Tag Archives: Frank Jossi

How an organic dairy’s quest for clean energy spread solar across Wisconsin

Written by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

As Wisconsin’s largest-ever solar project comes online this summer, the multi-site, multi-state partnership behind the development offers a potential model for how organizations can band together to meet clean energy goals. The Butter Solar Project consists of 32 megawatts installed at 10 locations feeding into 13 municipal utilities in three states. A who’s who of co-op grocery store shelves including Organic Valley, Dr. Bronner’s and Clif Bar have signed on to buy the renewable credits along with the city of Madison. It all started with a quest by Organic Valley to operate on 100% renewable energy before the project mushroomed into a much larger initiative, said Eric Udelhofen, project director for the developer, OneEnergy Renewables.
Continue reading here.

Additional Recommended Reading
Organic Valley Becomes 100 Percent Renewably Powered, Company News Release

Photo by OneEnergy Renewables: The largest installation of the Butter Solar Project, in Arcadia, Wisconsin. Organic Valley “provided financial assistance to more than 200 farmer members to install solar arrays on their dairies.”

About Frank Jossi

Frank Jossi is an independent journalist and consultant based in St. Paul and a longtime contributor to Midwest Energy News. His articles have appeared in more than 50 publications, including Minnesota Monthly, Wired, the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Technology, Finance & Commerce and others. Frank has also been a Humphrey policy fellow at the University of Minnesota, a Fulbright journalism teacher in Pakistan and Albania, and a program director of the World Press Institute at Macalester College.

RE100: Organic Valley is one of 191 RE100 companies that have made a commitment to go ‘100% renewable’. Organic Valley is a US-based cooperative of farmers producing award-winning organic milk, cheese, butter, soy milk, and other products.

How Land Under Solar Panels Can Contribute to Food Security

By Frank Jossi, Ensia

With more land being devoted to solar energy production, the idea of making those acres pollinator friendly seems to make ecological and economic sense. “Incorporating habitat into these solar farms across the nation is a good way to promote and protect pollinator health,” says Val Dolcini, president and CEO of the San Francisco­–based Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit organization promoting pollinator environments.

Under-panel native plants benefit not just their immediate solar farm surroundings but nearby cropland. Lee Walston, an ecologist at Argonne National Laboratory, says pollinating insects roam beyond solar installations to other agricultural fields, where they help increase production. Native plantings offer refuge for declining species such as monarch butterflies and rusty patched bumblebees while serving the additional purpose of controlling stormwater and erosion, he adds. Read more here.

Ensia Editor’s Note: Frank Jossi is Minnesota correspondent for Midwest Energy News, an editorially independent publication of Fresh Energy. Rob Davis, who is quoted in the article, is the director of Fresh Energy’s Center for Pollinators in Energy.

Photo Credit: Prairie Restoration Inc.

Small as energy maker, solar farm generates big interest

Youth activists score big climate victory in small Minnesota town

Written by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Last month 11-year-old Olya Wright and a handful of students convinced the Grand Marais city council to adopt a “climate inheritance resolution” that could lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the tiny North Shore hamlet. Wright is a member of Nordic Nature Group, a youth environmental group in Grand Marais, a city of slightly more than 1,300 residents that hugs the shoreline of Lake Superior north of Duluth. A beacon for tourists and outdoors enthusiasts, Grand Marais became the second Minnesota city after St. Louis Park to pass a climate inheritance resolution initiated by students using a “report card” developed by the nonprofit iMatter. Click to continue reading.

Photo by iMatter: Eleven-year-old Olya Wright presents a “climate inheritance resolution” to the Grand Marais city council in Minnesota.



Clean energy advocates skeptical, cautious about retail choice bills in Nebraska and Kansas

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

Bills before the Nebraska and Kansas legislatures to allow electricity customers to choose their power provider are being viewed with caution, and a little skepticism, by clean-energy promoters in the two states. A Houston-based energy developer with Nebraska ties, Gary Aksamit, appears to be the driving force behind the legislation. Aksamit argues that a freer energy marketplace could mean more access to renewable sources. However, such a fundamental remaking of the electricity marketplace has people concerned about possible unintended consequences. Continue reading.

Photo by Garry Jones / Creative Commons: Nebraska Wind Farm

Nebraska bills would allow more community solar, tap lottery for funding

Midwest groups seek share of Volkswagen settlement funds for electric vehicles, by Andy Balaskovitz
Bipartisan effort seeks to double Minnesota’s renewable energy standard, by Frank Jossi

Q&A: How solar could change the face of low-income energy assistance

Written by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Jason EdensA north-central Minnesota solar nonprofit is creating a community solar garden for low income residents of a Native American reservation that it believes could become a national model. The 200 kilowatt community solar garden will be built by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance for low income residents living in the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. It would serve from 100 to 150 families. The nonprofit plans to build the solar garden using money from a $500,000 state grant and then donate it to the tribe. Click to continue reading.

Photo of Jason Edens, Director of the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance. Credit: Tom Kelly / Creative Commons

A low-income St. Paul neighborhood has an ambitious energy plan, Midwest Energy News


Q&A: Minnesota companies create ‘circular economy’ coalition

Written by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Mike-HarleyMore than 25 Minnesota businesses, which include the state’s largest employers, have come together on a strategy for creating a “circular economy” to eliminate waste and rely on renewable energy. The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition will be led by the Environmental Initiative. The members include many familiar names with local and international reach — 3M, Andersen Corp., Aveda, Best Buy, Cargill, General Mills, Hormel Foods, Target and Xcel Energy, to name a few. Continue reading. Photo: Mike Harley, Executive Director of the Environmental Initiative

Teen activism moves Minneapolis suburb to pass climate initiative


By Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Officials in a Minneapolis suburb adopted an aggressive greenhouse-gas-reduction policy last month that was brought forth by a group of local high schoolers who are part of a national climate change movement. Drafted by iMatter, a national youth-led group, the resolution aims for net-zero emissions by 2040 in St. Louis Park,  a suburb immediately west of Minneapolis with a population of roughly 47,000. The resolution also commits the city to working with youth activists on its future goals and planning . . . The students were the first in the country to have a resolution passed that was prepared by iMatter, which is training high school students across the nation to lobby their communities to pass a “Climate Inheritance Resolution.” The group’s website says similar efforts are underway in cities in New York, Iowa, Illinois, California and Canada. Click to read more.

Photo by iMatter

Minnesota community’s energy focus gives it edge in national competition

Written by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Winemaking Alums

A Minnesota community was recently named one of the eight finalists in the America’s Best Communities competition in part due to a focus on renewable energy . . . Chisago Lakes pitched the idea it could be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. The strategy isn’t all that far-fetched considering Chisago County has underway 174 MW of solar, much of [it] utility scale projects, as well as home to an innovative winery microgrid. “The Chisago Lakes community has a deep commitment to sustainability, driven by the area’s signature natural resources and the frugal and civic-minded Scandinavian roots.” Read more here.

Photo Credit: Mike Ekern, University of St. Thomas. Winery in Minnesota (WineHaven) powered by a microgrid.

St. Thomas Newsroom: Work to Begin on $2.1 Million Microgrid Research and Testing Facility

Report: Engaging members key for co-ops to meet energy challenges

Written by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Community solar is one way rural co-ops have sought to reduce emissions while engaging with members. Photo Credit: Clean Energy Resource Teams / Creative Commons

Community solar is one way rural co-ops have sought to reduce emissions while engaging with members. Photo Credit: Clean Energy Resource Teams / Creative Commons

While rural cooperatives have different structures and oversight than larger utilities, they are not immune to the dramatic changes impacting the energy sector.

In addition to increasing pressure to cut carbon emissions, many co-ops have suffered flat or falling demand for electricity for years, as well as a dwindling customer base.

A report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) outlines many of the challenges co-ops face and how to navigate them. Continue reading.

Download the report, Re-Membering the Electric Cooperative 

Minnesota mayor aims for net zero by 2031

Local officials have plans to make the $6 billion Destination Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota net zero.

Written by Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

A brief meeting with actor Robert Redford in Utah a few years ago influenced Rochester, Minnesota’s mayor to move the city of nearly 100,000 residents to become energy net zero by 2031.

“It will be a challenge,” said Mayor Ardell F. Brede, but he believes a target is necessary as the city moves toward greener sources of energy generation. The Destination Medical Center is the first focused effort by the city and if that goes well, the concept of sustainability can move beyond the downtown core and into the neighborhoods.

Continue reading here.

SAVE THE DATE! On March 1st Nebraskans for Solar will host a panel presentation, “The Zero Energy House – Key Features, Benefits & Value.” Click here for details.