What an exciting time to see Minnesota become the national leader on the use of renewable energy sources for generating electricity! The recently passed legislation of the Renewable Electricity Standard commits Minnesota’s utilities and municipal power consortiums to produce 25% of retail electricity from renewable energy sources by the year 2025. Xcel Energy Inc., the largest energy producer in the state delivering half of Minnesota’s electricity, will be required to provide even more, namely 30% of their energy production from renewable sources such as hydroelectric, wind and solar by 2020.
While replacing fossil fuel-produced energy with electricity from renewable sources is an important step in the fight against global warming, energy conservation is the first step in significantly reducing the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. This becomes obvious when we compare the average continuous energy consumption per capita of different nations as indicated in Novatlantis’ vision of a 2000-Watt Society in the publication Smarter Living. Currently, Americans at 12,000 Watt per capita of continuous energy use and Europeans at 6,000 Watt are consuming many times the energy than the rest of the world (Africa 500 Watt, China 800 Watt) while the average global per capita continuous energy use equals 2000 Watt. The vision of the 2000-Watt-Society allows for the comparison between industrialized and developing nations and a gradual balancing of the differences, paving the way to a healthy living standard for all people.
According to Michael Noble, the executive director of Fresh Energy, Minnesota’s households annually consume approximately 25% of the state’s electricity. In the year 2020, that amount will be equal to the energy mix from renewable sources. Therefore, it is only wise to focus our efforts now on reducing the amount of energy our buildings consume. If Minnesota implements a higher energy-efficient building code, it will be poised as a national leader in energy conservation. Waldsee BioHaus, case in point right here in Minnesota, sets a new standard.
Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minnesota is raising the bar on energy conservation in the sustainable building trade with its new Waldsee BioHaus, a showcase example on how to reduce energy consumption in leaps, not just incremental steps. The multi-use 5000 sq. ft. building, designed by the Swiss-born architect Stephan Tanner from Minneapolis, was built according to Germany’s Passivhaus Standard (an energy conservation and renewable energy use standard). It achieves an 85% reduction in the building’s energy consumption while increasing user comfort and providing maximum air quality. Highly insulated buildings with an airtight envelope and thermally well performing windows (R-8) do not need conventional heating systems, but instead use a ground source heat pump and a ventilation system with a highly effective (80% or higher) air-to-air heat recovery system to heat the building while supplying 100% fresh air.
The fact that local Bemidji contractors constructed the Waldsee BioHaus using 85-90% locally available building materials, shows that super energy-efficient houses can be built right now and right here in Minnesota, where hot summers and cold winters typically require large amounts of energy for cooling and heating.
If this sparks your interest and makes you want to find out more about the BioHaus and the concepts behind it, we encourage you to join us for our 2nd Annual North American Passive House Symposium this October at the Waldsee BioHaus. For further details on the symposium, check this website for postings in April. Meanwhile, you can learn more about the BioHaus by visiting the link to our detailed construction journal.
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