The Minnesota Party of Trump in the legislature has been pressing ahead with a radical-right agenda, despite what’s going down with their hero in the White House. Thankfully, in this state there is a remaining check and balance. From yesterday:
Since late January, Bluestem has chronicled the problems with HF234 in posts like “Are King Coal’s foxes to guard the co-op? HF234 would leave rural utility customers on defense” and “From our friends at CURE: tell Governor Mark Dayton: veto bill, protect solar in Minnesota.”
We are pleased as are so many friends that the governor chose to veto the bill today.
I’m adding some items that I’ve had sitting in my “environment” file for a while.
A five kilowatt rooftop solar installation now costs just $12,500 on average after tax credits, and pretty soon, installing one might soon be a matter of re-tiling your roof. Whether it’s right for you, however, depends in large part on how much sun your house gets. That’s where Google’s Project Sunroof comes in — launched just two years ago, it has now surveyed over 60 million US buildings in 50 states. That means there’s a good chance you can see the electricity production potential in your city, neighborhood and even specific house.
Google calculates the amount of sunlight on your roof based on “3D modeling of your roof and nearby trees,” weather patterns, the position of the sun in the sky during the year and shade from buildings, trees and other obstructions. That info is then converted to energy production “using industry standard models for solar installation performance,” Google says.
The results are surprising: 79 percent of all US rooftops are solar viable, meaning they have enough unshaded area for solar panels. Obviously, some regions are better than others — over 90 percent of homes in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are technically viable, but even northern states like Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota are over 60 percent. Houston, Texas has the most solar potential of any US city, with 18.9 gigawatt-hours of total power generation capability if all roofs had solar panels.
Minnesota’s solar energy capacity is skyrocketing after a breakthrough year. It took about 10 years to go from virtually nothing to 35 megawatts of capacity in 2015, but last year that jumped to 250 megawatts.
State officials don’t expect the pace to slow. Within the next two years, they expect solar panels scattered throughout the state will be capable of producing as much electricity as a coal-fired power plant.
Support for solar energy is vast. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans want the US to put more emphasis on developing solar power. Most of the same people, unfortunately, can’t afford to install solar energy systems in their homes. Even after federal tax credits, installing solar panels to cover all of a family’s electricity needs can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For others, a home solar system isn’t a consideration because they rent, or move frequently.
But Michigan Technological University’s Joshua Pearce says he knows the solution: plug and play solar.
“Plug and play systems are affordable, easy to install, and portable,” says Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and of electrical and computer engineering. “The average American consumer can buy and install them with no training.”
And finally, from the heart of what used to be called “Bachmann Country:”
For most cities, wastewater and drinking water treatment plants are major energy hogs.
So when St. Cloud was looking for ways to trim its utility bills, it made sense to look at the sprawling wastewater treatment plant on the city’s south side.
The city launched an innovative project to use renewable energy to power the plant. Solar panels generate electricity to keep it running when the sun is shining. Methane gas produced during the treatment process is captured and used to produce more electricity.
“In all likelihood, we’ll be 80 percent renewable energy by 2018,” said Patrick Shea, St. Cloud’s public services director. “I don’t know another municipality of this size in the state that’s at that level.”