Solar Factory on the Iron Range

It’s fun to see what’s happening in other parts of Minnesota. MPR reports

Mountain Iron, Minn., bills itself as the “taconite capital of the world.” It’s home to Minntac, the nation’s largest iron ore mine.

Now the town of fewer than 3,000 has something else to boast about: the opening of the state’s only solar panel factory, and the first to open in the U.S. in 2018.

Heliene opened its first solar panel plant in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, eight years ago. Now, it’s investing more than $18 million to get a 25,000 square foot factory up and running on the Iron Range, after another manufacturer abandoned it last year.

President Martin Pochtaruk gets asked all the time, “Why Mountain Iron?” His answer, he said, is always the same.

“Why not? The same question was asked to me when we started a factory in Sault Ste. Marie. It is a place in need of industrial diversification. It’s a place with viable labor.”

Energy Savings at Home – a checklist to save energy and money

Energy Star has some great tips for saving energy and money in these hots summer weeks…

Maintenance Checklist

Maintain your equipment to prevent future problems and unwanted costs. Keep your cooling and heating system at peak performance by having a contractor do annual pre-season check-ups. Contractors get busy once summer and winter come, so it’s best to check the cooling system in the spring and the heating system in the fall. To remember, you might plan the check-ups around the time changes in the spring and fall.

A typical maintenance check-up should include the following.

  • Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
  • Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
  • Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increases the amount of electricity you use.
  • Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.
  • Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.

Cooling Specific

  • Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system’s ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
  • Check your central air conditioner’s refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
  • Clean and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system’s efficiency by up to 15 percent.

Heating Specific

  • Check all gas (or oil) connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.

Actions To Do Yourself

  • Inspect, clean, or change air filters once a month in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump. Your contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.

U of M’s West Central Research and Outreach Center celebrates fast electric vehicle charger

Minnesota Public Radio reports…

Picture this: It’s a hot summer day. Cows in a field are seeking shade under solar panels. And those panels? They’re feeding two electric vehicle chargers — and powering an office building nearby.

That will be the scene in a few months at the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris.

Today, the university community is celebrating the arrival of the only fast electric vehicle charger for more than 100 miles around. And later this spring, a 30-kilowatt solar array will be installed in an adjacent cow pasture, sending clean power to the charger.

Read more

6 Predictions For Energy Policy At the 2018 Minnesota Legislature

Sharing some predictions from Energy News Network

  1. Energy storage bridges the partisan divide
  2. The state’s RPS is staying where it’s at, for now anyway
  3. Biomass gets a hearing, but what comes of it is less certain
  4. Volkswagen settlement funds spur EV funding talk
  5. If utilities don’t share their tax savings, lawmakers will make them
  6. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) picks up steam

Get the details!

Mankato solar array to host unique research study

The Mankato Free Press reports…

The piece of land just east of Mankato was prairie for thousands of years. A century and a half ago it was plowed into farmland. Last year it was transformed to a massive solar array.

And this spring, the parcel will become a first-of-its-kind research laboratory — studying ways to make harmonious neighbors of solar arrays, prairie plants and agriculture.

“We certainly are aiming to demonstrate this in practice as well as theory that solar developments can coexist with agriculture in a very effective way,” said Marcus Krembs, director of sustainability for Enel Green Power North America. “… This is a really exciting project.”

Read more.

Renewables are now the No. 2 source of power in MN

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

Renewable energy has moved into second place as Minnesota’s largest source of electricity generation, nudging out nuclear power but still trailing coal.

Meanwhile, the cost of wind energy in Minnesota — even without tax subsidies — now appears lower than electricity produced from both natural gas and coal.

Both conclusions come from a report released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which tracks power generation trends nationally. The report was presented at an event in St. Paul hosted by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, two industry-led nonprofit groups.

Read more.

 

Reports show that wind turbines good for crops

Ag Daily reports.

Iowa State University researchers have found that wind turbines located in agricultural fields are a plus for the crops growing around them.

The overall effects on crops growing in wind farms appear to be positive said Gene Takle, Iowa State agronomy professor. He has led a team of plant and soil scientists along with extension specialists who have been looking into the effects since 2009.

They started their work after seeing more wind farms and turbines pop up around the state. The new land use was positive for the landowners where they were located, but the researchers wondered if it was the same for the farmers growing crops.

Read more.