Reliable and affordable internet (wireless or broadband), also known as e-Connectivity plays a fundamental role in our economic activity. More importantly, access to high-speed internet is vital for attracting and retaining businesses. It also helps support a larger population of workers choosing to telecommute from home and serves as a catalyst in fostering entrepreneurship and small business growth in rural parts of the county.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has reported the number of Stearns County households that have access to broadband wireline service:
Fully autonomous cars are still in the advanced testing stages, but partially automated technology and low-speed cars are beginning to embed themselves into markets across the Country. In that respect, understanding autonomous vehicles and their different levels of automation will play an important role in how agencies manage their transportation assets, while setting the stage for investments. Connected vehicles could interact with our transportation system to complete driving functions or provide information to the driver to make informed decisions.
The electrification of the vehicle fleet will also have impacts on the County. As more people switch over to hybrid-electric or fully electric vehicles, there will be greater demand for charging stations and the production of electricity. There are currently 16 charging stations located in Stearns County.
Clean energy, primarily in the form of solar and wind, have continued to dot the landscape of Stearns County within the last decade. In that time period there have been approximately 80 solar facilities that have been permitted by the County, State and townships. Of those, 40 are solar farms with a generating capacity of over 1MW. The remainder are solar accessory which are designed to serve the energy needs of the property. At the end of 2016, the first wind farm permitted by the State went operational resulting in a 78 MW wind farm in the western part of the County.
With clean energy becoming increasingly competitive with other sources of energy and statewide mandates for clean energy portfolios, there may be a higher demand for wind and solar electricity production in Stearns County in the future. Stearns County is at the top of the Statewide list for solar garden generating capacity with nearly 70MW.