Rochester Clean Energy Tour

Local Rochester residents, community organizers, and elected officials were given a chance to learn about clean energy improvements and green jobs in their area on Tuesday October 11th at the Rochester Clean Energy tour. A busload of nearly thirty people toured a variety of places in the Rochester area including a manufacturing facility that produces solar components, a local high school, a wind turbine training site, and a highly efficient sports center.

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Crenlo engineer showing solar enclosure unit

Our first stop was at Crenlo, one of Rochester’s largest employers, which specializes in the manufacture of electronics enclosures that are essential to large-scale solar installations. Crenlo is one of more than 50 Minnesota companies producing various solar products and services. The company employs over 700 people and it was clear that by promoting a clean energy future many more green jobs could be created locally within Rochester, within the state of Minnesota, and throughout the entire country. Typically when one considers solar energy they usually only touch on the production of the solar cells, but the success of Crenlo clearly represented the fact that investing in solar could create related jobs – such as the manufacture of high quality enclosures. In fact, solar energy development creates 14.1 green jobs per $1 million invested. That’s compared to only 5.3 jobs in the fossil fuels industry at the same level of investment.

Next we visited the National Volleyball Center to see the efforts that have been made to emphasize lighting efficiency. The center teamed up with Johnson Controls to replace their inefficient metal halide lighting system with highly efficient fluorescent fixtures. This has had a dramatic effect on maintenance costs, lighting quality, and the center’s electricity bill. How Dramatic? City officials explained that the new bulbs are saving the center nearly $10,000 a year. We learned that what was being done at the center was only one of many efficiency improvement projects that were being implemented throughout the city of Rochester. Taking advantage of legislation that allows Minnesota cities to undertake large energy efficiency projects so long as the savings generated allows the project to pay for itself in less than 15 years, Rochester partnered with Johnson Controls and made $5.6 million in improvement measures. As a result, Rochester will save over $500,000 in energy costs and an additional $102,000 in operation costs annually.

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Ian Hathaway, Mayo High School student and Minnesota Student Energy Project Representative talking about solar panels at Mayo High School

The tour then stopped at Mayo High School to see its solar panel installation. Mayo High School Students Ian Hathaway and Kieran Somers gave us a short history of the efforts that went into getting the panels installed and what impact they have had on the Mayo High community. Ian and others are involved in the Minnesota Student Energy Project which we learned has found success in helping other Minnesota high schools install similar panels on their buildings. “We care about sustainability. We want to be proactive as a school,” Ian explained. You can visit the energy project website to learn more and even see live monitoring data from each school’s solar panels: http://www.wix.com/webma8447/mnsepdraft2
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Jerry Cleveland climbing the IBEW 343 Wind Training Tower

We ended at the IBEW building in Rochester. There we were given a tour of a new training facility which focuses on training electricians on how to fix and maintain clean energy installations. Those who go through the program at IBEW become certified to work on wind turbines and solar panels. Sierra Club organizer Joshua Low was given a chance to suit up and climb the training tower they have on site. Here electricians are trained in proper safety techniques and become comfortable with working in turbine towers.

The event served as a way for people to experience a side of Rochester they may not have been aware of. Participants were given a glimpse of the clean energy projects already well underway in their local area. The city of Rochester is leading the way as a positive example in the field of clean energy and its successes should serve as a model that other cities could emulate.

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