Solar Energy & Agriculture: Pursuing Win-Win Opportunities

July 9, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Author: Brian Ross

NREL solar panels with pollinator friendly plants

The largest solar farm proposal in the Midwest recently received approval from Wisconsin state regulators. Most of the 3,500-acre Badger Hollow Solar Farm project, which is being developed by Illinois-based Invenergy, is located on active farmland and will include up to 1.2 million solar panels on 2,200 acres of the project area. Some in the community saw the project as a staggering land use change in their community and contrary to the county’s farmland preservation plan. Significant local opposition to the project decried the use of prime agricultural land for solar production.

This case is emblematic of the dilemmas faced by the solar industry, utilities, and those working at the local, state, and federal levels to decarbonize the power sector and increase the use of local renewable energy. The Great Plains Institute is working to address these issues in ways that support solar development and agricultural protection goals. Continue reading »

Reducing Transportation Emissions Through Better Zoning

June 19, 2019 in Transportation & Fuels Authors: Brian Ross, Clairece Cooke

Local governments across the nation are leading on solutions to address climate change that will bring major benefits to their communities, from cleaner air to saving money on energy bills. Over 400 mayors in the US signed accords to meet the Paris climate goals, and hundreds of American cities have taken the next steps of establishing carbon emission benchmarks, setting carbon reduction or carbon neutrality goals, and creating climate action or energy plans on how to achieve their local goals. Continue reading »

System Design for a High-Renewables Future: Insights from the MN Solar Pathways Analysis

January 14, 2019 in Communities, Electricity Author: Brian Ross

If sunlight strikes a solar panel, but we don’t use the electricity generated, is it “wasted”? In some parts of the country, so much solar energy is produced at midday that there is no use for it. Demand for electricity has already been fully met by solar and other sources of generation; the value of additional electricity on the grid is actually negative. Continue reading »

Powering the Future in Rural Minnesota: Assessing Views of Solar Energy as a Local Resource

December 7, 2018 in Communities Authors: Brian Ross, Jenna Greene

Like many parts of the US, communities in rural Minnesota are experiencing growing interest among residents and businesses in development of an untapped, local economic resource: solar energy. To help communities understand and plan for development of solar resources, the Great Plains Institute has engaged local leaders to identify key gaps in information, challenges, and opportunities associated with such development. Continue reading »

Understanding Your City’s Energy Resources

July 18, 2018 in Communities Author: Brian Ross

The Great Plains Institute is working with cities, counties, and regional governments to routinely incorporate energy planning into local policies, plans, and regulations. To address local energy issues, local governments must first understand community energy use and anticipate how energy resources, markets, and technologies evolve over time. Continue reading »

Solar Toolkits

March 10, 2018 in Communities, Reports & Whitepapers Author: Brian Ross

As part of the Grow Solar Partnership, toolkits have been assembled to equip local governments in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois with information regarding solar development as it relates to planning, zoning, and permitting. The purpose of these toolkits is to provide resources that will assist communities in addressing barriers to solar energy installations in a manner tailored to each community’s needs. Continue reading »

Making Your City “EV-Ready”

November 30, 2017 in Transportation & Fuels Authors: Brian Ross, Katelyn Bocklund

Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining traction among consumers, governments, and automakers as battery prices fall and the benefits of EVs increase. Within the last year, virtually every major automobile manufacturer has announced plans to transition to electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. As cities look to capitalize on the opportunity that EVs can bring, from lower maintenance costs for consumers to better air quality for residents, they also must lay the groundwork for their communities to become ‘EV-ready’. Continue reading »