Greening Minnesota ~ May 2010

As lovers of the outdoors, Minnesotans try hard to be good caretakers of the environment. Read on to learn about environmentally friendly news that happened recently around the Twin Cities and Minnesota!

The Department of Commerce's Office of Energy Security has reported that more solar energy systems were installed in Minnesota in 2009 than in any other year. 72 solar photovoltaic systems were installed in 2009 with a combined capacity of 784 kilowatts, which is also a record for Minnesota. The previous record was from 2007, when 56 systems were installed, providing 286 kilowatts. Overall, just over two megawatts of electricity are produced in Minnesota by solar panels, which is less than 1% of the state's total energy capacity. Officials expect that number to double by the end of 2010.

A new area will be permanantly preserverd as a green space. For a price tag of $1.96 million, a parcel of land along the Mississippi River will become Washington County's latest park acquisition. Commissioners voted earlier this month to buy the forested property, which has 2,000 feet of shoreline along the Mississippi River. The county's parks director, John Elholm, said the sale should be completed in about a month.

Minneapolis park officials have approved the purchase of a significant piece of upper Mississippi riverfront parkland. The City will spend $7.7 million to buy a little more than 11 acres from Scherer Bros. The purchase not only preserves the land as a green space, it will bridge a key greenbelt gap and eventually will allow trails to be developed farther upriver in northeast Minneapolis. Park commissioners voted unanimously, saying that people living along the upper river deserve waterfront parks just like those in south Minneapolis.

The St. Paul City Council has approved a bike lane project to connect W. 7th Street to Mississippi River Boulevard. Council members voted 6-1 in favor of adding striping, signs, sidewalks, traffic-calming elements and other improvements to Jefferson Avenue. The project's cost is $1 million. The city is contributing $250,000, and a $750,000 federal grant will make up the rest. Construction could happen this year.

A 1988 ordinance banned the use of sheet metal on buildings in Golden Valley, entirely for aesthetic reasons. This month, the Golden Valley City Council approved a new ordinance that allows finished metal siding on buildings. The ordinance hasn't been entirely defined yet, but the decision allows Michael Rice and his wife, Katja Linfield, to move forward on plans to replace damaged vinyl siding on their home with a material they consider to be more durable, attractive and environmentally friendly. As environmentalists, they wanted to have fully recyclable siding that was not made with petrochemicals.

Students at the University of Minnesota have been working hard on a Solar Car to enter into the 2010 American Solar Challenge. The race will go from Tulsa, Okla. to Chicago in June. The U of M's car cruises at 65 miles an hour all day long as long as the sun is shining.

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