Team Profile – Art Norton

Art Norton lives with his wife Karen Noyce on a rural homestead, 16 miles east of Grand Rapids. They have lived off the grid for 38 years, putting up their first 105 watt photovoltaic system on a cabin in 1982 (Those first panels cost $1,050 dollars; the same panels today cost less than $100).  Sheep farming has come and gone, as have two children, but the solar system has stayed and still gives them cheap and reliable power.

Art was trained in geology and limnology.  His first professional job was in Wyoming, mapping coal deposits, but most of his career has been in northern Minnesota.   Art worked from 1990 to 2005 as the Itasca County Soil and Water Conservation District manager, and the Itasca County Water Plan Coordinator.  In 2005, Art joined the Nature Conservancy as the field representative for the Minnesota Forest Legacy Project. Following retirement in 2012, Art has turned his attention to managing the 70 acre woodlot and homestead (including the photovoltaic system), spending time with his granddaughter, and learning about the potential of community solar.

“I am really excited about the possibility of a community solar garden in Grand Rapids.   Think of it – locally produced energy at an affordable price, likely even cheaper than coal.  And there are the added benefits that direct energy from the sun provides – the “fuel” is free, and the healthiest and most sustainable source of energy around!”

– Art Norton, November, 2018


Team Profile – Harry Hutchins

Harry HutchinsMy name is Harry Hutchins. My early days found me on the sand dunes in Northern Michigan discovering forest succession, solar radiation, birds, plants and wind. My interests led to BS degrees in both Forestry and Wildlife Management from Michigan State University and an MS degree in forest ecology from Utah State University.  For over 30 years I taught Ecology, Wildlife Management, and a variety of forestry classes at the community colleges in Ganado, Arizona and Grand Rapids, MN. I also have volunteered at the local community radio station, KAXE, for over 25 years co-hosting a natural history show with John Latimer.

From my interests in native plant landscaping and ecology, I want to reduce our energy use from fossil fuels and move to a renewable energy source available to all of us.  Solar gardens can provide us with low cost energy, allow us to develop colorful native pollinator gardens, and grow crops under the solar panels. I see a solar garden as a big step in the right direction in helping solve food issues while providing energy.  In southern Minnesota it has also developed a good IPA beer!