Moving Beyond Coal to Solar

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By Isaac Hanson

Many residents of the Minneapolis-St Paul area are aware of the Black Dog Generating Station in Burnsville. The plant also happens to sit along the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

A recent hike along the south side of Black Dog Lake revealed a stunning sunset along with swans, bald eagles and coyote tracks.


This plant, the first part of which was built in 1955, burns coal and can also burn natural gas during peak times. Xcel Energy plans to retire coal at this plant by 2015.


Where will those 538 megawatts of electricity output come from when it shuts down? How will the region meet its energy needs while reducing climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions?

How about this vision for the future:

1) The state of Minnesota attains its legislated goal of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 (with 2006 emissions as a baseline)

2) Xcel continues to reward homeowners who install solar power systems through rebates for installation, credits for extra generation beyond the needs of the home, and rebates (from the state of Minnesota) for buying Minnesota-made solar panels.

3) Minneapolis takes control of its energy future by either making power generation a municipal utility or negotiating steep emissions cuts from Xcel and CenterPoint Energy, instead of rubber-stamping another 20 year contract for more of the same as has been done in the past.


These are ambitious goals that require citizens’ full participation. If you are worried about human-driven climate change and want your city and state to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels, you can get involved right away:

1) Contact your state legislators and urge them to support 10% solar energy by 2030

2) Contact Minneapolis City Councilmembers, including Elizabeth Glidden, who chairs the regulatory committee, to urge the city to make solar energy a priority in the next energy contract.

3) Attend the next meeting of the Sierra Club’s Clean Air and Renewable Energy Committee on February 26th at 7pm (always the 4th Tuesday of the month) to find out how to advocate and organize for solar.

Finally, find out more about these big opportunities for clean energy from the Sierra Club North Star Chapter!



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