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 – Bill Schnell

My name is Bill Schnell.  I grew up on the plains of southwestern Minnesota, but fell in love with the north woods as a teenager.  That led to a 35-year career as a forester. I’ve been a resident of Itasca County since 1981, and a resident of Grand Rapids since 2013.  My wife Mary and I raised our two daughters here, and we are grateful to call this community our home. After I retired, I began looking for ways to give something back to this place that I love.

I got involved with the Itasca Clean Energy Team because I had studied the scientific evidence about our changing climate and I wanted to be part of taking action locally to promote renewable energy sources.  (If you are interested in the science behind the climate change discussion, I recommend “Storms of My Grandchildren”, by Dr. James Hansen, former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.) We are all stewards of this beautiful planet, and one measure our performance in that role is whether or not our actions are sustainable.  I want to do my part to ensure that my children and grandchildren can enjoy the stable climate that I have taken for granted my entire life.

I am excited about positioning our community as a leader in the jobs and technology of the future.  A cost-effective community solar-plus-battery-storage program in Grand Rapids would be an example that other cities could emulate around the region, the state, and beyond.  I look forward to exploring opportunities for curriculum development for students in I.S.D. 318 and ICC!