"EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second video in an Energy.gov series highlighting the role clean energy plays in communities across the country.
The University of Minnesota, Morris (UMN-Morris) is no stranger to the benefits of clean energy. As one of the first schools to be featured as part of the Energy Department’s “Clean Energy in Our Community” series, Morris, Minnesota counts itself as one of many towns across the country striving to become more sustainable and investing in the green economy -- and local residents and workers are seeing the benefits.
UMN-Morris is committed to using renewable energy technologies to power its campus. The school uses two 1.65 megawatt wind turbines to produce enough power to account for about 60 percent of the campus’s electrical needs annually. This commitment has helped the college not only save money but contribute to America's role in the global clean energy race.
The turbines were part of the first large-scale wind research turbine at a United States-based public university. The first turbine, operated by the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), began generating power in 2005 and the second turbine, operated by the UMN-Morris, in 2011. The WCROC is more than 100 years old and conducts applied agricultural research, which includes renewable energy among other rural agriculture research.
UMN-Morris also purchases 3,000 tons of corn cobs annually to use in its biomass plant, which helps provide heating and cooling for more than 150 days at full production. It has the potential to produce for longer amounts of time depending on the heating and cooling needs of a particular year. All of the corn cobs are purchased from local farms, providing an additional income as high as $240,000 to the local economy.
The Regional Fitness Center is a campus community partnership fitness center that serves the greater community of UMN-Morris. Amazingly, the swimming pool is heated using 32 solar thermal arrays, allowing the school to avoid emitting approximately 30,000 pounds of CO2 a year.
The Welcome Center, certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold, was the first building in Minnesota and the first building listed on the National Register of Historic Places to use energy efficient "chilled beam technology. These beams use cold water, rather than air, to remove heat from a room. Coiled pipes are placed in the ceiling, where cold water is pumped to help cool the air through convection -- much like what happens in your car radiator. The beams have helped cut the Welcome Center's energy usage by between 20 and 50 percent.
Additionally, the school’s Office of Sustainability was created to help the college prioritize projects and meet its goals. These offices are common across the country, helping colleges and universities that are committed to clean and renewable energy meet goals of carbon emission reduction.
The Energy Department is committed to supporting communities of all sizes as they invest in clean, renewable energy that reduces carbon pollution, creates local jobs, and helps drive local economic growth. Secretary Chu commends the University of Minnesota, Morris on its accomplishments on become a sustainable campus. Communities like Morris are what's helping the U.S. win the clean energy race.
Stay tuned as Energy.gov continues to highlight communities committed to creating sustainability projects, increasing investments in the clean energy economy, and helping America win the global race for a clean energy future.
U of M Morris striving for sustainability
The University of Minnesota Morris is breaking new ground on amazing biomass gasification technology by producing their own energy from the waste created by corn stalks and other agricultural by pr...
The University of Minnesota Morris is breaking new ground on amazing biomass gasification technology by producing their own energy from the waste created by corn stalks and other agricultural by products. The U of M Morris will be able to completely heat and cool itself thanks to this sustainable effort. "
"BENSON, Minn. (AP) - Mary Jo and Luverne Forbord took 30 acres of good cropland and decided it's time to find out: Are productive conservation and bioenergy for real, or are they just the buzz words of the day?
So far the quest for that answer has been "frustrating," Luverne Forbord acknowledged as he led a couple dozen visitors recently on the Prairie Horizons farm between Benson and Starbuck.
Although the visitors expressed surprise at how well a mix of warm-season grasses - everything from bluestem and switchgrass to Canada wild rye - has taken hold on the 30 acres, Forbord said it has not been easy. The mix was planted just this summer, in the third of three consecutive dry years. The farm has seen only two inches of rain this summer season, the Forbords said.
The grasses are setting their roots deep where the Forbords once raised 200-bushel-per-acre corn. The land is rich but sloping, which makes it prone to erosion, they said.
After 30 years of operating the farm as a dairy, in 2002, the couple began raising Lowline Angus - a short-stature cattle breed - and converting croplands to pasture.
The 30 acres of newly planted grassland will be the farm's first biomass crop for energy. The Forbords intend to harvest the grasses in future years for sale in either Benson or Morris, where markets for biomass energy already exist. The Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company and Fibrominn in Benson and the University of Minnesota-Morris campus are all potential markets for the biomass the Forbords will produce.
Representatives from the ethanol company and the university weren't the only visitors who walked over the Forbords' grasslands with an eye toward turning this into tomorrow's green energy source. Mark Lindquist, biofuels manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the state has an interest in seeing more grasslands planted as part of what is known as "productive conservation."
If the state is to improve water quality, and improve waterfowl and other wildlife populations, there is a need to increase the amount of grasses and perennials in the landscape, Lindquist said.
With corn prices that easily top $5 a bushel, more and more land is being taken from conservation programs and put back into row crop production. Developing bioenergy markets could help keep lands in perennial cover by providing economic opportunities for farmers, he said.
Biomass markets could also benefit the state in how it manages wildlife lands, according to Dave Trauba, manager of the Lac qui Parle State Wildlife Management Area. Trauba has used grazing cattle as part of his "toolbox" to manage prairie lands. Along with fire, grazing ruminants have always been nature's way of protecting prairie lands from invading woody plants, he said.
The DNR is also experimenting with occasional haying on some wildlife lands to achieve the same objective, he said.
That's why there are so many eyes on what happens to the Forbords' 30 acres. There is no doubt that the couple can manage grasslands: Despite those three dry years, their cattle are grazing in belly-high grasses.
But the Forbords want to know if the economics work for the farm. Their plan is to sell the biomass for energy when the markets are right, and when not, use the biomass instead as feed for their cattle.
There is a lot that is unknown, including the tonnage of biomass that can be harvested from lands like this, according to Stacy Salvevold, who helped the Forbords plant the land in her role with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Morris. But she said the biggest question is the most important one: "The farm end of the market is what is missing from the whole equation," Salvevold said.
At tour's end, Mary Jo Forbord said more is at stake than the economics of the farm. She would like to see grasslands returned to the countryside for the obvious environmental benefits, and more. She's hoping that the economics of biomass are right for returning more young people to farming as well.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)"
"FAIRMONT, Minn. (AP) - A leading European energy services company wants to make this southern Minnesota city a model for the Midwest by investing at least $120 million in a biomass energy plant.
The Fairmont Energy Center would be owned by Veolia Energy, a unit of French utility Veolia Environment. It would start operating in May 2011 if all goes according to plan, local officials were told this past week.
The Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, which sells wholesale electricity to 18 nonprofit municipal members, would buy the electricity produced by the plant. Steam could potentially be sold to local industries. The plant's generating capacity has not been determined.
The biomass would come from a variety of sources, including refuse-derived fuel (RDF), secondary wood waste and agricultural waste from crops such as alfalfa and soybeans. Refuse-derived fuel is processed trash, such as papers and plastics, that would be dried, condensed and shipped into Fairmont. The plant will not burn raw garbage.
By locating the plant in Fairmont, Veolia said it hopes to establish itself in the Midwest, showcase the new facility and encourage more biomass energy facilities in the region.
SMPPA and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are helping Veolia locate sources of biomass. And the company is in the process of signing a letter of intent with a supplier, Elodie Michaels, project director with Veolia's U.S. headquarters in Boston, told the Fairmont City Council and Public Utility Commission this past week.
"RDF is cheaper than any other fuel out there," Michaels said. "Our goal is to get as many green credits as possible for SMMPA."
SMMPA needs those renewable energy credits to meet state requirements that 25 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2025.
"SMMPA can do our project or buy wind," Michaels said. "Right now, our solution is more cost-effective than wind."
While well established in Europe, with nearly 200 plants and 5,000 employees, Veolia is relatively new to the United States.
Veolia will pick a site for the Fairmont plant in the next few weeks, choosing between demolishing the existing city power plant or a location in an industrial park.
E.J. Simon, the project's developer, is the middle man, coordinating efforts among Veolia, SMMPA and other parties involved in the process. In visiting biomass centers in eastern Europe, Simon said, he was amazed by the lack of smell and the appearance of the buildings, which might have passed for grocery stores in the United States. The plant would blend in with the other buildings in the industrial park.
As far as odor, the dried papers and plastics used for RDF doesn't smell, according to Simon, and neither do the secondary wood and other sources of biomass. The high-temperature technology used at the plant will further reduce odors and emissions.
Before any construction can begin, an environmental impact study must be completed. The study will take two years before it goes to the state for approval. Veolia said it does not anticipate any difficulties getting approval, since the plant would meet not only state and federal standards, but also European regulations, which are stricter than those in the U.S.
Construction itself is expected to take two years, with as many as 400 workers on site. Once complete, the plant would provide 20 full-time jobs.
Veolia Energy North America: http://www.veoliaenergyna.com/en
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)"
Augsburg College Releases Biodiesel Miracle
" Added: April 06, 2008 (Less info)
At a joint press conference held this morning in Science Hall 302, Augsburg College and SarTec Corporation officially announced the discovery of a chemical process that could free the United States from its dependence on petroleum diesel fuel. This revolutionary method to make biodiesel started with the curiosity of Augsburg chemistry senior Brian Krohn and ended with three Twin Cities scientists creating the "Mcgyan Process.".."
The setting was modest but the rhetoric was anything but.
Inside a drab third-floor chemistry lab at Augsburg College, a group of scientists on Friday unveiled a technology they claim could "revolutionize" energy production and free the United States from its dependence on foreign oil.
That's a tall order for a small liberal arts college in Minneapolis that, at least until now, was not particularly known for its energy acumen.
Nevertheless, Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow suggested the technology, which makes cleaner and cheaper biodiesel fuel, could be "one of modern day's greatest discoveries." ("Miracle," "history making" and "dream" were also liberally tossed about during the 30-minute news conference.)
Dubbed the "Mcgyan Process," the technology, inspired by the work of Augsburg undergraduate Brian Krohn, converts most feedstocks into biodiesel fuel without using much water or producing lots of waste.
Ever Cat Fuels, a start-up co-founded by Augsburg alumnus Clayton McNeff, is building a $5 million plant in Isanti that eventually will produce 3 million gallons of biodiesel fuel a year.
Normally, companies make biodiesel fuel by mixing soybean oil with a sodium hydroxide "catalyst" in a tank that's heated at a high temperature. But this "batch" process takes hours to complete and produces waste. The catalyst itself must be neutralized with either hydrochloric or sulfuric acid, two toxic chemicals.
The Mcgyan method employs a metal oxide catalyst that converts a mixture of alcohol and feedstock oils in a tubelike reactor to biodiesel fuel. This continuous or "flow" process makes it more efficient because it takes seconds to complete and produces little waste, McNeff said. Patents on the process are pending.
One of the feedstock oils can be algae oil, which can be produced in great quantities from wastewater. Xcel Energy Inc. has invested $4.5 million toward algae and other alternative energy work through the University of Minnesota's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.
The timing for Friday's announcement could not have been better. Oil prices reached record highs this week, twice breaking $105 a barrel. That's higher than the previous peak in April 1980, when oil topped $101, after adjusting for inflation.
Thomas Lee � 612-673-7744
"A Twin Cities school is training Minnesotans for green jobs. The program is so popular, there's a waiting list.
The biggest act at the Target Center these days isn't on the stage, but to see it you have to pass the nosebleed seats and come up on the roof.
Manuel Barrious is helping build the Target Center’s new green roof. The project just started last week so there's not a lot to see yet, but this is all new for Barrious in more ways than one.
"I was in construction before and there's other things I wanted to learn," Barrious said.
Last year Barrious was out of work so he went back to school for green job training and that training helped him land this job.
"Summit Academy is preparing a lot of people for projects like this in the construction industry," Barrious said.
Summit Academy in Minneapolis is where Barrious got his green-collar training, along with many other students.
"We're about to have our first waiting list ever," said Louis King, the school’s president.
King says next week, thanks to federal funding, they're starting a new program that will focus on green jobs in the construction industry.
"Green jobs will be performed by people who have current skills but they'll learn new ways, new procedures on how to deal with new materials," King said.
The Target Center green roof project will cost more than $5 million and will be completed this fall..."
"MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Twins are doing more to be environmentally friendly and reduce water waste.
The new Target Field ballpark will have a custom-designed, sustainable water system that will capture, conserve and reuse rain water. Officials say it'll be a new standard for water use in sports facilities.
In addition, filtration systems are being installed in all suites, the clubhouse, training room and administrative offices to improve water quality and reduce the use of plastic bottled water.
The systems are being installed by Minneapolis-based Pentair Inc.
The Twins and Pentair plan to officially announce their partnership on Tuesday.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)"
Related Sites: 4. What Building Teams Are Doing To Conserve Water Outside Buildings
-- Building Design & Construction, 11/1/2009 12:00:00 AM "RAINWATER REUSE: A VIABLE WATER SUPPLY
The bulk of building projects in the U.S. miss out on one of the most potentially significant water conservation opportunities by failing to consider one key tool: rainwater catchment and reuse.
Consider these facts: For every inch of rain that falls on a thousand square feet of roof area, 600 gallons of water can be collected for harvesting. In central Texas, a home or commercial building that size could expect to collect upwards of 20,000 gallons a year...
" a new 30-minute documentary produced by Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) and the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC), focuses on the energy reduction initiatives of four Minnesota cities: Barnesville, Elk River, Minneapolis, and New Ulm.
The goal of the documentary is to provide viewers with useful information about energy efficiency and sustainability issues, and to inspire city officials from all across the state to emulate best practices. The documentary is based on the focus of LMC President Mary Hamann-Roland's 2008-2009 Presidential Initiative: "Exploring ways to help members address rising energy costs."
"Green Cities" is scheduled to air on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. on Channel 17 in the Twin Cities. It will be rebroadcast throughout the state several times over the coming weeks and months. Viewers are advised to check local listings for details or visit www.tpt.org for additional airdates and times in your area..."
Metro Transit, Minneapolis
"Gilligs 7109, 7127, & 701 cruise by on the Nicollette Mall in downtown Minneapolis. visit chbmbus.org"
"MINNEAPOLIS � (Nov. 15) � Metro Transit gave downtown Minneapolis workers and residents a look at the future of public transportation in the region when it paraded 17 of its 19 new hybrid electric buses up Nicollet Mall during the noon hour today...
�Gov. Pawlenty asked state government to lead the way to a sustainable future for Minnesota, and both the Council and Metro Transit have responded,� Bell said. �Metro Transit already uses a 10 percent biodiesel blend in its fuel � five times higher than the state requires. And it will double that percentage next year.�"
"A St. Cloud Metro Bus that runs mostly on used cooking oil will begin service today at St. Cloud State University, and some hope it will give a boost to an environment-friendly movement on campus and in the community..." St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission (St. Cloud Metro Bus), St. Cloud, MN, from apta.com "
(Category: Providing more than 1 million and fewer than 4 million annual passenger trips.)
Now a two-time winner (1990 and 2007), St. Cloud Metro Bus is a public transportation agency on the move. Ridership on its U-Pass partnerships with area colleges has jumped 102 percent. Additionally, its Summer Youth Pass program has grown 1,400 percent. Its Dial-a-Ride door-through door for elderly and ADA ridership has an outstanding passenger per hour efficiency aided by computerized scheduling, AVL, and on-board computers. No wonder its slogan is the �people picker-uppers.�
With an emphasis of always improving operations, it completed its transit signal priority deployment with 100 percent complete transit route coverage in 2005. The following year, it implemented a fully integrated bar-coded inventory system and �paperless� shop environment in the fleet maintenance area. Seamless communication between operations and maintenance staff aids identification and assignment of vehicle defects and scheduling preventive maintenance and improves logistical and fiscal maintenance management."
"Suzlon Wind Energy, the North American arm of Suzlon Energy Limited (SEL), has received a new order to supply turbines for the Grant County wind farm in south-western Minnesota.
Developed by Juhl Wind of Woodstock, Minnesota, the project will consist of 10 Suzlon S88 2.1MW wind turbines and at full capacity will produce 21MW, enough energy to power 7,000 homes in the area.
The Grant County wind farm is a Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) project that fosters the development of renewable energy, and is partially owned by local farmers.
The Otter Tail Power Company will interconnect the wind farm to the grid, and Northern States Power (NSP) will purchase and distribute the energy from it to its service territory across the northern states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Construction on the site has already begun. The wind farm is expected to be in commercial operation in the first quarter of 2010." Community-Owned Wind Farm Nearly Complete, Posted at: 12/10/2009 6:48 PM | KSAX.com "HOFFMAN, MN --- Despite lashing winter winds and a harried production schedule, a major wind farm in Grant County is almost complete.
Owned by Grant County Wind LLC, the 10 wind turbines, each generating up to 2 Megawatts of power, are the result of Minnesota's Community Based Energy Development (CBED) program.
Located 6 miles outside of Hoffman, MN, each 265 foot tower rises above the rolling Grant County Hills. Owned by a collective of roughly 10 different families, they are expected to be up and running by Spring 2010.
When running at peak-output, Runestone Electric Association officials say the turbines should be able to power roughly 400 homes. And while most of the energy will be physically consumed by Grant County homes, it will also be sold to Ottertail Power Company and marketed to the Minneapolis/St. Paul grid.
"We're excited about it, and we've talked about it for six years since the beginning," said wind turbine investor/land owner Jim Prahl.
Prahl went on to explain that he's owned land used for part of the wind-farm since 1957.
His son, Ron Prahl, grew up on the farm and can remember when a different kind of machinery graced the fields.
"It was a grain farm, and we did some outside jobs," he says modestly. "We never thought of it being a wind farm until we were approached, and saw the Buffalo Ridge Farm in Southern Minnesota," he added.
Notably, however, most major wind farms, including Minnesota's Buffalo Ridge, are owned by foreign multi-national companies, according to Ron Hultzman of Runestone Electric Coop.
"This would be one of the only Minnesota wind farms to be owned by the local people," Hultzman said.
Grant County Winds LLC Manager Ed Persons says his organization hopes to eventually purchase the entire company from financier and corporate partner Juhl Wind of Woodstock, MN.
Currently, Grant County Winds LLC is scheduled to retain ownership of 51 percent of the company, and should retain the majority of project control throughout its 30-year-timeframe.
"I think they want to be known as folks who are interested in environmental protection and interested in taking a free resource and using it wisely," Persons said, regarding the group's outlook on the project.
Four of the turbines should go through an initial testing phase next week. All will be running by spring 2010.
Written for the web by Matt Standal
"Minnesota has overtaken Iowa as the nation's third-largest producer of wind energy, behind Texas and California.
The American Wind Energy Association says Minnesota added 405 megawatts of wind power production last year and had 1,299 megawatts of wind energy at the end of 2007. That edged Iowa's 1,271 megawatts.
The organization says U.S. wind power capacity is now about 16,800 megawatts -- enough to serve 4.5 million households with electricity.
Under legislation passed last year, Minnesota set a target of generating 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources such as wind by 2025.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)"
The University of Minnesota, Morris has partnered with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and ServeMinnesota to launch a new program—Minnesota GreenCorps. The new program is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program administered by MPCA that aims to protect and preserve Minnesota’s environment while developing the next generation of environmental professionals.
The Morris campus is a strategic partner in developing the statewide program and plays a unique role in delivering the program to West Central Minnesota. Unlike other organizations hosting full-time GreenCorps members, Morris campus students—all undergraduates—will fulfill half-time service commitments, collaborating with local organizations like Stevens Forward! and the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center.
GreenCorps was co-conceived by the University of Minnesota, Morris and the MPCA who sent separate applications to ServeMinnesota for similar programs. ServeMinnesota brought the institutions together to create this groundbreaking program. The resulting program’s goals are to help communities conserve energy reduce waste in its many forms and, through proper recycling and conservation education, reduce the amount of toxic chemicals thrown away.
To carry out these goals in the Morris area, the Morris campus appointed four college students to serve as half-time AmeriCorps members with local units of government and schools. The positions include a local government conservation specialist, school waste prevention specialist, and two living green outreach specialists. The positions were available this fall to all returning juniors and seniors. Chris Droske ’11, Stevens Point, Wis. Katie Laughlin ’10, Faribault, Minn. Ellie McCann ’10, St. Joseph, Minn. and Sydney Sweep ’11, Bismarck, N.D., will serve as GreenCorps members through the campus’s Center for Small Towns.
The University of Minnesota, Morris GreenCorps students will work 10 hours per week during the school year and 40 hours per week during the summer in order to fulfill their 900-hour service term from September 2009 through August 2010. Students receive a living allowance and, at the end of their service year, an educational stipend.
Morris campus Sustainability Coordinator Troy Goodnough, who oversees the students’ efforts, is pleased with the GreenCorps program. Goodnough says, “I’m extremely excited about launching this new program, and I look forward to developing great collaborations with community members.”
For more information about the activities of the GreenCorps program in the west central region contact Troy Goodnough, University of Minnesota, Morris GreenCorps program coordinator
at 320-589-6451 or email@example.com.
The University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns is a community outreach program that serves as a point-of-entry to the resources of the University of Minnesota. Small towns, local units of government, K-12 schools, nonprofit organizations, and other University units are able to utilize the Center’s resources as they work on rural issues or make contributions to rural society. Their mission is to focus the University’s attention and marshal its resources toward assisting Minnesota’s small towns with locally identified issues by creating applied learning opportunities for faculty and students.
Minnesota GreenCorps is funded through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service with additional support from ServeMinnesota. Partnering in this program is University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns."
"Last summer, John Jones ’11, Bloomington, worked at Pizza Ranch of Morris as a pizza delivery person. A Stevens Forward! steward through the Center for Small Towns, Jones started noticing that there was more than one kind of “green” to be made in business. Influenced by the carbon neutral goals of both the Morris campus and the Stevens Forward! initiative, he began helping Pizza Ranch owner Ron Tappe to initiate cost and carbon saving changes for the business.
Jones and Tappe worked together to save money and to better light the dining room by switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. To cut down on gas consumption and emissions, the restaurant now offers delivery drivers a bicycle for nearby pizza deliveries. The business uses a dumpster to recycle its cardboard and has invited neighboring businesses to also use the receptacle. Tappe says the recycling participation is so intense they had to get a second bin, and the lighting change has already cut his electricity bill by 12 percent.
"People sometimes look at college students and they say you don’t have the connections to do anything,” Jones says, “but when you’re associated with something you can say is a countywide program, and you work with business leaders, the chancellor, and city planners, it definitely gives you more credibility.”
According to Jones, they are also exploring using local food products and pizza boxes that double as plates. "Working with a franchise is challenging because vendor arrangements can’t be changed or even rearranged without corporate approval, but on the other hand the impact is amplified if the changes become institutional,” he shares.
As a Stevens Forward! steward through the Center for Small Towns, Jones is one of about twenty-four county residents who offer input and inspiration to create a shared vision that will help develop the county’s future achievements. He assists with activities such as collecting information to develop narrative descriptions for the Destiny Drivers, posting information and updating the Web site, updating brochures, preparing information for media distribution, and assisting the coordinator with project logistics.
Stevens Forward! is sponsored by the Stevens County Board of Commissioners and is an effort to create a brighter future for all residents in the county by establishing countywide partnerships and working together to make economic, environmental, and social improvements.
It’s hard to miss the development of renewable energy at the University of Minnesota campus in Morris. What can be more difficult to see, but no less significant, is the growing number and variety of smaller renewable energy projects setting roots all around the region. "WILLMAR, Minn. - It’s hard to miss the development of renewable energy at the University of Minnesota campus in Morris.
There are now two, 1.6-megawatt wind generators towering over the prairie and cranking out enough kilowatts to provide 60 percent of the electrical needs on campus. A heating system utilizing locally harvested biomass produces 25 percent of the thermal energy required on campus, with expectations of meeting 50 percent of needs next year.
What can be more difficult to see, but no less significant, is the growing number and variety of smaller renewable energy projects setting roots all around the region. In recent years 17 different “net metering" projects have been added by customers on the Kandiyohi Power Cooperative’s distribution grid, for example. Using small wind generators or solar photovoltaic panels, customers are producing a portion of their own electricity and selling any excess back to the grid.
Renewable energy systems of all types — from small wind generators to methane digesters — are being installed on farms, homes and businesses throughout southwestern Minnesota. Participants from throughout western Minnesota gathered recently at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center to identify the projects and to help chart the way for more.
The gathering was hosted by the West Central Clean Energy Resource Team.
The almost unnoticed proliferation of small projects may be more significant in some ways than the large, attention getting projects.
John Duevel, of Three Seasons and More in Willmar, has been involved in renewable energy since the 1970s. He knows how vulnerable the renewable energy industry can be to volatility in fossil fuel markets, and manipulation by oil cartels.
What’s changing now, said Duevel, is that many of the renewable energy projects are smaller and more responsive to changing markets. “We know what to do now, we can move in and out of renewable energy," he told the participants. “We’re doing a lot of good, small things that are having an impact."
There are plenty of big things happening too. Last year saw the Adams and Danielson Wind farms near Cosmos and Grove City put 24 large wind turbines to work. Early reports indicate that output from the 1.65-megawatt turbines is exceeding expectations.
The gathering at Prairie Woods attracted approximately 40 renewable energy supporters from 12 different counties. They discussed a variety of issues, from the potential for refuse-derived fuel to policy and outreach needs.
It was apparent that expectations for renewable energy in the region are growing as fast — and in some ways as quietly — as are the number of new systems showing up in the countryside. “We’re only scratching the surface," said Clean Energy Resource Team coordinator and meeting host Jeff Vetsch as the list of projects took shape.
The West Central Tribune and Morris Sun Tribune are both owned by Forum Communications Co."
"University of Minnesota, Morris Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson, along with four Morris campus students—Kate Grabosky, Joseph Hartmann, Qinglu (Chris) Shao and Rachel Olm—have been invited by William Jefferson Clinton to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) February 13-15. The event will be held at the University of Texas at Austin. Johnson will serve as a panelist, along with the Mayor of Freiberg (Germany) a student from Macalester College and the founder of the Clean Energy Revolving Fund, during a session on “The University as Laboratory: Towards Carbon Neutral Communities." The session is scheduled to begin at 2:20 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14.
Although Johnson is honored to have received the letter—signed by Bill Clinton himself—she shared other reasons for accepting the invitation.
"When I received Clinton’s invitation, I knew [UMM] had students who had applied and been accepted to attend, and I wanted to support those students who are going," said Johnson.
"This event aroused my views towards the global issues,” said Shao, who is a senior sociology major attending Morris as an exchange student from China. “Suddenly I found I can do something and make some changes. Since I'm an exchange student here, the event seems more meaningful for me because I can bring this experience and idea back to China and make more students there involved in global issues.”
"This event is a think-tank for college students,” said Grabosky, a senior from New Prague. “Attending this conference will help me learn about many important global issues and share ideas. This [conference will enhance] my UMM experience because I am constantly given opportunities to learn and spread my ideas. Our campus is very eco-friendly and that adds to my passion to attend this conference and [then] share sustainable
living with children. They are who will be making a difference…"
Johnson said that a phrase often used by renewable energy coordinator, Mike Reese, of the West Central Research and Outreach Center—“We can make a difference…now”—says that much is already being done at Morris with existing technology, but that the work needs additional funding and appropriate policies in place.
"We’re doing work here that other institutions aren’t doing. We have an obligation to share our work and our vision with others," said Johnson.
College students, as well as administrators from institutions of higher learning nationwide, will convene "to address the issues that they care most about,” stated Clinton’s letter. The student-focused CGI U will include opening remarks by Clinton, presentations and panels by such notables as actress and activist Natalie Portman, actress and Ambassador Against Hunger, UN World Food Programme Drew Barrymore and presidents of colleges and businesses, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. On Sunday, CGI U attendees will partner with University of Texas students to take part in a wide range of community service activities at the Rosewood Park and Community Center in East Austin.
During the panel on carbon neutral communities, students will be organized into groups and will be given a problem for which they need to provide a solution. The panelists will then engage the students in a conversational dialogue.
"Students must come [to the CGI U] prepared to learn, and they must submit an action plan or they will not be invited back next year," stated Johnson.
"Our commitment to action is to use our campus resources to educate and involve the middle school students of Morris about the benefits of eco-friendly living,” shared Grabosky. “We would be teaching sustainable environmental practices, what it means to be carbon neutral and the potential for positive long-term environmental mitigation by simply changing everyday living behaviors. By working with [Morris’] middle school students, we will be promoting long-term environmental stewardship for the region. We would be volunteering our time to the community and giving back to local middle schools in Morris."
Johnson also views attending national events such as the CGI U as having the potential for increased visibility for the Morris campus and the region in terms of grant opportunities, federal government funding and student recruitment. “Although we are a small institution, we have the potential to build a reputation,” said Johnson. "Our name is already ‘out there’ in the national arena. They’re hearing our story and find that it’s compelling."
Photo: Kate Grabosky, Joseph Hartmann, Qinglu (Chris) Shao and Rachel Olm