West central Minnesota clean energy projects awarded grant funds
Several clean energy projects in the region were awarded state Clean Energy Resource Teams Seed grants. This year the grant’s focused on underserved communities.
WILLMAR — Minnesota's Clean Energy Resource Teams hope dozens of Seed Grants will help clean energy projects across the state flower into workable solutions in underserved communities.
Five of those 74 projects awarded grants this year are from the Willmar region.
“These Seed Grants will advance community initiatives, support local opportunities for jobs and training, and engage communities in reaching their clean energy goals,” said Lissa Pawlisch, CERTs director, in a news release announcing the awards.
The Lower Sioux Indian Housing Authority from Morton received $5,000 to fund a crew from Akiing 8th Fire to travel the Lower Sioux and train workers and install solar thermal panels for housing. The project is a joint effort between the Lower Sioux and the White Earth tribes, and will provide new skills and work opportunities for the members of the two tribal nations.
The city of Willmar was awarded two grants for two different projects. A reboot of Willmar's GreenStep initiative was granted $2,000.
The city joined the program in 2012, with the goal to create and follow cost-effective sustainable development best practices in the categories of buildings and lighting; transportation; land use; environmental management; and economic and community development. The grant will assist the city in implementing those best practices, hold educational lectures on them and bring more community members into the program by creating a Willmar Green Team, the release said.
The second project in Willmar to receive a Seed Grant was Willmar Municipal Utilities, which received $2,200 to help fund energy efficiency outreach in the Regency Park mobile home parks. Willmar Municipal Utilities wants to educate residents on electrical efficiency, thermal savings, water efficiency and other water issues.
Paynesville also had two projects receive funding. A lighting upgrade at the Performing Arts Center was awarded $5,000. The project will replace the current system with dimmable LED high bays, as well as educate the public about switching to more energy-efficient LED lighting for their homes.
The Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches was awarded a $5,000 grant to fund MN Venture Farms' cold climate solar greenhouses at sites in both Paynesville and Benson . The greenhouses will assist in increasing access to locally produced, healthful foods year round. It will also increase food security, reduce health disparities, promote sustainable agriculture and provided agricultural education programs, the release said.
Communities awarded grants were defined as those with underserved populations who spend 5% or more of their income on energy costs. In 2022, there was $330,000 available for the Seed Grants, allowing CERTs to double the amount of grants awarded from the year before. Since 2006, when the program started, approximately $1.6 million has been awarded to 467 projects.
CERTs is a partnership between University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Southwest Regional Development Commission and Great Plains Institute. The partnership helps connect communities and individuals in Minnesota to resources to help identify and implement community based clean energy projects.