Virtual Clean Energy Tour Brings Awareness and Conversation for Community Leaders

On Wednesday, October 28th, the Clayton County Energy District (CCED) hosted a virtual Clean Energy Tour for Community Leaders. With an active audience of 19 individuals, this tour had representatives from the Cities of Elkader, Marquette, Guttenberg, and Strawberry Point, along with two Clayton County pastors, the Clayton County Development Group Executive Director, Darla Kelchen and five state legislative candidates including Matt Tapscott, Mike Klimesh, Anne Osmundson, Mike Bergan and Kayla Koether.

It (the tour) gave me a broader understanding of the subject so I’m able to communicate with constituents.

This clean energy tour for leaders was organized by Ashley Althoff, CCED Communications Specialist, and consisted of three clean energy tour stops including: St. Joseph Church in Elkader and their energy efficiency story; the City of Marquette solar powered public infrastructure story; and an explanation of the Clayton County electric vehicle (EV) charging station project, led by the Clayton County Energy District. 

We think it is instructive to host these Clean Energy Tours for our community leaders. They seem to really spark an interest for clean energy solutions and are good learning opportunities for local decision makers. I think the attendees learned strategies for financing solar investments but also about simple, low cost energy efficiency projects which can really lead to relief from energy burden. They also had a glimpse into the future by learning about electric transportation and the energy district’s pioneering effort to set up charging infrastructure all over Clayton County. We are grateful for the busy local leaders who took the time to learn more about the power of the inclusive, locally led clean energy transition.”

Representing St. Joseph’s in Elkader was Emmaus Pastorate, Pastor Fr. John Haugen, Emmaus Pastorate Business Manager Sandy Klaus and CCED Summer Intern Alyssa Corkery. This summer Corkery introduced “Cool Congregations,” a stewardship program by the national Interfaith Power and Light Action Network to several Clayton County churches. The program aims to reduce the carbon footprint of faith based communities resulting in reduced energy costs, allowing the faith community to have more to carry out their mission. Corkery’s internship yielded Cool Congregation certification for St Joseph’s in Elkader. Fr. Haugen and Klaus gave an overview of their recent significant energy saving projects. In the church, three thermostats were consolidated into one programmable thermostat, which stopped the church blowers from continuously running. The church facilities team also implemented a full church LED transition. The project decreased annual natural gas consumption by 6,370 therms and electricity demand by 27,665 kWh therefore reducing the parish’s energy cost over $5,000/yr. 

Next, the tour attendees learned about solar energy financing strategies for non-taxable entities. Marquette Mayor Steve Weipert and City Clerk Bonnie Basemann relayed their city’s solar transformation story. Thanks to the 2018 “Solar for Non-Taxable Entities Workshop” hosted by the CCED, Basemann and other city officials became inspired to bring solar energy to Marquette. The city now has four major solar powered locations: City Well #4 , the Driftless Area Wetland Centre, the city shop/police station and the sewer plant. All together, the city has invested $430,000 in solar projects with an 11% expected rate of return.  The projected cash gain over the 25yr warranty and at an assumed 3% annual electric rate hike is over $1 million.


The final topic, electric vehicle(EV) charging infrastructure and its connection to the county’s tourism sector was presented by CCED Program Manager, Joleen Jansen and CCED Chair, Jim Osterhaus. Clayton County is an “electric charging station dessert”  with only one public charging  location in the entire county. According to, by 2025, EVs will account for one third of global auto sales and by 2030, there will be more EV sales than traditional internal combustion engine vehicle sales. Thanks to a grant received from the Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation, the CCED will install five EV charging stations in the cities of Strawberry Point, Elkader, Guttenberg, McGregor and Marquette. According to Clayton County Economic Development tourism data in 2019, Clayton County documented 206,000 arrivals and is home to the 2nd most scenic byway. City officials and the energy district agree EV charging stations will enhance the county’s tourist traffic.



What an incredibly well done tour. Congratulations, you made a Zoom “meeting” a great experience. You have a strong passionate ally in making this story, Iowa’s story. I believe our future literally depends on it.