Greenspace: New year, new effort to bring green to your town

With the temps dipping into the negative numbers, maybe it's time to plan that little getaway for springtime. You know, get out of Rochester and head someplace exotic.

Well, I've got just the place: Why not head to sunny Saint Cloud on March 10-11 for the CERTs 2015 Conference on Community-Driven Clean Energy?

OK, it may not be Cancun, but the conference is geared toward helping professionals who work with energy learn ways to better utilize the resources at their disposal.

"The CERTs Conference is also a great place for cities, counties, and other local governments, as well as colleges, universities, and other schools, to find out how they can reduce their energy bills, add clean energy, and encourage residents and students to take action," said Dan Thiede, communications manager for Minnesota's Clean Energy Resource Teams.

One of the biggest hurdles with clean energy today is getting the financing for it, Thiede said.


"There is far less conversation about whether it's a good idea — now the focus is helping people figure out how to pay for it," he said.

One of the benefits of the conference is that it can help local government leaders find financing sources to bring clean energy to their town. In fact, three hour-long sessions at this year's conference focus on finding the funding for everything from energy efficiency plans to solar projects.

The conference will also include sessions on community solar, centrally-located solar photovoltaic systems that provide electricity to participating subscribers.

"They're a good fit for those who are interested in going solar but unable to do so on your own because they live in an apartment, have a shaded roof at home, or don't have the space at their organization," Thiede said.

In fact, he said, the response to community solar in Minnesota has been huge.

"It is an innovative way for people to be able to invest in the energy that they want to use to power their lives and businesses," he said. "We are going to see a lot of large community solar installations popping up over the next few years at local schools, congregations, community centers, utility headquarters, and other sunny spots with plenty of space for solar."

The conference will feature 60 exhibitors — businesses and organizations that specialize in clean energy — to show folks what can be achieved.

Between the conference and the exhibitors, Thiede said, the 2015 event will have a greater emphasis on helping attendees go home and take action.


"Attendees are there to make connections and find clean energy projects that they can do in their communities," he said.


If you go

What: CERTs 2015 Conference: Community-Driven Clean Energy

When: March 10-11

Where: River's Edge Convention Center, St. Cloud


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