 2014

In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan (CPP); the proposed rule’s goal is to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants 30% by 2030. If finalized, the CPP would be a landmark regulation, and the most significant step taken to date by the U.S. government to address climate change. The CPP outlines four main strategies that EPA believes can be the building blocks to achieving the reductions needed to meet the ambitious goal:

  • Make fossil fuel power plants more efficient
  • Use low-emitting power sources more
  • Use more zero and low emitting power sources
  • Use electricity more efficiently

The first three building blocks are technology switching strategies, and these are often our first and only thought when considering how to reduce our carbon impact, but strategies to reduce the amount of energy we use have an important role to play as well. A recent study by the Energy Savings Trust of the United Kingdom illustrates this point. The study found that people of Britain waste over $100 million a year by overfilling their kettles when making tea. The report: At Home with Water points out the water energy nexus — that savings from water conservation accrue not just from reduced supply costs, but from reduced energy costs as well. The other major point is that reducing the amount of energy we use is not just a technology problem; it includes a behavioral component as well.


Nick Franco


Director, Sustainability Services - U.S. Energy Services, Inc.
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