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Your source for news and updates related to Department of Commerce agencies and programs.

November 2017 Renewable News

11/28/2017 9:23:32 AM

Welcome to Renewable News, where you will find the latest news and information on a wide range of renewable energy topics.

Solar News

Stacy Miller receives MnSEIA’s Ralph Jacobson Lifetime Achievement Award

Stacy Miller, solar policy specialist for the Minnesota Department of Commerce, received the fourth-annual Ralph Jacobson Lifetime Achievement Award on Nov. 15 at the Midwest Gateway to Solar Conference in Bloomington, Minn. The award is in honor of Ralph Jacobson, a solar pioneer of Minnesota, and recognizes an individual’s outstanding and sustained contributions to the solar industry.

The award was established by the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA) in 2014, with the inaugural award presented to Ralph Jacobson at the MnSEIA Gateway to Solar Conference.

“I am immensely honored and privileged to receive this award,” said Miller. “MnSEIA has done so much to advance the solar industry in Minnesota, and so much of what I’m charged to do at Commerce is to keep that momentum going. I’d like to acknowledge the efforts and leadership of my solar colleagues at Commerce, where we have a number of people who are working toward achieving the state goals of 1.5% solar by 2020 and 10% by 2030.”

Minnesota adds 114 MW of solar from July-October, hits 612 MW total capacity

Minnesota solar capacity increased by 114 MWDC over the past four months (July-October), giving Minnesota 612 MWDC of total solar capacity, according to preliminary figures compiled by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. In the first 10 months of 2017, Minnesota solar capacity increased by 366 MWDC, more than doubling the total capacity at the end of 2016, which was 246 MWDC. The recent solar capacity gains came mostly from new community solar gardens built for Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Community program. Through Oct. 31, 2017, the state has 200 MWDC of community solar gardens, with 197.5 MWDC of this designated for Xcel’s program. Approximately 180 MWDC of solar capacity is expected to be added by the end of this year.

Commerce publishes Minnesota Solar Guide

The Minnesota Solar Guide has been published by the Minnesota Department of Commerce and copies are now available. The guide is a listing of solar businesses in the state, from solar manufacturers and system developers and installers to the agencies that help finance solar projects. It helps solar businesses connect with one another and helps consumers find the solar products and services they need to plan and install solar on their homes and businesses. Printed copies can be obtained by contacting solar.help@state.mn.us. The guide is also available for downloading as a pdf on the Commerce website.

NREL offers free Solar PV Training Program for city and county staff

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in support of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, is offering a no-cost solar photovoltaic (PV) training program for cities and counties seeking to add solar energy to their facilities (on both buildings and land). The training commitment will be approximately 20 hours over a 12-month period, primarily in 2018. To apply, please complete and submit the short application form by Thursday, Nov. 30.  For detailed information on the training program, view the City and County Solar PV Training Series Kickoff Webinar.

Farmington schools’ 3.1 MW solar project is largest for MN school districts

The largest solar project ever built to serve a Minnesota school district began producing energy last week, according to a report in Midwest News. The Farmington public school district’s 3.1 MW project places photovoltaic panels on the rooftops of several buildings. The first project to go live is the 715 kilowatt, 2,200 panel installation on the roof of Dodge Middle School, with more buildings to follow. The initiative represents an increasing investment in solar energy by a growing number of schools in the state. Read more.

Minneapolis parks tap solar power

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has installed solar power systems in five parks across the city over the past two years in an effort to reduce heating costs, minimize the agency’s carbon footprint, and increase usage of sustainable energy. It installed 374 solar panels on the roof of the north rink at Parade Ice Arena, the park system’s largest energy user. The Park Board says the arena’s energy upgrade will save taxpayers more than $80,000 annually. Other parks with the new systems: East Phillips, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Webber, and Lake Nokomis’ main beach. The solar project was paid for with nearly $1 million from Xcel’s state-mandated Renewable Development Fund. The Park Board contributed $150,000 in matching funds. Read more in a Star Tribune report.

DOE announces four solar topics in SBIR/STTR funding

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced topics for the next round of funding in the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) funding program. For the 2018 fiscal year, DOE plans to fund feasibility demonstration SBIR/STTR projects in four solar topics:

  • Devices and Methods for De-Energizing a Photovoltaic System.
  • Cybersecurity for Solar Energy Devices.
  • Peer-to-Peer Energy Transactions.
  • Research in Autonomous and Augmented Systems to Reduce Solar Costs.

Applications will be accepted starting November 27. Learn more about the solar topics.

Clean Energy News

MPCA offers $200,000 in diesel emissions reduction grants

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is taking applications for its Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant program. The grant encourages owners of older, heavy-duty diesel engines to apply for funding to upgrade or replace old diesel engines. Since 2008, MPCA clean diesel grants have kept about 14.5 tons of soot out of the air, which is equivalent to taking 263,000 cars off the road. This summer, MPCA grants helped owners replace two beverage delivery trucks, two moving trucks, eight garbage and recycling trucks, several marine engines, and a crane engine.  Applications are now available.

Solar panel installers, wind turbine techs to have highest rate of job growth

Solar panel installer jobs will increase by 105% over the next decade and will be the fastest growing job in the United States, according to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The solar panel installer jobs will increase from 11,600 in 2016 to 23,200 in 2026, according to the report. Wind turbine tech jobs are projected to have the second fastest job growth at 96%. Read more.

NREL releases Status and Trends in the U.S. Voluntary Green Power Market

The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released Status and Trends in the U.S. Voluntary Green Power Market (2016 Data). The report is part of an annual series tracking the U.S. voluntary green power market, where retail electricity customers make voluntary purchases of renewable electricity. The U.S. voluntary green power market represents about 28% of all U.S. non-hydro renewable electricity sales and continues to grow, with about 6.3 million voluntary customers buying 95 million MWh of renewable electricity in 2016, a 19% increase in sales from 2015.

Tool helps cities plan, implement clean energy projects

A new series of city-specific fact sheets showcase how the National Renewable Energy Laboratory can assist cities through the State and Local Energy Data (SLED) Tool. Does your city want to lower its greenhouse gas emissions, reduce local air pollution, increase low-income household energy savings, or expand renewable energy generation or electric vehicle infrastructure? The SLED Tool will provide the steps to use data and analysis in a city’s energy decision making. Browse or download all the fact sheets and case studies at City Energy: From Data to Decisions. Find data for your city in the SLED City Energy Profiles.

Wind News

Minnesota firm lands two large Xcel Energy wind projects

Xcel Energy announced on Oct. 24 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 MW of wind energy in the Upper Midwest over the next four years, enough power for nearly one million homes. The contracts cover 750 MW of generation capacity. Mortenson won bids for the Blazing Star 1 and Blazing Star 2 wind farms in Lincoln County in southwestern Minnesota. Construction on the Blazing Star wind farms will start in 2019. Xcel has been the largest wind energy provider among U.S. utilities for over a decade. Read more.

New toolkit: Distributed Wind Energy Zoning and Permitting

The Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), a national nonprofit coalition of public agencies and organizations working together to advance clean energy, has published a free toolkit to help local governments and planning agencies facilitate the efficient and appropriate development of distributed wind in their communities. This toolkit, Distributed Wind Energy Zoning and Permitting: A Toolkit for Local Governments, covers a wide range of topics including zoning and permitting considerations, how to permit a project that maintains the character of a community, and model ordinances. 

Workshop, webinar features Competitiveness Improvement Project

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Wind Technology Center will host an in-person workshop and webinar for the distributed wind Competitiveness Improvement Project on Wednesday, December 6, 2017. The project is a periodic solicitation issued by NREL on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office. It aims to make wind energy cost competitive with other distributed generation technologies and increase the number of wind turbine designs certified by international standards for the U.S. market. Register for the workshop.

Electric Vehicles

NREL projects the number of EV charging stations needed

As sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) increase in the United States, a key question comes to mind: How many charging stations are needed to support these new vehicles? A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) outlines several potential PEV and charging station scenarios, with an estimated 15 million PEVs on the road in 2030. It suggests just a few hundred corridor fast-charging stations could support long-distance traveling between U.S. cities and roughly 8,000 would be needed to serve urban and rural areas nationwide. Read more. 

Biofuels

Stations in Minnesota offering E15 reach record number of 202

Minnesota’s ethanol industry surpassed a milestone in early November when the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association announced that Minnesota now has 202 stations offering E15. "The EPA approved the use of E15 in all cars 2001 and newer in 2012, and in 2013 there were only four stations in Minnesota offering E15. In the past 10 months, 141 stations throughout the state have begun offering E15," said Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, E15 sales in the state this year (as of the end of August) totaled 6.45 million gallons, surpassing the 6-million gallon mark for the first time. In 2016, the total E15 volume sold in Minnesota was 5.68 million gallons.

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