Green digest // City offers energy grants

Do you have a green project in mind but lack the funds to make it happen?

That’s where the city’s Climate Change Grant program comes in. Grants of $7,500–$10,000 for projects that aim to conserve energy or combat climate change will be made available for about eight to 10 projects that will be selected later this summer.

The application deadline for the fourth annual round of grants is July 26, and all proposed projects must be completed by Sept. 1, 2011. Grants are available to nonprofits, neighborhood organizations, business associations, schools, parks, and other public groups, as long as they are not for-profit entities.

First awarded in 2007, the grants are directed toward projects that have an immediate impact on helping residents cut their energy use, eliminate waste and reduce carbon emissions. For 2010, the program is funded with federal stimulus dollars awarded to Minneapolis through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This year, the grants are targeted at projects that help Minneapolis residents and businesses shrink their carbon footprints in measurable ways. The grants require no match, although the guidelines for the program indicate those projects that include matching funds will receive “higher consideration.”

Last year, the city awarded nearly $65,000 in grants to 15 projects, including micro-grants for small-scale green efforts. The city estimated those grants leveraged an additional $100,000 or more for the projects in in-kind contributions, donations and volunteer work.

The projects included some relatively inexpensive efforts, including the purchase of clotheslines by a block club to cut down on the energy used to run clothes dryers. Another small grant funded a rooftop garden at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Larger grants funded an HourCar hub in Kingfield and helped the Seward neighborhood promote a biking and walking campaign.

Last year’s grant-winners also signed up nearly 950 participants in the Minnesota Energy Challenge, a project of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Center for Energy and Environment helping Minnesotans make changes to improve energy efficiency in their lives. All grant winners are required to promote the challenge.

The city hosted an informational meeting July 1 for potential applicants, but the meeting wasn’t mandatory. The program has gone through some changes from prior years, however, so all applicants are encouraged to carefully read the grant application guidelines.

Go to ci.minneapolis.mn.us/sustainability/Climate-Change.asp to learn more about the program or download application materials.

Simple changes to save on electric bills

Plug-in devices consume up to one-third of electricity in some Minnesota homes, adding to electric bills even when not in use, according to study findings released in June by the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Office of Energy Security.

The study, conducted by the Energy Center of Wisconsin, indicates some simple steps, like changing the settings on a home computer, can reap savings on electricity bills. The conclusions come after the Energy Center monitored the electricity use of 50 owner-occupied Minnesota homes from December 2008–October 2009 and conducted interviews with the homeowners.
The researchers found about two-thirds of desktop computers were left on nearly all the time, but users had not enabled sleep or hibernate functions nearly 80 percent of the time.

Changing those power management settings could cut total home energy use by 3 percent, they reported.

Researchers also identified another easy way to cut electricity use and save on energy bills: unplug devices when they aren’t in use.
Stereos, DVD players, televisions, computer printers and other devices draw power even when not turned on. Unplugging those devices accounted for 30 percent of the potential savings identified in the study.

Those potential savings added up to about $120 per year for the average Minnesota family.

The entire study is available on the state Office of Energy Security website, although it isn’t easy to find. Go to energy.mn.gov and then type “plugging into savings” into the search box on the upper right-hand corner of the screen to download a copy.

Green energy at the Bakken

WEST CALHOUN — The Bakken Museum, Southwest’s own lakeside temple of electricity, will dedicate one of its “10 Best Days of Summer” to green energy.
July 24 is Green Energy Day at the museum of electricity, with representatives from Xcel Energy on hand with their “interactive energy conservation display.”

The 10 Best Days event runs July 10–25, coinciding with the Minneapolis Aquatennial. Different activities are scheduled each day at The Bakken, 3537 Zenith Ave. S.
To learn more about the event or the museum, visit thebakken.org.