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The Minnesota Project's blog features news, analysis, resources, musings, and events Centered on Sustainability in the areas of clean energy, local food, and conservation agriculture. Visit our Web site to learn more about the organization and our work at www.mnproject.org.

SPREAD THE WARMTH – SHARE THE DOUGH ON DEC. 10 FOR RREAL

December 2, 2014

RREAL 12.10

The Minnesota Project is happy to announce an event for partner organization Rural Renewable Energy Alliance:

You’re invited to RREAL’s fundraiser!  With your help, we can continue to Spread the Warmth for RREAL by delivering solar energy to underserved, low-income communities in Minnesota and beyond!   RREAL’s Solar Assistance program is a nationally unique, clean and domestic solution to low-income fuel poverty, and we need your support!

Share the dough!  Enjoy delicious, locally made bread and soup with other RREAL supporters and allies. You will have the chance to enjoy pints of Summit beer on us and enter a raffle to win some unique prizes. Minneapolis’s own Como Avenue Jug Band will provide the beats, so get ready to celebrate our work and support more!

RREAL is asking for your support, so that we can continue to deliver and develop our pioneering Solar Assistance flagship program. Help us continue to move communities from impoverished to empowered with solar energy!

By joining RREAL at our Spread the Warmth, Share the Dough event, you will help RREAL make sure that Solar Assistance becomes a national model for addressing low-income energy needs!

Tickets to the event are $20 per person.  Please invite new friends to support our work. Tickets are limited. Please purchase your tickets early to ensure your spot.  Click HERE to register!

Planning for Spring

December 1, 2014

The best way to get through winter is to spend it planning for spring. The Minnesota Project has been working on planting Edible Landscapes across the metro, transforming unused community areas into productive garden space. Our continuing goal is to increase the amount of fresh, healthy, and sustainably raised produce in our communities and in our local food shelves.

By the end of this year, we will have planted a fruit tree orchard at Oxbow Creek elementary, built six garden beds for Evergreen Elementary School, and constructed five raised beds for Beth El Synagogue and Benilde-St. Margaret’s School (pictured below) all made possible by the Hennepin County Public Health Department Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) funding.

We plan to plant these raised garden beds in spring with vegetables, along with several other sites which are still in the developmental stage. For each of these Edible Landscape projects at least half of the harvest will be shared with a local food shelf, and some of the veggies being shared directly with the community. The selected space can be planted with an orchard, garden beds, or a combination of both depending on the preferences of the host site.

How can you help, and plan away the winter? When sifting through your seed catalogs, plan to plant an extra row in your garden with the intent of donating it to your local food shelf. The fresh produce is greatly appreciated (Don’t worry, you are protected legally by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act) and you will help make a family happier and healthier. For more information visit our program website http://gardengleaning.org/

Solar Thermal Can Reduce Propane Costs

November 20, 2014

Propane consumers are being hit with a “one-two” punch: a propane supply shortage from a flow reversal of the Cochin Pipeline, and what is shaping up to be a long, cold winter. Further, propane consumers do not benefit from utility efficiency programs and rebates because those programs focus on natural gas utilities, not unregulated propane suppliers. The rising cost of propane is hitting Midwesterners especially hard, where propane plays a much larger role in agricultural production. With this in mind, policy-makers have turned their attention to solar thermal technologies that will help mitigate against propane price spikes.

Generally, solar thermal devices harness solar energy into thermal energy by collecting solar radiance in a medium – air under a glazed panel, or a liquid glycol solution – and transferring that heat into an existing hydronic or HVAC system. There are several types of solar thermal collectors, including: solar hot water, solar hot air (a/k/a solar furnace), and solar transpired air.

(air heat diagram- rreal.org)

Solar furnace and solar transpired air collectors are normally mounted on south-facing walls to maximize solar radiance capture, but may also be engineered to rest on rooftops (hyperlink with example). Hot air is then transferred indoors through conventional ducting. While solar air heating is suitable for all sorts of programs (commercial, industrial, multi-residential, institutional, etc.), it is particularly appropriate for rural applications, especially when you consider the skyrocketing cost of propane. These applications include poultry and livestock ventilation and most importantly crop drying and processing (the most energy intensive operation of grain farming). Furthermore, solar air heating is capable of generating 7.3 million BTUs of thermal heat annually, the equivalent of 80 gallons of propane, significantly diminishing heating expenses.

(transpired air on a turkey barn – rreal.org)

If you’re seriously considering the technology, I encourage you to visit the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance site. They both manufacture and install solar furnaces, with the possibility of financial assistance. I also encourage you to look into the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Made in Minnesota Solar Thermal Incentive Program. For solar furnaces manufactured in Minnesota, individuals (or companies) can receive a rebate equal to 25% of the system installed cost up to a maximum of $2,500 for residential, $5,000 for multi-family and $25,000 for commercial systems. And finally, the Toronto-based engineering firm, Conserval Engineering Inc. is well known for their Solar Wall solar air heating product. I urge you to check out their chicken farm and swine farm case studies!  Good luck and capture those savings!

Don’t Forget! It’s Give to the Max Day!

November 13, 2014
 gtmd-logo
Today is Give to the Max Day in Minnesota!
Here at The Minnesota Project, we advance sustainability for communities across Minnesota every day.  In 2014:
  • Fruits of the City Logo-roundOur Fruits of the City program organized hundreds of volunteers to glean over 30 tons of fresh and healthy fruit for Minnesota food shelves and received the prestigious Environmental Initiative Award for Food Stewardship.
  • Our Energy Program was an Environmental Initiative Awards finalist for our LED Lighting for Poultry project that will save poultry farmers over $2,200 annually in reduced energy consumption.
  • Our Dairy Efficiency project partnered with 57 of Hastings Cooperative Creamery’s dairy farmers to help them identify and implement energy savings through the use of smart technologies and practices such as plate coolers, energy efficient lighting, variable speed drives and more.
  • ggp-page-001Our Garden Gleaning Project worked with area gardeners and farmers markets to collect and donate nearly 14,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to those in need.
  • And lastly, as a result of our work with starting community orchards, school gardens, and our Micro-Farm, we’ve transformed over 12,000 square feet of unused space into edible landscapes. Our Micro-Farm, alone, has cultivated nearly 2,000 pounds of produce for The Food Group food bank.
Your support is needed!
You can donate online now at our GiveMN page and join thousands of Minnesotans donating to their favorite causes today.  You can also support us by sending a donation directly to our offices at: 1885 University Avenue West, Saint Paul, MN 55104.
servingsnrg PHOTO
GARDEN BEDSTREE PLANTING
Along with any financial support you may be able to provide, your support of our social media efforts would be greatly appreciated. Please “Like” or “Share” our Facebook page. Or “Follow” or “Re-tweet” us on Twitter.

Help Our Award Winning Program Grow!

November 8, 2014

Give To The Max Day 2014 - Nov. 13th.November 13th is Give to the Max Day in Minnesota and your support is needed to help our award winning Fruits of the City program continue to grow! You can visit The Minnesota Project’s GiveMN page to schedule your Give to the Max Day donation today.

The Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City program has continued to grow as a resource for Minnesota food shelves and the families they serve. Since 2009, the program has harvested and delivered over 280,000 pounds of fruit to food shelves throughout the state.

Our successes have not gone unnoticed.  This year, The Minnesota Project was recognized at the 20th Annual Environmental Initiative Awards when we received the Food Stewardship award for our Fruits of the City program. This awards program annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership.

The Fruits of the City program addresses the lack of access to fresh, healthy fruit for the economically disenfranchised by coordinating teams of volunteers and fruit tree owners to deliver thousands of pounds of fresh fruit to local food shelves and food banks.

“The Minnesota Project and their partners have worked together on a project that is creating a better environment for all Minnesotans,” said Mike Harley, executive director of Environmental Initiative.  “We are grateful for their passion and support of our belief that by working together, we can achieve great things.”

“With the help of over 500 volunteers in 2013, the program collected and donated a record 128,000 pounds of fruit that was shared with hungry families throughout the region”  notes Jared Walhowe, coordinator of the Fruits of the City program.  “None of this would be possible without the generosity of our registered fruit tree owners, our supporters and our dedicated volunteers who join us for harvesting events.”

Fruit tree owners and volunteers can learn more about how to participate in the Fruits of the City program at www.fruitsofthecity.org or by contacting the program directly at fruits@mnproject.org or 651-789-3321.

The Minnesota Project was also a finalist in the Energy and Climate category at this year’s Environmental Initiative Awards for their work to retrofit 16 Minnesota poultry facilities with LED lighting technology –reducing energy consumption by approximately 70% with simple paybacks for farmers of 3 years or less.

Give Today!

Visit www.givemn.org/organization.Minnesota-Project to schedule your Give to the Max Day donation.

About the Awards

The Environmental Initiative Awards was established to honor those working in partnership and encourage collaborative approaches to environmental problem solving. From large statewide efforts to small-scale locally based projects, many of Minnesota’s most innovative environmental efforts have succeeded as a result of collaboration. The program annually honors innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by working in partnership.

About The Minnesota Project

The Minnesota Project is a nonprofit organization championing the sustainable production and equitable distribution of energy and food in communities across Minnesota. To best address the multiple factors that define sustainability, the organization focuses on three areas – the development and efficient use of clean renewable energy, promotion of sustainable agriculture practices and production, and consumption of local, sustainably grown food. Founded more than 30 years ago, today the organization works toward establishing a sustainable Minnesota by 2039 through policy research, education and outreach, as well as developing key ground-up, grassroots initiatives targeted at empowering communities and their leaders. www.mnproject.org.

Heat on the Farm – What’s the cost?

November 7, 2014

Woody-Biomass Hand

In light of Minnesota’s loss of the Cochin Pipeline, which just happened to supply 38% of the state’s propane, many ag producers are considering propane alternatives or locking in LP prices now.

Fortunately, there are available resources to help farmers decide the best ways to heat their barns.  Penn State University Extension developed a nice Energy Cost Comparison Tool to help farmers decide on fuel sources.

Iowa State Extension also has a Liquid Fuel Measurements & Conversions chart so farmers can calculate their thermal load in Btus (British thermal units) and determine which fuel or technology would best suit their needs.  Hint: If available, woody biomass is cheaper than propane and solar thermal is a smart investment.Liquid Fuel Measurements

Folks at The MN Project also suggest farmers take a look at solar hot water or solar hot air technologies and the Made-in-Minnesota rebates for companies like Solar Skies and Rural Renewable Energy Alliance.  These technologies are proven and provide a nice hedge against propane costs because, ahem, solar energy is free.

Solar Spill

Apples to Sustain our Community, Donations to Sustain our Organization

November 4, 2014

Last week on Monday, October 27th, The Minnesota Project planted over twenty apple trees at Oxbow Creek Elementary School in Brooklyn Park, MN. The new trees will produce fresh healthy snacks and learning opportunities for the students for years to come.

This site was previously unused space which has been transformed into a positive asset to the community, and is one of several projects that The Minnesota Project has coordinated and successfully completed this year.

We need your help to continue our projects! Save the date, Give to the Max Day is November 13. Click here to schedule a donation, and to see how your contribution is supporting our organization.

 

About The Minnesota Project

The Minnesota Project is a nonprofit organization championing the sustainable production and equitable distribution of energy and food in communities across Minnesota. To best address the multiple factors that define sustainability, the organization focuses on three areas – the development and efficient use of clean renewable energy, promotion of sustainable agriculture practices and production, and consumption of local, sustainably grown food. Founded more than 30 years ago, today the organization works toward establishing a sustainable Minnesota by 2039 through policy research, education and outreach, as well as developing key ground-up, grassroots initiatives targeted at empowering communities and their leaders. www.mnproject.org.

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