Climate Action Planning Fast-Tracked in Red Wing, Minnesota

September 4, 2020 in Communities Author: Abby Finis

The City of Red Wing, Minnesota, adopted its climate action work plan (CAWP) in early August, which the city developed with the Great Plains Institute using our new, more agile approach to climate planning. The CAWP is a shorter version of a climate action plan, enabling Red Wing to make progress on near-term priorities that go toward its long-term goal of reducing emissions by 80 percent on or before 2040, without getting overwhelmed by a long list of actions. Red Wing is the first city to adopt the CAWP approach developed by GPI; our hope is that more cities—especially small and mid-size cities—use this as a more manageable path to accelerate effective climate action. Continue reading »

Solar and Wind in Michigan: A Local Government Guide for Siting Utility-Scale Projects

August 14, 2020 in Communities, Electricity Authors: Jenna Greene, Jessi Wyatt

The Great Plains Institute is engaging local governments across the Upper Midwest on long-term planning for renewable energy. As part of this effort, we developed a guide to provide communities in Michigan with an overview of long-term utility- and community-scale solar and wind development—systems sized one megawatt (MW) or greater. Continue reading »

Solar Plus: How Solar-Integrated Agriculture Could Reduce Barriers to Large-Scale Solar Deployment

August 12, 2020 in Communities, Electricity Author: Brian Ross

The United States could see 300 gigawatts of large-scale solar deployment in the next decade, with 150–200 gigawatts concentrated mainly in the Midwest where existing land use is often tied to agriculture. The significant land use and siting barriers to this large-scale solar deployment are daunting and warrant re-thinking the role of solar in agricultural economies. By moving toward beneficial solar-integrated agriculture or co-location of solar and agriculture—vs. solar as a single-use development—we can capture the benefits of both while reducing potential conflict. Continue reading »

Community Partnerships Accelerate Electric Vehicle Charging in Minnesota

August 11, 2020 in Communities, Transportation & Fuels Author: Diana McKeown

Last summer, the Great Plains Institute facilitated a project to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) through public EV charging installations in the Minnesota cities of Shoreview and White Bear Lake in partnership with employees from Cummins Inc. Both communities host Cummins facilities and were excited to collaborate on EV chargers as part of their work to advance sustainability. Cummins was looking for a project to advance sustainability in the communities where they have facilities and where many of their local employees live. The EV project demonstrated the value of partnerships in making progress on community sustainability efforts. Continue reading »

Webinar: Preparing to Plan for Climate Change—What Tools Do We Need for Local Governments?

August 10, 2020 in Communities Author: Jessi Wyatt

Columbus Ohio picturedResults from a national survey of planning practitioners provide insight into the types of tools and templates that local governments need to see progress on climate action. The Great Plains Institute collaborated with American Planning Association (APA) divisions on an in-depth survey that identified opportunities to support cities on climate action—from climate goals to implementation. We recently presented the survey results during two APA webinars with our association colleagues (video recording and slides available below). Continue reading »

Solar, with Benefits! (Or, the Co-Benefits Approach to Solar Development)

July 6, 2020 in Communities, Electricity Author: Brian Ross

Solar energy is not only important to reaching a zero-carbon energy system—solar projects can, with appropriate siting and design, also deliver many benefits to local communities where projects are sited. Deploying the level of solar needed to decarbonize our economy will require addressing siting and regulatory processes which are increasingly a barrier to solar project development. The Great Plains Institute is fostering a new paradigm in the deployment of community- and utility-scale solar development; what we call the co-benefits approach to solar. We’re working with state, regional, and national partners to identify how energy development can both help solve the climate crisis and deliver local benefits to the host community. Continue reading »

US Cities Step Up to Join a New Clean Energy Challenge

June 15, 2020 in Communities, News & Press Author: Lola Schoenrich

sustainable states network


US Cities Step Up to Join a New Clean Energy Challenge

 Initiative supports local clean energy action by 30 cities in 5 states


For Immediate Release:  Contact: Lola Schoenrich, Sustainable States Network, Cell: 612-720-9558,  Email: [email protected]

Minneapolis, MN—How well do small and mid-sized US cities stack up when it comes to clean energy goals? That’s what the Sustainable States Community Energy Challenge aims to show with tools and support for 30 communities in five states to assess their clean energy goals and initiatives. The challenge will compare clean energy achievements across similarly-sized cities, assess future initiatives, and provide project implementation assistance. Additionally, participating communities will be a part of an in-state peer cohort and will receive technical assistance to completing a pressing clean energy initiative.

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Iowa Solar Toolkit

May 22, 2020 in Communities, Reports & Whitepapers Author: Brian Ross

Planning, Zoning, and Permitting

As part of Solar Ready Iowa, toolkits have been assembled to equip local governments in Iowa with information regarding solar development as it relates to planning, zoning, and permitting. The toolkits were created in 2016, then model ordinances are being updated in 2020 to reflect new best practices and lessons learned since 2016. Minnesota and Iowa are updated and Illinois and Wisconsin are in process, with ordinance for Indiana and Michigan under development. 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. The following is a summary of materials that can be found in each of the toolkits. Continue reading »