Rural Renewable Energy Alliance Newsletter
Fall 2011
Thank you for your on-going support and interest in RREAL. With your help RREAL has been making solar energy increasingly accessible to everyone - along with the inherent social, environmental, and economic benefits associated - for more than a decade and the future is looking brighter than ever. 

Below is a sampling of what RREAL has been up to recently. You can follow us more regularly on facebook or by subscribing to an rss feed or by visiting our website to get involved.
Solar Assistance
SERC Partnerships
SERC Training InstallRREAL has been working hard training 9 Community Action Agencies (CAPs) across the state to install 280 solar heating systems on low-income households by next spring. This program is made possible by a $2.2 million grant from the Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers (SERC) program at the U.S. Department of Energy. Despite several hurdles from outside forces early on, we have already completed more than half of the training installations that we are contracted to oversee and we are more ready than ever to provide the remaining solar systems and trainings over the coming months. Congratulations and many thanks to the CAP agencies below for completing most or all of their training installs.
Three Rivers CAP Mahube AEOA SRC OTWCAC
*RREAL is also partnering with other CAP agencies beyond Minnesota like Red River Valley Community Action in North Dakota, with whom RREAL will be installing both solar water heat and solar air heat systems through the SERC program and beyond.
Stacking Functions
SERC Training InstallRREAL has an annual tradition of partnering with Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity (LAHFH) to integrate Solar Powered Furnaces into the construction of new homes for low-income families. With heating costs often pushing 50% of a home's energy needs already, and ever-rising fuel costs, incorporating a technology which can ensure decades of clean, affordable heat for these new homeowners is often an incredibly intelligent decision; and by reducing installation time and complexity through incorporating SPFs into the initial construction, the savings are even more pronounced.
Another aspect of this great tradtion with LAHFH is our ability to stack-functions by integrating these installs into the intensive two-day trainings RREAL hosts annually for our growing dealer network. Current and potential dealers come from across the country every year to participate in a full day of classroom learning followed by a day of hands-on experience installating SPFs on a new Habitat for Humanity home.


Merrifield LAHFH Dealer Training Install
John Connelly Photography
This year's dealer training installation took place in Merrifield, and the homeowner's have been very happy with their system. In fact, after a recent discussion with the excited new homeowners, the Executive Director of Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity, Kevin Pelkey, informed RREAL that they had actually turned down their thermostat a bit because the SPF was able to generate more heat than they needed. "Wow, now that is a testament to the power, function and future of that system." said Pelkey "Thank you!  I would LOVE, absolutely, to install this system on as many homes as the sites make sense. I am a BIG fan of your work and am enjoying learning more of the families' experiences..."


Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity has been a fantastic partner for RREAL and a national leader in demonstrating this ideal application for solar air heat. While we are conducting an increasing number of systems with LAHFH at other times of the year, this annual tradition, now in it's 4th year, will always be a highlight and we look forward to continuing the tradtion for years to come.
Outreach and Education
Youth Outdoors Energy Day 
YO Energy DayRREAL hosted workshops for 48 teens from the Youth Outdoors (YO) program in St. Paul last month. RREAL's Sean W. and Sean M. worked with the Home Energy Squad and the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa to plan and lead the first annual YO Energy Day. Students learned about energy production, use, and conservation through games and presentations. They even cooked lunch while trying out a variety of solar ovens compliments of the Solar Over Society.


MREA Solar Thermal Air Heat Training

MREA Training 2 Jason and Roger recently taught two weekend-long classes on solar air heat in partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA). After full-day classroom trainings on solar air heat, students gained hands-on experience installing Solar Powered Furnaces on the classroom at the Renew the Earth Institute in Custer, WI. The MREA is hosting another hands-on installation course in the spring of 2012.  You can join RREAL and MREA for classes and more at the upcoming Solar Thermal Conference on December 1-2 in Milwaulkee, WI. Learn more and sign-up here.  


Solar Manufacturing Round-Table

Jason will be presenting at the 

Minnesota Solar Manufacturing Supply Chain Roundtable

in Alexandria, MN tomorrow morning - Wednesday, November 16th. The event will be held at Alexandria Technical & Community College, whom RREAL has previously developed and delivered solar curriculum with, and begins at 9:30am. Pre-registry is closed, but you can still register at the door. For more details and directions click here.

Solar Design & Build  
Deep Portage Conservation Reserve 
Deep Portage Classroom Deep Portage Environmental Learning Center recently installed several renewable energy systems on their 6,300 acre reserve. RREAL installed two Solar Powered Furnaces to heat classrooms as well as a large PV system that actually IS an outdoor-classroom! The unique solar canopy is composed of US-made, bi-facial modules.  While letting light pass through to the students below; the modules also collect energy on the backside from diffuse and reflected light! This system is just one more way Deep Portage is leading the way in environmental protection and education and we are honored to be a part of it.

Minnesota Solar Leadership

Brainerd Public UtilitiesBrainerd Public Utilities (BPU) is another stellar example of local leadership in action. RREAL recently installed a 9 kW roof-mounted photovoltaic array array produced by Minnesota-based tenK solar. BPU has the distinction of being among the first tenK solar systems installed on a utility building in Minnesota.  The system is unique also in that it is one of the first two grid-tied systems to employ a Silent Power inverter since their recent UL-listing - the other install being a 3.2kW residential system RREAL installed earlier this year.


BPU is further demonstrating their forward thinking support of solar through an incentive ($2/Watt) for grid-tied PV systems.  Currently, RREAL is installing the first residential grid-tied PV system in Brainerd, and the homeowner is harvesting the rebate.  Between forward thinking utilities and innovative products from local companies like tenK, Silent Power, Solar Skies, and others, the future is looking bright for solar energy in Minnesota and beyond and we are very excited to be a part of it! 

SPF Manufacturing and Distribution    
Highlighted Dealer

Dealer Training InstallKolenda Heating and Cooling of North Dakota, one of RREAL's newest dealers, has hit the ground running with a schedule to install eight (8) systems this fall.  Owner, Josh Kolenda, says that his HVAC company sees a lot of interest and opportunity in rural areas where delivered fuels such as propane and fuel oil make the payback of solar air heat systems very attractive.  Josh was also successful at establishing a relationship with the local Community Action Program, so that when funding became available to install solar air heat as part of the CAP's weatherization programs, he was the successful bidder.  Josh is planning the installation of solar air heat on his own home as well so he can speak knowledgeably with customers about the benefits and experience of living with solar air heating.  We're excited to have Kolenda Heating and Cooling as part of our expanding network of dealers.


Project Upgrade Is Complete
OES UpgradeThe manufacturing facility has undergone big changes this year. Thanks to a generous grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce - Office of Energy Security and a matching grant from Hunt Utilities Group, we have now doubled the size of the manufacturing facility. This expansion allows RREAL to produce a greater volume of panels with less waste.  Furthermore, improvements to tooling, fixtures, and work-flow enhance workplace safety and efficiency. The manufacturing facility is now leaner and greener than ever before and will serve as an effective template for RREAL to share with partner organizations across the country that are interested in developing solar thermal manufacturing capacity in their own communities!
In This Issue
Solar Assistance
Outreach and Education
Solar Design Build
SPF Manufacturing and Distribution
Adam Kutrich
Solar Engineer, VISTA
Adam Kutrich
The Americorps VISTA program has been an integral part of RREAL's history, with our very first VISTA,
 Graham, helping to design the original Solar Powered Furnace in 2006. VISTA's, or Volunteers In Service To America, commit to year-long terms building organizations' capacity to better accomplish their missions. Adam joined RREAL soon after graduation from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2010 with an MS in Solar Energy Engineering. He has put his vast knowledge and skill base to work researching alternative SPF applications, creating wind and snow loading calculation software, and helping to improve the design and deployment of all the solar energy systems RREAL deploys.
Jim Kestner
Construction Manager 
Jim Kestner
Before recently joining RREAL as our new Construction Manager, Jim worked as an energy auditor for
Otter Tail-Wadena Community Action Counciland a carpenter for Norson. While working with the Community Action Agency community, Jim was introduced to the benefits of the Solar Powered Furnace through joint-projects between the weatherization program and RREAL's Solar Assistance program. That experience, along with his background as an educator and a carpenter have helped Jim quickly become a valuable and integral part of RREAL. 
Kristine Strand
Kristine Strand
For more than a decade, RREAL has been growing exponentially from humble grass-roots beginnings into an industry leader in solar thermal. As this exciting trend continues, Kristine's invaluable expertise and perspectives are ensuring that our accounting and business practices perform as reliably and efficiently as every solar system we make or install.  
Rod Hansen
Sales Intern 
Rod Hansen
Rod has a can-do attitude and heating background extending back to some of the first college level solar courses offered in the country. These qualities have helped make Rod a valuable asset to RREAL and pleasure to work with whether he is taking the lead on a special project, staffing a sales booth, or turning wrenches on a roof-top solar installation. Rod joined RREAL through the Governor's Workforce Development Council
and a solar course through Central Lakes College.
Bob Bourn
Bob Bourne
Bob began working with RREAL in September through
Experience Works. Since then, Bob has come-on-board as a valuable part of the full-time manufacturing team. Bob also brings a positive personality and fantastic solutions-oriented mind to work everyday.

Dave Skeie

Solar Sales Intern 

Bob Bourne
Dave has been actively working towards a sunny future in solar system design and sales and has completed several solar courses and classes through institutions such as St. Paul College. He joined RREAL through a Department of Employment and Economic Development program earlier this summer. He quickly took on a variety of roles here both in the office and in the manufacturing facility while simultaneously gaining experience with every step of the proposal process - from site-assessment, through system modeling, analysis, and design, to finalized proposal generation. He is now running his own solar design business, Sunshine and Skeie, based in Minneapolis, MN.

While providing years of reliable, affordable heat for hundreds of families in a single year is truly wonderful and exciting, there are still more than 34.5 million American households that will struggle with fuel-poverty this winter; more than 500,000 in MN alone! These families will be faced with unfair decisions such as whether to forgo basic needs, like food and health care, in order to afford a warm, healthy home for their kids. Please help us end this unnecessary cycle of suffering by helping to empower families with decades of clean, free, local heat from the sun!
Give To The Max Day
Mark your calendars for Wednesday, Nov 16th and consider making a donation as part of GTMD
The first $2500 of donations made during Give to the Max Day - after midnight tonight - will be matched dollar-for-dollar!
*RREAL is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. All donations are 100% tax-deductible and go directly to help fund RREAL's mission of making solar power accessible to everyone!