Top 10 most inspiring clean energy stories of 2020

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As many of us happily look forward to turning a page on 2020, we think it’s worth remembering that despite the many reasons to be gloomy, an awful lot of good was also accomplished this year. Despite the challenges facing the clean energy sector (including a loss of 14 percent of its workforce since March) there was still a lot to be hopeful about this year -- including the fact that it was listed as one of voters’ top issues in the election. Here are some of the most inspirational stories of 2020 that we can all use to propel us into a better 2021. 

  1. Eden Prairie engineering firm EVS chased the sun to a bright future in solar energy CEEM-member EVS employs more than 60 people after impressive growth in the solar industry. The company sees solar energy as their breakthrough and are now seen as solar experts in the state.

  2. Good news: Almost half of Minnesota's power is now carbon-free Clean Energy Economy MN, in partnership with the Business Council for Sustainable Energy released the Minnesota State Energy Factsheet showing that power sector carbon emissions in Minnesota declined 37% between 2005 and 2019 due to the clean energy transition.

  3. Pandemic erased years of clean energy job gains in Minnesota, report says Despite the title, the report also showed many data points that are encouraging. Clean energy jobs are growing at 2.5x faster than Minnesota’s overall job growth. The report highlights  a proven history of industry growth that Minnesota can harness as it continues to recover from the impacts of COVID-19. 

  4. Investments in clean energy address challenges of climate change, income gap, COVID-19 Clean energy is a prime candidate to assist in Minnesota’s pandemic recovery. Clean energy is cheaper, has growing bipartisan support and has the potential to positively impact low-income communities that currently pay twice as much in energy costs. Clean energy is also a proven job creation industry and has the potential to help Minnesota’s farmers.

  5. Xcel proposes $3B in renewable projects to bolster economy dogged by pandemic To assist in the recovery efforts, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission put out a call to state utilities asking them to assess where they could assist. Xcel Energy responded to the call by proposing the acceleration of $3 billion in renewable projects. Xcel hopes its efforts will create 3,000 jobs and a solid pipeline of work. 

  6. Sustainable: Carbon-neutral plan for Hillcrest development The St. Paul Port Authority released their plans to build a community on the site of the former Hillcrest Golf Course on St. Paul’s East Side. Their plans create at least 1,000 new housing units and 1,000 jobs. The Port Authority plans to make the entire community net-zero, including housing, businesses, buildings, transportation and infrastructure. To be truly net-zero, their goal is for Hillcrest to produce as much energy as it consumes.

  7. ‘More than just a solar project’: Revolutionary Red Lake energy initiative takes shape The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians has big plans to create energy sovereignty in Red Lake Nation with a series of renewable energy projects. With assistance from Solar Bear and IPS Solar, Red Lake Nation hopes to install enough clean energy to power the reservation with the goal of free energy for all tribal members. 

  8. Scorecard: States Adopt New Energy-Saving Rules but COVID-19 Slows Overall Progress Minnesota is the Midwest regional leader in energy efficiency according to a scorecard released in December. The state tied Oregon for ninth in the country, reporting strong results from utility-run programs that help customers save energy. Minnesota is also developing draft rules for a Clean Cars program that would adopt tailpipe and zero-emission vehicle standards.

  9. Terra-Gen and Mortenson Announce Start of World’s Largest Standalone Solar and Energy Storage Project Minnesota-based Mortenson Construction is working on an amazing new solar + storage project including 1,118 megawatts of solar and 2,165 megawatt-hours of energy storage. It is currently the largest single solar and battery energy storage project to reach this milestone. Solar production on the site will include more than 2.5 million modules to produce enough energy to power 260,000 homes.

  10. Minnesota Power reaches 50% renewable energy Minnesota Power, based in Duluth, is the first utility in Minnesota to pass this milestone. They recently activated a new wind farm in southwestern Minnesota which pushed them over their renewable goal and brought their owned and contracted wind power to about 870 megawatts.