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UMN Morris To Take Part in First Statewide Solar Congress

A solar array on the UMN Morris campus
Jenna Ray
Publication date: 
July 6, 2018

What: Minnesota Solar Congress
Who: Solar United Neighbors, University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center, Minnesota Farmers Union, Renewing the Countryside, University of Minnesota Morris, Clean Energy Resource Teams, Sustainable Farming Association – Western Chapter
When: Saturday, July 21, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Where: University of Minnesota West Central Research & Outreach Center (46352 State Highway 329 Morris, MN 56267)

The University of Minnesota Morris will take part in the first annual Minnesota Solar Congress on Saturday, July 21. Hosted by Solar United Neighbors, the Congress is a free daylong event filled with educational and social opportunities for solar enthusiasts.

"Support for solar in Minnesota is strong, and growing," said Virginia Rutter, program director for Solar United Neighbors of Minnesota. "The Solar Congress is an opportunity for attendees to learn, share stories, and celebrate solar energy."

The Solar Congress will have a special focus on solar opportunities in rural communities for farms, businesses, and homes. The day will include a series of presentations about solar technology, the economics of solar for farmers, solar + battery storage, and the state of solar in Minnesota.

Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit that is building an energy system with rooftop solar as the cornerstone. Solar United Neighbors holds events and education programs to help people become informed solar consumers, maximize the value of their solar investment and advocate for fair solar policies.

The Minnesota Solar Congress is open to the public. Organizers expect more than 50 attendees. If you'd like to attend, please RSVP.


10:30–11 a.m.

Doors open, registration

11–11:20 a.m.

Opening Remarks, Virginia Rutter, program firector, Solar United Neighbors of Minnesota

11:30 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Solar 101 Information Session: Learn the basics about solar PV technology and how to save money on your electric bills by going solar. Virginia Rutter

A federal government lab is looking under solar panels: Here's why: Solar is booming in Minnesota and across the country, creating a vital opportunity to plant deep-rooted flowering plants and native grasses around and under ground-mounted solar installations. The practice of pollinator-friendly solar is already common in Europe, and Minnesota has emerged as a national leader in the US. Hear why the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Soil and Water Conservation Society, and others are engaged in studying and promoting the approach. Rob Davis, director, Center for Pollinators in Energy, Fresh Energy

12:15–1:15 p.m.

Lunch, informal networking (lunch will be provided)

12:45 p.m.

State of Solar in Minnesota – brown bag: Join us for a brief presentation over lunch about how the solar landscape has developed in Minnesota in recent years. Virginia Rutter

1:15–2 p.m.

Solar + Storage in the residential setting: Residential and small-scale commercial energy storage is becoming more common and affordable. Find out how battery storage works, what to consider if you're thinking about investing in storage, and how it interacts with the energy produced from solar. Emma Rodvien, director of forward operations, Solar United Neighbors

Financing for Farmers: The Clean Energy Resource Teams' "Renewable Energy for Greater Minnesota" campaign provides one-on-one assistance, financial modeling, and guidance through loan and grant application processes. This presentation will examine the physical integration of solar PV into the business or farm and the financial tools available to facilitate investment in solar. Broadly, it will explain how business and farmer interest in solar is related to goals of longevity and business success. Fritz Ebinger, JD, Rural Energy Development Program Manager for the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs)

2:15–3 p.m.

Solar Farmer Panel Discussion: Learn why these farmers chose to integrate solar energy into their farms and each of their experiences going solar. Jim VanDer Pol – pasture raised cattle and hogs, Richard Handeen – organic pasture raised beef, Doug Popp – conventional dairy and crop farm

3–4 p.m.

Guided Tour of West Central Research & Outreach Center's solar projects