Hopkins aims for recognition of the city’s solar energy efforts

In other news, Hopkins officers to assist with Super Bowl security

The City of Hopkins is in the process of applying to become a formally recognized solar energy-friendly city, as presented at a Sept. 5 council meeting.

The city is aiming to receive a “silver” level designation from SolSmart, a new national program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The program gives national recognition to communities that have taken steps to address local barriers to solar energy and foster the growth of their local solar markets.

SolSmart’s primary goal is to encourage local governments to reduce “soft costs”—administrative costs that add up from government procedures such as planning, permitting and zoning—to make installing a solar energy system cheaper and easier for those interested.

The designation would also align with the council’s goal to practice environmental sustainability. Additionally, the designation attracts solar business and economic development that comes with the solar industry to a community, according to SolSmart.

To achieve silver designation, the city would be required to adjust zoning ordinances to allow “solar-by-right as accessory use,” which is the right for property owners to access and utilize solar energy resources regardless of location and without having to request a conditional use permit from the local government.

Avoiding going through the process to obtain a conditional use permit saves time, money and complexity for all, according to a website supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

To meet this requirement, city staff members are actively working on a draft of an alternative energy ordinance that would not only include solar energy resources, but also wind, geothermal and methane gas collection energy resources.

This ordinance would go well beyond SolSmart’s solar energy requirements, but aligns with staff’s vision for a comprehensive alternative energy ordinance.

The council is expected to make a final decision on whether or not to approve the alternative energy ordinance by the end of the year.

In the meanwhile, the city is looking to connect with people who are interested incorporating alternative energy sources into their homes and to highlight people who already use the sources as examples. The city also plans to host a solar resources workshop in early 2018.

If interested, residents can reach out to City Planner Jason Lindahl at 952-548-6342 or [email protected]

The city would also need to meet other requirements, which include changing how the city reviews solar permits, partnering with utility companies and nonprofit advocacy groups, providing training for inspection and permitting staff and creating an online checklist about the solar permitting process.

Kurt Howard, an intern with the city’s planning and development department, said meeting these requirements to receive silver designation would be very feasible for the city.

“In terms of the actions that have been identified, these are either actions we currently meet and satisfy […] or it’s low-hanging fruit,” Howard said.

Hopkins is also a certified GreenStep city for its implementation of practices that fulfill sustainability goals.

“It really fits in with all of the sustainability efforts that the city is working on and our residents are looking forward to,” said Mayor Molly Cummings. “We’ll look forward to going forward and getting that designation.”

Super Bowl

Officers from the Hopkins Police Department will join departments from across the state in assisting the Minneapolis Police Department and the NFL’s security in efforts to ensure public safety effort during Super Bowl festivities. (Photo courtesy of Hopkins Police Department)
Officers from the Hopkins Police Department will join departments from across the state in assisting the Minneapolis Police Department and the NFL’s security in efforts to ensure public safety effort during Super Bowl festivities. (Photo courtesy of Hopkins Police Department)

In other business, the council approved a cooperative agreement that will send Hopkins Police officers to assist the Minneapolis Police Department during the upcoming Super Bowl at the U.S. Bank Stadium.

While the Minneapolis department is leading the security effort, police departments around the state are joining the effort, as well as the National Football League’s security personnel.

The Hopkins department will provide its services for 10 days at various Super Bowl-related events. The number of officers sent to help will vary based on staffing needs, according to Capt. Craig Kreiling.

However, Kreiling reassured that the Hopkins police shifts will remain fully staffed.

“There will be no impact to the officer staffing levels here in Hopkins,” he said.

The Minneapolis department has approximately 840 officers, according to its website. During this 10-day period, there will be hundreds of extra law enforcement officers coming from around the metro area and state, according to Scott Seroka, department public information officer.

The Minneapolis Police Department will reimburse the Hopkins Police Department for its services during this 10-day period.

Contact Sabina Badola at [email protected]