What's happening in Grand Marais

GM PUC-Holiday RebatePictured from left to right are Jan Smith, Courtney Quaife, Payton Quaife, Tim Quaife, Karl Hansen, and Tim Kennedy (Photo courtesy of Rhonda Silence, WTIP)

Holiday Station LED Lighting

No, it isn’t Christmas time again, but you might think that with all the new LED lighting that illuminates the recently remodeled Holiday Gas Station in town.  To promote energy efficiency strategies, the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission issued a rebate to Mike’s Holiday, Inc. for their extensive use of LED technology.  They installed energy-saving LED lights throughout the store, around the building, and under the canopies.  The rebate from the City totaled $10,912 and will eliminate the need to generate approximately 83,000 kWhs of electricity each year.

“The payback was remarkable,” stated Courtney Quaife.  “Especially with the rebate covering about 23% of the cost.  This is a great service that the utility provides to help local businesses reduce costs and remain competitive.”

Karl Hansen, chair of the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission, encourages others to take advantage of these funds.  “Go to the website,” he proclaimed at the February 15th Commission meeting where the commission presented them with a check.  “And learn more about energy efficiency and our programs.”

More Light, Less Energy equals happy business owners

(This article was originally published in Northern Wilds, a monthly outdoors publication that focuses on Lake Superior’s North Shore.) 

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Pictured is Jeremy Ridlbauer, owner of Sundew Technical Services, working on a lighting retrofit.

We all know them: the yellow-tinged fluorescent lights embedded into school, church and office ceilings since the 1970s. Until recently, this was the lighting of choice for most public buildings, but a new lighting option is gaining popularity. It looks a lot like the fluorescence of the past, but when it comes to quality, energy efficiency and cost savings, the difference couldn’t be more clear.

Jeremy Ridlbauer, owner of Sundew Technical Services in Grand Marais has two nearly identical lighting fixtures lined up side by side against the wall of his workshop. One is an old-fashioned fluorescent, the other an LED. Characteristically enthusiastic about the inner workings of electrical appliances, Ridlbauer talked about the process of retrofitting all of the lights upstairs at the Grand Marais Pharmacy.

“Basically, I’m just setting up the fixture for the new harness, removing the very hot ballast and then putting the lights in,” he said.

They’ll reuse the rest of the fixture, which is right in step with the conservationist philosophy of the business owners.

Bob Sample, owner of the pharmacy, said that he noticed a difference right away. “It’s cleaner, clearer light. Not as yellowish.”

There is also a difference in temperature between the old bulbs and the new. The LEDs produce an equal amount of light with less energy, so they emit less heat. This keeps the ceiling cooler all year-round, and adds less unwanted heat to the building in the summer, which means less air conditioning. “Less heat, better lighting. A bit of a win-win,” said Sample

Ridlbauer explained that the bulbs come in both glass or polycarbonate versions, and ballasted or non-ballasted versions. The Grand Marais Pharmacy chose the latter for both. Each bulb has a lifetime of 4-5 years depending on usage, with a substantial warranty. In total, each fixture installed will conserve 65 watts, for a total of 2,000 watts saved. Over the course of a year, this will save approximately $900 in electrical usage.

“Ultimately, electric rates keep going up. So why NOT do this,” said Sample.

The pair estimates that the entire switch will cost about $1,500.00. However, this initial cost will be off-set by a rebate from the Grand Marais PUC, which will cover approximately half the cost. And once the lighting system begins to generate savings, the dollars and energy conserved will be 50 percent of their old electric bill. Based on previous electric use, this means that the new lights will pay for themselves in six months to one year.

“It’s all around good to be saving or conserving all of our resources, and this is one facet we can do relatively easily and cost effectively,” said Ridlbauer.

The lighting upgrades at the Grand Marais Pharmacy are just one example of local business owners choosing to incorporate energy efficiency into their business models. To help make the leap from old technologies into new, the Cook County Board recently approved access to the Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (PACE); a loan program made specifically for energy improvements, such as adding new lighting, solar and solar thermal infrastructure to their business or non-profit.

Cook County Schools Leads Through Sustainability Improvements

By installing advanced LEDs and lighting controls in the new and improved Industrial Arts Shop, Cook County Schools demonstrated a commitment to environmental stewardship and ongoing sustainability.  For their efforts, Grand Marais public utilities provided them with a $3,697 rebate. 

“It’s nice to see the school district lead by example,” Maintenance Supervisor Tom Nelson said. “Our school’s leadership deserves credit for understanding the value of using rebate dollars to further improve the district’s efficiency efforts.”

In addition to the environmental benefits, the project is anticipated to save the school nearly $1,300 annually.  They aren’t stopping there.  Efforts are already underway to utilize LEDs in other parts of the building including all exterior lighting applications.  Moreover, Grand Marais Public Utilities has offered to collaborate with the district to help them quantify energy impacts and determine rebates.  Stay tuned to learn more about the school’s efforts to reduce their operating costs.

“Grand Marais Public Utilities remains committed to working with our customers to help them save money and use energy wisely,” says City Administrator Mike Roth.  “We are always looking for ways to help our community by providing a wide range of rebates to help people address their electric energy costs.

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Pictured from left to right: Tim Kennedy (Commissioner of Grand Marais Public Utilities), Karl Hansen (Chair, Grand Marais Public Utilities), Jan Smith (Administrative Specialist, Grand Marais Public Utilities), Tom Nelson (Maintenance Supervisor for Cook County Schools), and Adam Nelson (Principal of Cook County Middle School and High School.

Coffee and LEDs Help Start the Day

Owners of the Java Moose Espresso coffee shop recently replaced their interior lighting with new, energy-efficient LEDs.  The retrofit consisted of two strategies.  First, they replaced all of their 65 watt spotlights in the main area with 17 watt screw-in LEDs.  Then they replaced the two linear fluorescent fixtures in the back sitting area with LED lay-in troffers that consume only 42 watts per fixture.

The new lights not only save energy and help to reduce their electric bill, but they are also brighter and have a favorable color that lights up the room. Also LEDs don’t generate as much heat making the coffee shop a very pleasant place to enjoy the North Shore.  Due to the success of this project, the owners are now looking at replacing all of their exterior lights with LEDs as well.

By following through with this lighting retrofit, Java Moose Espresso expects to save 4,600 kWhs annually. To assist them in their effort, Grand Marais Public Utilities provided them with a rebate of $446.


Pictured is Java Moose Manager Sarah Jorgenson-Hallber.

Cook County YMCA invests for the long-term

Energy efficient equipment choices made by Cook County during the planning and construction phases of the YMCA paid off when Grand Marais Public Utilities recently provided them with $12,737.50 in utility rebates.  The County’s investment in energy efficient equipment will save them over 300,000 kWhs of electricity annually.

The rebates are for their efforts focused on highly efficient air-conditioning units, lighting (high bay linear fluorescents, CFLs and LEDs), and the significant use of occupancy sensors throughout the building to ensure that lights are off when not needed.  Additionally, Cook County is working with Grand Marais Public Utilities to quantify the savings from the installation of variable speed drives on the swimming pool and water slide pumps.  Upon completion of the data collection, it is expected the Cook County will receive additional funds.  This is yet another example of how Grand Marais Public Utilities works with their customers to use energy wisely.


Pictured from Left to Right are Jan Smith (City of Grand Marais), Heidi Doo-Kirk (Cook County Commissioner), Brian Silence (Maintenance Director for Cook County), and Colette Mueller (YMCA Associate Executive Director).


Pictured is Energy Services Representative Keith Butcher conducting a community education course devoted to energy efficiency. The course was offered in conjunction with the Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP).

Cook County School District brightens buildings

Energy is important to Chuck Futterer, Superintendent of Cook County School District.  "We are always looking for ways to reduce our energy costs." 

"And, we are very happy with the new lights and equipment, particularly the motion sensors in the gym and other areas.  It ensures that the lights turn off when no one is using them." adds Facility Director Mike Groth.

As part of a large capital upgrade project, Cook County Schools replaced 320 watt Metal Halide fixtures, T12 fluorescent fixtures, and standard T8 fluorescent fixtures with high performance T8s and added occupancy sensors.  In return for upgrading their lighting, Grand Marais Public Utilities provided Cook County Schools with a rebate in the amount of $6,048.

"Grand Marais Public Utilities is committed to working with our customers to help them save money and use energy wisely," says City Administrator Mike Roth.  "We are always looking for ways to help our community by providing a wide range of rebates to help people address their electric energy costs."

Chuck's Barbershop

Lighting rebate sparks efficiency efforts

Chuck Petek, owner of Chuck’s Barber Shop, is a local business that has participated in Grand Marais Public Utilities’ bonus lighting rebate program.  By taking advantage of the utility’s standard lighting rebate coupled with the bonus, he was able to reclaim a larger portion of the total project cost for the T12 to T8 retrofit while saving money and energy with the new equipment.

“We have been thinking about finishing our lighting retrofit for awhile,” Mr. Petek said. “Getting funding from the utility made our decision to move forward with the project a lot easier.”

Lighting improvement reduces costs for city

The city of Grand Marais completed a major renovation to switch from inefficient lighting to new energy-efficient fixtures that will reduce energy costs in every city building.  The effort was funded by a grant provided by the State of Minnesota to assist local governments in managing their energy costs.

Through a competitive process, the city was awarded $10,000 to facilitate the retrofit of 196 lighting fixtures.  The fixtures that were removed consisted of T12 lamps and ballasts and were converted to High-Performance T8 fixtures using more efficient 28-watt bulbs.  This project will save the city approximately 45% on their lighting costs.

Electric business customers of Grand Marais Public Utilities can also reduce their costs by converting to energy-efficient lighting and receive a rebate from the utility to help reduce their out-of-pocket costs.