CERT grant allows options for greening

A $3,000 grant is helping the Southeast Como Improvement Association target neighborhood roofs for green initiatives. A $3,000 grant is helping the Southeast Como Improvement Association target neighborhood roofs for green initiatives.

Barry Lytton

From a bird’s eye view, Southeast Como is a swatch of green. But where Southeast Elm Street begins, the tree-lined residences give way to gray-roofed industrial space.

Now equipped with a $3,000 seed grant from Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams,  the neighborhood is looking to spread the green to its outer reaches. Using the money, the Southeast Como Improvement Association is pinpointing properties for the potential sites of rooftop gardens, green roofs and community solar and wind energy stations.

“Our goal is to survey the neighborhood — particularly the industrial regions … and look for flat roof space,” SECIA Neighborhood Coordinator Ricardo McCurley said.

The $3,000 allocation has already gone toward hiring an intern to use Google Maps to search for potential sites, both industrial and residential. He said SECIA also recruited a neighborhood architect who specializes in sustainable building practices as a consultant.

Next, the community group will “play matchmaker” between property owners and organizations that implement renewable energy options, like Minnesota Community Solar, McCurley said.

SECIA’s seed grant is a small piece of the state-funded, Minnesota-wide, $500,000-per-year Clean Energy Resource Teams program, said its metro director, Diana McKeown. Out of that funding, she said, CERT spreads $70,000 in seed grants across seven regions of the state — with $10,000 for each region.

Other metro area projects that received CERT grants include solar gardens in Minneapolis’ Kingfield neighborhood and a home energy initiative aimed at Latinos in Richfield.

McKeown said requested funds across metro-area applicants totaled about $100,000, and SECIA’s longstanding mission of creating an eco-friendly community landed them their allocation.

“We had many, many applications,” McKeown said, “and they were lucky enough to rise to the top.”

Since it has already spent CERT’s grant, SECIA will have to search elsewhere for additional funding, McCurley said, though the organization hasn’t yet decided what sources to tap.

With the help of SECIA’s coordination, members of Community Solar and Murphy Warehouse Company — an area warehousing and logistics company — met in July to talk about potentially adding more solar panels to the company’s building.

“I had a meeting with them at lunch, it went over what potential arrangements or projects we could do together,” said D. Thomas Griep, Murphy Warehouse’s chief financial officer.

Murphy Warehouse Co., located in the heart of Southeast Como’s industrial hub, is sandwiched between residential homes and the neighborhood’s rail lines. It’s been on the cutting edge environmentally for some time, Griep said.

“In 1995, we started the prairie grass. The first solar array went in here in 2005 … [and] the white roof technology we put in four years ago,” he said.

Now, Murphy Warehouse is looking to SECIA’s new initiative to further its green reach.

“We’re laying the groundwork for it, but we’re not committing to it yet until we get through a couple hurdles,” Griep said.