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Solar-powered vet clinic cares for animals, the environment and the bottom line

Lake County Veterinary Clinic sign.

Doctors Mike Overend and Lucy Grina, co-owners of Lake County Veterinary Clinic in Two Harbors and Grand Marais, have been caring for animals since 1987. To care for the environment and the bottom line of their business, they recently decided to add solar.

The 11.5-kW solar system now provides all of the clinic’s electricity (except for off-peak heating) for a grand total of about 15,000 kWh annually. Overend was glad for the opportunity to "walk the walk after talking the talk for a long time."

“Going solar was practical and doable,” he said. “I'm proud of the results and would strongly encourage any other business owner to consider this type of project as a truly good thing to do for your business, your community, and for our world.”

Paying for it: Property-Assessed Clean Energy financing

The project broke new ground as the first business to use Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing in Lake County. Overend chose PACE because it is easy to access, maintains cash flow for the business, and pays for itself over approximately 10 years’ time. The doctors wanted to share three pieces of their experience with others:

  1. County support: Although it was the first, Overend said the county was supportive and helpful throughout the process. The proposal to introduce PACE financing passed easily in a county board meeting, and the zoning and permitting process also went smoothly.

  2. Good vibes: Overend said the project has generated interest and positive feedback from the community, and that he would recommend PACE financing to other businesses.

  3. Financing details: While PACE was not able to cover the entire project cost due to a 20% of property value limit, PACE did cover the majority of the project cost: $32,000 out of the total $44,000.

Peter Lindstrom standing in front of a room filled with attendees sitting at tables watching a presentation.
CERTs' Peter Lindstrom discusses PACE financing with members of the East Central Regional Development Commission in April 2019.

PACE making projects happen across the state

Peter Lindstrom of the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) works with local and county governments across Minnesota to help them learn about and implement the PACE financing program. CERTs is a statewide partnership which helps individuals and their communities advance community-based clean energy projects, and provides the energy programming for the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP).

To date, 65 of Minnesota’s 87 counties have adopted PACE. “Currently, 85 percent of the Minnesota population has access to this energy efficiency and renewable energy program,” Lindstrom said.

Cities and counties interested in participating in PACE enter into a Joint Powers Agreement with the St. Paul Port Authority, which is the authorized administrator of the program on behalf of the Department of Commerce. CERTs helps local governments and their businesses and nonprofits with this process.

Veterinary looking at cat wrapped in a blanket being held by a man. Three dogs sitting together on a deck.
Lake County Veterinary Clinic co-owner Lucy Grina examines a patient.

“The goal is to improve their HVAC systems, lighting, and other systems that use electricity to be more efficient,” Lindstrom said. “This program is also a job creator. Local companies are hired to complete the energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.”

Other motivations for exploring PACE include addressing building comfort issues for customers and demonstrating a commitment to sustainability. “Installing a solar array is a clear signal to customers that this business has a commitment to sustainability,” Lindstrom said.

According to Lindstrom, the nearly 200 completed PACE projects across the state have amounted to significant savings. The St. Paul Port Authority gathers data from program participants, and estimates PACE’s energy savings at 157 billion BTUs per year in Minnesota. “It is roughly what a city with a 4,000-5,000 population uses annually for electricity,” Lindstrom said.

Take action with PACE

Those interested in financing their own energy projects or bringing PACE to their county are encouraged to reach out to Lindstrom or visit www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/pace.

Colby Abazs, June 2019

Colby Abazs is the Northeast Coordinator for the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs).

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