Energy

Target Outlines New Corporate Responsibility Goals

The company said it will increase its sustainable seafood selection, make the packaging of at least 50 of its owned-brand products more sustainable, boost the percentage of employees enrolled in its company health plan who are tested for diabetes, and invest in programs that help increase U.S. reading proficiency.

Target Corporation on Monday released its 2011 corporate responsibility report, in which the Minneapolis-based retailer reported on its progress toward previously announced company goals and outlined four new initiatives.

Among the new goals: Target plans to make the packaging of at least 50 of its owned-brand products more sustainable by the end of its 2016 fiscal year. The company said that the designs of those products should improve by at least 10 percent based on one of several characteristics, including reduced packaging, increased recycled or renewable elements, and reduced product waste.

Target also set a goal of offering only “sustainable and traceable” seafood by the end of its 2015 fiscal year. In October, when the company first announced plans to make that transition, it defined sustainable and traceable seafood as that which is “caught or raised in an environmentally sensitive manner.” By taking steps like eliminating farmed salmon from its stores, Target has thus far made 40 percent of its seafood selection sustainable.

The other new goals: Boost the percentage of Target employees and their families enrolled in Target health plans who are tested for diabetes, and improve reading proficiency in the United States by revamping school libraries, providing grants to schools, and implementing literacy pilot programs.

In its corporate responsibility report, Target also discussed its progress toward a variety of other goals. For example, Target employees in 2011 donated more than 475,000 volunteer hours. The company said that figure “has us on track to reach our ultimate goal of 700,000 volunteer hours annually” by the end of the 2015 fiscal year.

Target previously set a goal of doubling its 2009 education giving—which totaled $500 million—by the end of 2015. The company donated $100 million to support education in 2011, boosting its cumulative giving to $679 and bringing it a step closer to that $1 billion goal.

Target said it is also on track to achieve goals pertaining to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, an increase in employees using company-provided financial tools and resources, and the improvement of transportation efficiencies, among other things.

The company, however, hasn’t kept up with all of its goals. For example, Target has fallen behind on its goal to reduce water use by 10 percent per square foot by the end of the 2015 fiscal year, as compared to 2009. In addition, the company had set a goal of earning Energy Star certifications for 75 percent of its U.S. buildings by the end of 2015, but only 21 percent have received the designation thus far.

While the company sent 33 percent of its waste to a landfill in 2011, up 1 percent compared to 2009, Target claimed it remains on track to reduce such waste by 15 percent by the end of the 2015 fiscal year.

Tim Baer, Target executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, said in a statement that the company’s corporate responsibility goals “foster greater transparency and accountability on initiatives that help put more U.S. children on the path to graduation, reduce our impact on the environment, and help Target team members and their families live healthy, balanced lives.”

Target, which has 1,763 stores nationwide, often touts its philanthropic efforts; for example, it gives 5 percent of its income—currently, more than $3 million per week—through community grants and programs.

To read Target’s full corporate responsibility report, click here.

Target is Minnesota’s second-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $68.5 billion in the fiscal year that ended in January.

—Jake Anderson
([email protected])

MN Co. Among 13 Chosen for $54M Energy Dept. Program

Third Wave Systems, Inc., which makes manufacturing software, will use the money to develop technology designed to boost efficiency in factories.

The U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday awarded Eden Prairie-based Third Wave Systems, Inc., a $4.07 million grant to help the company develop technology designed to boost energy efficiency.

The grant is part of a $54 million initiative aimed at funding projects that will help manufacturers increase the efficiency of their operations, reduce costs, and reduce the energy needed to power their facilities.

Third Wave is one of 13 companies from across the country that received grants through the initiative. The companies were selected from a pool of more than 250 applicants based on a “highly-competitive” bidding process, Third Wave said in a news release.

Third Wave makes manufacturing software for aerospace and automotive companies. The company will use the grant to develop technology intended to help manufacturers better predict costs during the design process.

“We cannot afford to continue making machining decisions based on trial-and-error methods that require extensive time and resources,” Kerry Marusich, president of Third Wave Systems, said in a statement. “I am confident this program will adeptly further the sustainable manufacturing efforts that are so key to the future of the American manufacturer.”

Third Wave will work on the project in collaboration with researchers at Purdue University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of California Santa Barbara, and The Pennsylvania State University.

“By investing in breakthrough technologies that can drastically reduce the amount of energy consumed during manufacturing, the energy department is supporting President Obama’s blueprint for an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, and skills for American workers,” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in statement. “The projects . . . will improve the competitive position of U.S. industry and help manufacturers produce more while saving energy, saving money, and protecting our air and water.”

—Nataleeya Boss
([email protected])

Canadian Energy Co. Plans 100 New Jobs in Duluth

The new jobs in downtown Duluth will be professional positions, including engineers and safety specialists.

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge, Inc., plans to expand its operations in Duluth and will add about 100 new jobs in the city, according to a report in the Duluth News Tribune.

The petroleum pipeline company reportedly already has more than 550 employees and contractors working in Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, the company signed a lease, effective July 1, for an additional 41,000-square-foot space in the city’s downtown area that will house the new positions and accommodate an increasing number of projects. The space is owned by Duluth-based real estate company A&L Properties, the newspaper reported.

All of the new jobs will reportedly be professional positions, including safety specialists and civil, electrical, and environmental engineers.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, Enbridge’s new lease will lower the downtown area’s office vacancy rate from its current 16 percent to 14 percent.

“It would have a great impact on the market,” Steve LaFlamme, president of Duluth-based Oneida Realty Company, told the newspaper. “The beauty of that is it comes from outside the market. It’s a nice new addition to downtown.”

To learn more about Enbridge’s expansion plans, read the full Duluth News Tribune story here.

—Nataleeya Boss
([email protected])

TenKsolar Completes $15.5M Round of Financing

Companies that participated in Bloomington-based TenKsolar’s recent round of financing include South Korea-based Hanwha Corporation and European venture capital firm ESB Novusmodus.

Bloomington-based start-up TenKsolar announced Wednesday that it raised $15.5 million in a recent round of financing.

The company, which makes rooftop solar panels for buildings, said that the financing round was led by South Korea-based Hanwha Corporation and European venture capital firm ESB Novusmodus.

Tim Johnson, TenKsolar’s director of product marketing, told the Pioneer Press that the company will use the funds to expand its sales force and add capacity and working capital.

Hanwha is a conglomerate with businesses that span several industries, including manufacturing, energy, finance, and leisure. The company said that it actively invests in “fundamentally differentiated, high-impact technologies.” Earlier this month, the company’s solar division opened a new research and development center in California.

“We are pleased to have Hanwha as our global partner,” Dallas Meyer, founder, president, and chief technology officer of TenKsolar, said in a statement. “[Its] worldwide presence, together with the European partnership of ESB Novusmodus, provides TenKsolar a truly strategic investor base as we fundamentally improve solar.”

Unlike conventional solar panels, TenKsolar’s panels are designed to keep generating energy from sunlight even if one of the photovoltaic cells in the panel malfunctions. In addition, TenKsolar’s panels can use reflected light, while most panels need direct sunlight to generate energy.

Robert Schrimpff, a partner at Novusmodus, said in a statement that TenKsolar’s “innovative and holistic approach” allows its solar systems to generate energy efficiently and at the lowest possible cost.

“At a time when the majority of the market is seeing negative gross margins, TenKsolar is able to be both highly cost competitive and profitable,” he said. “We look forward to helping [it] grow.”

Founded in 2008, TenKsolar was one of two startups featured as “best energy boosts” in Twin Cities Business’ 2010 story, “The Best of the Recession."

—Nataleeya Boss
([email protected])

U Start-Up to Create Renewable Energy with Captured CO2

Heat Mining Company’s novel “CO2 plume geothermal” method involves extracting underground heat and using it to generate electricity.

The University of Minnesota has launched a new start-up that aims to capture harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fueled power plants and use them to generate renewable energy.

The university announced last week that it has launched the Rapid City, South Dakota-based start-up, Heat Mining Company, LLC.

The company's novel “CO2 plume geothermal” method involves capturing CO2 emissions from power plants and using that CO2, rather than water, to extract heat that is stored underground. The resulting thermal energy will then be used to generate electricity, according to the university.

The high cost of capturing carbon dioxide has previously been a significant obstacle for energy providers—but the new geothermal technology can generate revenue from electricity sales, thus offsetting those costs, the university said.

The process is expected to not only generate renewable energy, but to also permanently store the CO2 underground—resulting in a “negative carbon footprint,” according to the university.

“We have enough storage potential in the United States alone to store 100 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by fossil-fueled power plants for about a thousand years,” Heat Mining Company President Stephen O’Rourke said in a statement.

The geothermal technology can also serve as a high-efficiency back-up for intermittently available energy sources, such as wind and solar power, the university said. Existing fossil-fueled power plants can be retrofitted to incorporate the technology, or new plants can be constructed to employ it.

The “CO2 plume geothermal” method has been demonstrated in computer simulations and “details have been investigated in laboratory experiments,” the university said. The next step is to build a pilot plant and physically test the technology.

Through its Office for Technology Commercialization, the University of Minnesota licensed the technology exclusively to Heat Mining Company. The concept was developed by Martin Saar, an earth sciences professor; postdoctoral fellow Jimmy Randolph; and Thomas Kuehn, a mechanical engineering professor.

—Jake Anderson
([email protected])

Report: Cargill Gets OK to Market E15 Gas Blend

The approval comes more than 14 months after the Obama administration approved a waiver from the ethanol industry to increase the allowable limit from 10 percent to 15 percent.

Wayzata-based Cargill, Inc., is reportedly one of 20 companies that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given a green light to market ethanol in a 15 percent blend with gasoline.

According to a report by the Pioneer Press, the approval comes more than 14 months after the Obama administration approved a waiver from the ethanol industry to increase the allowable limit from 10 percent.

Ethanol mixed with gasoline extends supplies and helps reduce U.S. dependence on crude oil.

“For over 30 years ethanol has been blended into gasoline, but the law limited it to 10 percent by volume for use in gasoline-fueled vehicles,” the EPA told the Pioneer Press via an e-mailed statement. “Registration of ethanol to make E15 is a significant step toward its production, sale, and use” in cars and light trucks produced in model year 2001 and later.

Ethanol trade group Growth Energy, which pushed for the EPA to approve a waiver, told the newspaper in an e-mailed statement that filling stations in the corn-rich Midwest may be the first to begin selling E15, possibly this summer.

By law, the United States is required to consume 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol this year and 15 billion gallons by 2015. Citing the Renewable Fuels Association, the Pioneer Press reported that the ethanol industry is capable of producing 14.7 billion gallons from its 210 refineries.

In other Cargill news, the company has reportedly positioned itself to borrow up to $1.25 billion, but it isn’t saying why. Quoting a person familiar with the deal, Bloomberg reported that the funds will be used to refinance a $1.25 billion loan that matured last month. Terms of the new “syndicated loan” through 26 banks are good for 364 days.

—Christa Meland
([email protected])

Xcel to Upgrade Its 2 Nuclear Plants, Spend $20M-$50M

Xcel Energy reportedly plans to spend $20 million to $50 million on safety upgrades to its two nuclear plants, a year after Japan’s tsunami disaster that led to a nuclear catastrophe.

Xcel Energy is planning to spend $20 to $50 million on its two Minnesota nuclear power plants for safety upgrades and studies, according to a Star Tribune report.

The Minneapolis-based utility will reportedly buy more diesel pumps and portable generators that could be quickly deployed at its Monticello and Prairie Island plants if all backup electricity went out, as it did at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant during a March 2011 tsunami.

Nuclear reactors need to be kept cool because continued production of fission energy could cause them and their contents to get very hot, thus damaging the nuclear fuel and the reactor cores. The diesel pumps that Xcel Energy is deploying are able to hose river water into the reactors to keep them cool, in case of a power outage.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Committee approved the measures last week.

However, critics, including National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) Director Christopher Paine, are skeptical about the spending. Paine told the Star Tribune that such moves are just public relations stunts to give the illusion that the industry is taking the Japan disaster seriously. NRDC is a nonprofit environmental group.

Meanwhile, Xcel Energy Chief Nuclear Officer Dennis Koehl told the Minneapolis newspaper that safety costs could climb as high as $250 million if the utility is required to purchase nuclear-qualified equipment and take other costly steps, such as building earthquake-proof off-site buildings to store and protect the equipment.

To read more about how the U.S. nuclear industry is reacting to the Japan tsunami disaster, read the full Star Tribune story here.

—Nataleeya Boss
([email protected])

3M to Make Fuel Tanks for Natural Gas Vehicles

The manufacturing giant, in partnership with a large natural gas producer, intends to develop less-expensive, higher-performance, lighter, and higher-capacity fuel tanks—which it hopes will jump-start the market for natural gas-fueled vehicles.

3M Company has partnered with the country’s second-largest natural gas producer, Chesapeake Energy—and the companies intend to jointly create compressed fuel tanks for natural gas-fueled vehicles.

The fuel tank on a compressed natural gas vehicle is the most expensive single component, according to the companies. They intend to develop less-expensive, higher-performance tanks, which they hope will jump-start the market for natural gas-fueled vehicles.

Maplewood-based 3M and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based Chesapeake said that their tanks will also be 10 to 20 percent lighter and have 10 to 20 percent greater capacity than traditional tanks, while also being safer and more durable.

The tanks—which are expected to be available for sale during the fourth quarter of 2012—will make use of 3M’s liners, thermoplastic materials, barrier films and coatings, and damage-resistant films.

“3M believes in the potential of natural gas, and this agreement illustrates our commitment to the industry,” 3M Chairman, President, and CEO George Buckley said in a statement. “We are excited about this collaboration to speed the development and adoption of natural gas-powered vehicles.”

3M and Chesapeake said that increased political support and private investment have made natural gas a viable automotive fuel alternative that has significant growth potential. With a U.S. natural gas supply that will last more than 100 years and a price of $1 to $2 for an amount that goes as far as a gallon of gasoline, the fuel is plentiful, affordable, and domestic, the companies said. The fuel also burns cleaner than gasoline, thus slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent and particulate matter by 95 percent.

Through its Chesapeake NG Ventures Corporation division, Chesapeake will invest an initial $10 million toward the fuel tanks initiative. The division was established last year to identify and invest in companies and technologies that will replace the use of gasoline and diesel derived primarily from foreign oil; it has committed $1 billion over the next 10 years to help fund various initiatives to increase demand for natural gas, including investments totaling $300 million in Clean Energy Fuels Corporation and Sundrop Fuels, Inc.

3M is working with Brigham City, Utah-based Hypercomp Engineering, Inc., for the design and certification of the tanks. 3M will manufacture the tanks and “focus its capital on all future operations and production,” the company said.

3M is Minnesota’s fifth-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $29.6 billion in 2011.

 

—Christa Meland
([email protected])

Xcel Energy Sues EPA Over Emission Regulation

Xcel says that a new federal regulation that is supposed to reduce coal-fired power plant emissions does not give the company enough credit for emissions it has already reduced at two plants in the Twin Cities.

Xcel Energy is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a new rule that sets limits on coal-fired power plant emissions, according to a Pioneer Press report.

Minneapolis-based Xcel reportedly claims that the EPA’s new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule—that was issued July 6 and will take effect in 2012— doesn’t give the company enough credit for improvements it made when it converted two coal-fired power plants—High Bridge Generating Plant in St. Paul and Riverside Plant in Minneapolis—to clean-burning natural gas a few years ago.

The company filed the lawsuit Friday with the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the Pioneer Press. At the same time, Xcel reportedly petitioned the EPA to reconsider the way it calculates allowable emissions for Xcel’s power plants under the new rule.

Mike Bull, Xcel’s manager of environmental policy, told the St. Paul newspaper that if the the EPA calculation is allowed to stand as is, Xcel could end up paying for a second set of emission-reducing improvements down the road.

Under the new rule, which covers sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, the EPA can give out emission allowances to energy companies for each of their power plants based on their type and history of emissions, according to the Pioneer Press report. If a company cuts emissions at one plant, it can take its unused allowance to balance out emissions at another plant.

Xcel reportedly claims that the allowances the rule grants to the two plants in St. Paul and Minneapolis are too small—and that the upgrades reduced sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions at each plant by 95 percent.

The EPA reportedly said that it will review the lawsuit before it responds.

To read more about Xcel Energy’s take on the new EPA regulation in the Pioneer Press, click here.

—Nataleeya Boss
([email protected])

Electric Car “Experience Center” Coming to Eden Prairie

GE Capital Fleet Services broke ground Thursday on a “customer experience and learning center” in Eden Prairie, which will feature a half-mile driving course, a showroom, classrooms, and more.

GECapitalFleetRFW

Minnesota businesses will soon have the opportunity to test drive electric cars and trucks and other alternative fuel vehicles at a new driving course.

GE Capital Fleet Services on Thursday broke ground on a “customer experience and learning center” at its Eden Prairie campus and expects to open the center next spring.

Spokesman Greg McCullough told Twin Cities Business on Thursday that GE Capital Fleet Services serves businesses—from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses—with fleet services, and the new Eden Prairie project will be geared primarily toward business customers interested in those services.

The center will, however, also host some events to “engage the public” about electric and alternative-fuels vehicles, he said.

The new facility will feature four key components: an education center with classrooms, a charging center that can simultaneously charge up to 11 vehicles, a showroom, and a half-mile driving course to allow customers to test-drive electric cars and trucks from a variety of manufacturers.

Products from throughout the company’s portfolio—including solutions for fleet management, WattStation chargers, vehicles, and more—will be on display at the new center.

GE Capital Fleet Services President and CEO Clarence Nunn said in a statement that the company is “committed to helping our customers incorporate electric vehicles and other alternative fuel technologies into their fleets. We’re looking forward to working closely with customers at our new center and sharing insights to help them improve environmental performance and reduce carbon emissions.”

McCullough said that the company will use existing employees to manage the center, and regarding the possibility of future hires, “we’ll see where it takes us.”

Eden Prairie Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens said in a statement that the city is “thrilled” to have the center built in Eden Prairie. “Electric vehicles promote clean energy and sustainability, and we are pleased that GE has chosen Eden Prairie as the home base for this important electric vehicle initiative,” she added.

Eden Prairie-based GE Capital Fleet Services provides commercial car and truck financing and integrated fleet management services, and it is a business segment of General Electric Company, headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut. It has more than 1.4 million cars under lease and service management through operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

—Jake Anderson
([email protected])