New and all electric models of pickups, motorcycles, mowers, blowers, and chainsaws are hitting the market this summer. That’s why our summer newsletter is all about the “new look” for electric. Enjoy the new options — without the noise, fuss, or fumes — this summer and into the future.
From National Geographic to the cover of Solar Power World, since 2015 Connexus Energy has been recognized for its solar facility land stewardship practices. It started with our headquarters solar array—initially designed to utilize class 5 gravel under and around the panels, we worked with Connexus member Prairie Restorations to design a low-growing, flowering meadow under and around the panels. The 1-acre project’s success prompted us to make land stewardship a priority for all of our additional solar projects, which now span more than 120 acres growing more than 15 million native and pollinator-friendly plants.
Award-winning filmmaker Jesse Roesler produced a film about this work and national movement.
Creating habitat for monarchs and other butterflies and native bees among the solar array footprint has also been complimented by the agricultural activity of honey production. Working with the beekeepers at Bare Honey, jars of honey as well as honey sticks are now available for Connexus members and the public to buy from our Member Services desk. Some of this solar harvested honey also makes it into delicious collaborations, such as a summer ale created by Connexus member Invictus Brewing.
The national science and education organization Monarch Joint Venture documented the local benefits provided through Connexus solar land stewardship practices. Survey and sampling protocols were designed in consultation with Argonne National Laboratory, which, in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Lab’s InSPIRE study, has published research on use of native plants as solar array ground cover. Read more about Monarch Joint Venture’s work or watch the webinar where National Monitoring Coordinator Laura Lukens presents her findings. The research indicates that “solar installations in Minnesota can indeed provide quality breeding and foraging habitat for monarchs and other pollinators,” says Lukens.
Photo Courtesy Laura Lukens
Further Advancing Best Practices
In spring of 2022 shephard Arlo Christofaro-Hark brought a group of lambs and ewes to Connexus Energy solar garden to help prepare the ground for growing season. The small flock of sheep helped stir up the recently cut grass, push new pollinator-friendly seeds into the ground, and spread a bit of fertilizer. Several Connexus employees stopped by to watch the sheep, pet the sheep dog, and take pictures.
Sustainable agriculture researchers and practitioners from The Land Institute and University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative planted stems of “perennial sunflower” (aka silflower) against the west fence in the area that has hosted honey bees for the past few seasons. These deep-rooted plants are pollinator powerhouses, each producing more than 50 three-inch blooms late in the summer when flowers are scarce.
The targeted grazing and test plot of perennial sunflowers help Connexus evaluate even more ways to stack local benefits into the footprint of solar development, enabling Connexus to have more information about practices that create value for members and landowner partners.
April 14, 2022
Annual reviews are commonly used for looking back, but Connexus, as your most powerful membership®, also looks forward to elevate our ambitions of service to you, to elevate the modernization of the electric energy business, and to elevate our care for community.
As one of the nation’s first 100 electric cooperatives, Connexus Energy was started with a unanimous vote of members in 1937. And while there have been many unanimous votes since then, in 2021 the Board voted as one, in favor of pursuing power supply alternatives — an action that is elevating us to the next level in serving our membership with increased flexibility in our purchasing options as well as competitive pricing for our next 80+ years of service.
We gathered with members and community leaders last summer to celebrate local investments and the power of membership with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Sunflower I and II, our newest solar projects near Princeton and St. Francis. Saving costs while greening the grid, Connexus Energy is now locally harvesting over 20 megawatts, enough to power more than 2,800 homes. We also applaud members who express their commitment to greening the grid through energy conservation, investing in their own rooftop solar panels, or joining our new Renewable Energy Club. And not to worry, there is plenty left — more than 1.7 million megawatts of sunshine is delivered to our service territory most days.
The basics — affordability, reliability, safety, sustainability, savings programs, and financial strength — pair with 2021 growth taking us past 140,000 member accounts. The progressive refresh and modernization of our resilient electric grid, the hard work of staff, line workers, meter techs, member service agents, accountants, engineers, and more is enabling Connexus to provide a fifth consecutive year of no rate increases in 2022.
An electric cooperative isn’t all electrons and wires. In 2021, we were humbled by recognition for how we strike a balance between affordable electricity, agriculture, and environment. Award-winning filmmaker Jesse Roesler produced a short documentary, “Pollinators, Prairie, and Power,” relating the story of Connexus Energy’s proactive decision to ensure productive use of the land under and around our solar arrays. Our pollinator-friendly projects benefit nearby crops, and we work with partners like Bare Honey. Stop by our front desk to purchase a jar of honey, with all proceeds going to charitable purposes.
And these modernizations are just in time. No less than six different major auto makers launched major advertising campaigns for new electric vehicles in the last few weeks — it’s exciting something as old as electricity is being elevated to coolness again. We’re ready for it and so are you. In 2021, nearly twice as many Connexus members as the previous year signed up for our special electric vehicle charging rate.
Connexus is leveraging the best new electrical and grid tools to provide innovative programs like Peak-Time Rebate that save you money and additional services that put control into your hands such as the new Connexus App for your mobile phone.
So, we briefly reflect on accomplishments of the past year and the heritage from the decades. We are most grateful to elevate our vision and hearts serving all members of Connexus Energy.
This story appeared in Connexus Energy’s 2022 Annual Review.