Via an April 19 e-newsletter from Hennepin County:
Hennepin County works year-round to conserve energy and resources
This Earth Day, Hennepin County highlights four focus areas that staff are implementing to help protect the environment.
Powering with renewable solar energy
Hennepin County is one of 31 local governments in the Twin Cities metro area that are investing in solar energy through community solar gardens. The solar gardens will be constructed later this summer. Once they are up and running, Hennepin County will subscribe to eight solar gardens that will produce 3.7 million kWh of electricity annually. That’s equivalent to powering 400 homes or 4 percent of Hennepin County’s energy use.
This project recently won the 2017 Environmental Initiative Awards in the community action category.
Reducing energy use in county buildings
Hennepin County’s largest energy user is our buildings. In 2013, Hennepin County created a goal to reduce energy use in our buildings 20 percent by 2020—3 percent each year over 7 years. The county is on track to meet this goal, but will need to continue to prioritize conservation and efficiency. Success by 2020 means saving enough energy annually to power 35 out of our 41 Hennepin County libraries for the entire year.
Hennepin County uses a variety of technologies to save energy, including approximately 200,000 sensors inside buildings to monitor energy use. These sensors alert staff when there is a problem, saving about $1 million each year.
Nearly half of the county’s energy use is for heating and cooling buildings. Energy recovery wheels are used to return 70 percent of exhausted heat back into the building. LED lighting saves 60 percent of energy over standard lighting. Staff work behind the scenes to improve efficiencies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a daily basis.
Fighting emerald ash borer
Ash trees are threatened by emerald ash borer, an invasive tree pest from Asia. In Hennepin County alone, there are more than 1 million ash trees in yards, parks and streets. That’s about 15 percent of the tree canopy. Hennepin County is responding to the emerald ash borer threat by:
• Proactively removing and replacing ash trees.
• Inventorying and monitoring trees
• Diversifying trees in our communities
The county offers information about how to identify ash trees, sign of emerald ash borer, and options for managing ash trees.
Trees are an integral part of the natural resources system and provide numerous benefits including conserving energy, managing stormwater, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, filtering air, alleviating the urban heat-island effect, creating habitat, and enhancing the local food supply.
Hennepin County is a national leader in recycling. In 2016, 82 percent of the waste generated in Hennepin County was diverted from landfills and reused, recycled, composted, or burned to create energy.
New initiatives include the Zero Waste Challenge, promoting food waste prevention, adding a recycling option for non-reusable clothing and linens at the county’s drop-off facilities, and expanding a reuse program at apartment buildings to collect furniture and other household goods.
These new initiatives complement the existing programs that continue to be strong include Master Recycler/Composter volunteers, Fix-It Clinics, recycling grants, medicine collection and environmental education.
Learn more about our latest recycling efforts in the 2016 Recycling Progress Report.