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The RREAL, CURA, & CERTs Totally Awesome Map for Renewable Energy Collaboration

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

If Minnesota’s utility service areas were a jigsaw puzzle, it would take a long time to complete, if that were possible at all! This was one of the thoughts that led to RREAL, the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS), and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota to co-create the recently published and completed Totally Awesome Map for Renewable Energy Collaboration, made possible with the generous support of the U of M’s Regional Sustainable Development Program. This map will support collaboration and simplify project planning by making it easier to identify locations within service areas, near substations, and within certain jurisdictions that are ideal for various renewable energy development. Above you can see the map with regional subsections and county lines. Below is an image of the map with many available layers, showing regions and county lines plus electrical substations, electric lines, MnDOT facilities, tribal boundaries, and more.

To create this map, RREAL, CERTS, and CURA were able to obtain the services of the equally awesome Michael Karavolias to do the project (below).

Mike will soon take a new position as Policy Fellow at the California Council on Science and Technology. We’d like to think this project landed him that job, but it probably had more to do with him getting his Engineering Ph.D! For Mike, this project provided an opportunity to use his problem solving skills while digging into energy policy and helping to solve energy inequities: "As a chemical engineer, my training has always been centered around the application of math, physics and chemistry to solve problems; the focus of these problems are traditionally in scientific disciplines, but I believe in using my engineering skills to address all types of problems - including energy inequities. Inspired by climate change work in Minnesota and my growing interest in energy policy, I joined the RREAL team to apply my problem solving skills to a field I was unfamiliar with. This solar map will be a huge help in connecting people in MN with high energy burdens to the organizations, like RREAL, that can assist them. It serves as an interconnector between change-makers as well the people who could benefit most from renewable energies. This experience has motivated me to continue to apply my science background to policy issues, so in November I will be serving as a CCST (California Council on Science and Technology) Science Policy Fellow. This position will provide me with science policy training while I aid California legislators in science-driven decisions. I am thankful to RREAL for the experience and hope to continue being a point-of-change in climate justice." Congratulations, Mike, and thanks for your great work on this project. USING THE MAP If you are a solar developer or designer, this map has a lot of the standard tools you use or are aware of. If you are relatively new to solar, this map is a great way to explore the various county, tribal, and utility boundaries that come up during project planning and development. A few special features: MANUFACTURED HOME COMMUNITIES. Please note that we have included manufactured home communities here. We did this because they are a big piece of Minnesota’s low-income housing pie and many in the field of renewable energy would like to figure out how to help these households reduce their energy cost burdens with solar power. MNDOT. While we were developing this map, MNDOT asked us to map their facilities in relation to the grid and tribal boundaries. This is because they want to increase their use of renewable energy and are interested in helping tribes do the same. We agreed because we support expanded use of renewable energy and are happy to help where we can. POVERTY. RREAL’s strategic vision is to use solar power to reduce poverty. In fact, we at RREAL are quite concerned that low-income communities will be left behind as solar proliferates. If you share this vision and concern, please contact us. We need all the allies we can find. SPECIAL THANKS to Jeff Matson at CURA, Joel Haskard at CERTS, and to Molly Zins and all the peeps at Minnesota Extension’s Regional Sustainable Development Program, which provided funding for this project. Finally, thanks to YOU, supporters of RREAL, who believe in clean solar energy and the power of collaboration. Thanks for making our work possible, and thanks for helping us bring solar power to more households and communities across Central and Northern Minnesota. We cannot succeed without people like you!

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