Learn More About Minnesota’s Green Energy Leaders

A growing number of Minnesota-based organizations want to achieve a “net-zero” future where they produce or offset as much energy as they consume
Wind turbines near Pipestone, Minnesota

Brian Jeffery Beggerly/Flickr

Tribes, corporations, communities, utilities, universities, and other groups have set goals of achieving carbon neutrality within the next 20 to 30 years. Yes, that’s a long time. Many will see substantial progress by 2030, leaving the most challenging work to be done near the finish line. Here are a few of their stories.

Tribe: Prairie Island Indian Community

Home to Treasure Island Casino and located within a few hundred feet of Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant, the Prairie Island Indian Community received $46.2 million from the state government to retrofit their small community in 2020. The money actually comes from fees Xcel Energy pays to store radioactive waste at Prairie Island and another nuclear plant.

Prairie Island Indian Community President Shelley Buck says the tribe wants a net-zero community to change the energy story at Prairie Island. “It’s always centered around the nuclear power plant and the waste accumulated there, and we want to change our story and make our story,” she says. “We want to help Mother Earth and we know we have to do our part.”

While still in the planning stages, Buck predicts the tribe will become a net-zero community by retrofitting buildings and adding solar energy. A big part of the challenge will be working on the casino, which houses the second-biggest hotel property in Minnesota. “There’s a huge education piece we’re hoping to add to this to create jobs,” she adds.

Utility: Moorhead Public Service

In 2020, Moorhead Public Service likely became . Moorhead buys half of its electricity from a utility rich in hydropower and the rest from Missouri River Energy Services, which has a high level of renewable energy, says Travis Schmidt, the Moorhead Public Service’s general manager. The clean energy purchases represent 87% of Moorhead’s power needs. The utility buys “renewable energy certificates” through Missouri River Energy Services to offset the remaining 13%.

Moorhead also boasts two wind turbines and a community solar program. The carbon-neutral milestone helped the city advance in the state’s GreenStep Cities program. Moorhead also enjoys bragging rights that could help attract businesses looking for a place that is concerned about the environment, he adds.

School: University of Minnesota Morris

Few campuses in the country can claim net-zero status when it comes to electricity. Morris, the only Minnesota educator in that rarified group, has two wind turbines that produce 60% of its electricity needs. It sells about half the turbines’ output to a local utility and then buys back renewable energy certificates to offset electricity provided by fossil fuels.

Additional energy comes from a biomass plant and from solar. In 2019, Morris received an award for producing more renewable energy per student than any other campus in America. Sustainability director Troy Goodnough told Minnesota Public Radio in 2020 that “our students have been the biggest catalyst” in moving the college to clean energy.

City: St. Cloud

In 2016, St. Cloud generated 0% from renewable sources. By 2019, the city generated more than 70% of its power from renewable energy projects, including a community solar garden, solar panels on seven city facilities, hydropower on the Mississippi River, and biofuel production.

Corporation: Target

Target has some of the most solar installed among retailers in the country, according to , with solar panels gracing the roofs of more than 540 stores and distribution centers. The panels produce over 200 megawatts, enough to power 33,000 homes. The company wants 100% of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030.

Schools and Governments

Most Minnesotans live in a community with a climate action plan that calls for investment in clean energy. Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Rochester, and more have them. The same is true of schools. Many have solar installations or have plans to invest in them. Many state agencies and the executive branch support clean energy through solar projects or by subscribing to Xcel Energy’s Renewable Connect program. The Department of Administration’s sustainability dashboard reports the state avoided $8 million in energy costs through conservation measures in 2019. Solar on Minnesota’s Capitol Complex buildings also help the state avoid emitting 230 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) annually. Agencies continues to transition to a green vehicle fleet with more than 1,100 hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles.

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