The Future of Renewable Energy Siting in Minnesota

Actions and Detail Panel


Event Information

Share this event

Date and time



Online event

Event description
Discussing how we can reach ambitious renewable energy targets while preserving farmland, expanding habitat, and maintaining sense of place.

About this event

How will we site and build out the sheer amount of solar and wind energy needed to reach ambitious renewable energy targets while preserving farmland, expanding habitat, and maintaining the sense of place that communities have come to appreciate?

Join us as we continue our CERTs Energy Futures event series with a discussion among leading renewable energy planners and practitioners.

  • Nathan Cummins with The Nature Conservancy will share how it is technically feasible to reach high levels of renewable energy in the next decade, and the incentives needed to get there.
  • Brian Ross with Great Plains Institute will discuss the importance of proactive approaches, setting local priorities, and addressing values like water quality and agricultural production.
  • Sarah Banas Mills with University of Michigan will highlight how intentional process matters, how sense of place matters, and how to engage with community members to reach beneficial outcomes.

More about our speakers

Nathan Cummins | Great Plains Renewable Energy Strategy Director | The Nature Conservancy

Nathan Cummins is The Nature Conservancy's Great Plains Renewable Energy Strategy Director. In this role, Nathan leads renewable energy strategy and policy for TNC's Great Plains state chapters, focusing on accelerating renewable energy deployment while protecting lands and waters throughout the region. Prior to this position, Nathan worked for six years in the Conservancy's External Affairs department, where he focused on corporate engagement and infrastructure policy. Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, Nathan worked at the White House Council on Environmental Quality on public engagement with key Obama Administration environmental initiatives. Nathan holds a Bachelor's degree from DePauw University and an MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Brian Ross, AICP, LEED GA | Vice President, Renewable Energy | Great Plains Institute

Brian Ross is a Vice President at the Great Plains Institute, leading GPI’s renewable energy market transformation efforts in the Midwest and nationally. Brian joined the institute after 20 years as a consultant working with local, regional, and state governments on climate and energy planning, policy, and regulation. He managed stakeholder engagement and technical committee facilitation for the MN Solar Pathways project, identifying barriers and solutions to deep penetration of renewable energy in Minnesota and the Midwest. He currently directs GPI’s technical assistance for the national SolSmart certification program for local governments, is helping lead national research efforts on integrating renewable energy development with natural systems and for water quality benefits, and is developing work on non-electric integration of renewable energy systems.

Sarah Banas Mills, PhD | Senior Project Manager with Graham Sustainability Institute and Lecturer for Program in the Environment | University of Michigan

Sarah joined CLOSUP in September 2013 as a policy analyst, and transitioned to a postdoctoral fellowship in January 2015, then to senior project manager in February 2018. In this role, she manages CLOSUP's Energy and Environmental Policy Initiative (EEPI), including the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment (NSEE) and the new Energy and Environmental Policy Research Group, expanding the reach of UM's research related to renewable energy policy. Sarah's own research considers how energy development impacts rural communities, and in turn how state and local policies facilitate or hinder renewable energy development. Sarah received her doctorate in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Michigan, where her dissertation looked at the impact that wind energy projects have on farming communities. She has a master's in engineering for sustainable development from the University of Cambridge, and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Villanova University. Sarah also serves on the City of Ann Arbor Planning Commission.

About this series, Energy Futures: Conversations on Where We’re Headed

There are many people putting forward compelling ideas and visions for the future, and we have been craving a little time to step back and consider these fresh perspectives and how they can contribute to the clean energy future we’re building together. We thought it would be fun to just sit down with folks, hear what they’re thinking, and invite a couple others into a conversation to help us think more expansively about the potential opportunities and trade-offs.

The new Energy Futures virtual event series from CERTs will be an opportunity to do just that! Join us to:

  • Take a step back and imagine potential energy futures
  • Learn from different perspectives on varying aspects of Minnesota's quickly evolving clean energy path
  • Hear a range of ideas over the course of the series about where we’re headed
  • Consider potential implications of these futures and better understand the role of communities in these scenarios

Click on the "Register" button to sign up for this conversation. The Zoom login information will be included in your confirmation message and will be emailed to you.

Share with friends

Date and time


Online event

Organizer Clean Energy Resource Teams

Organizer of The Future of Renewable Energy Siting in Minnesota

The Clean Energy Resource Teams—or CERTs—are a statewide partnership with a shared mission to connect individuals and their communities to the resources they need to identify and implement community-based clean energy projects.

Learn more at

Save This Event

Event Saved