Morris Model wins Department of Energy competition to energize rural communities

Sue Dieter

The Morris Model team was recently notified that they were among 67 winners in the first phase of the $6.7 million Energizing Rural Communities Prize. The competition was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and is focused on supporting innovative partnership and finance plans to help rural or remote communities develop clean energy demonstration projects. 

The Morris Model will receive a $100,000 prize, in-kind-mentorship services, and eligibility to compete for another $200,000.

This prize, managed by DOE Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), challenges individuals and organizations to develop partnership and financing strategies that support community-driven energy improvement projects in rural or remote communities.  The Morris Model Partnership seeks to make Morris a model rural sustainable community through clean energy and community resilience.

A colorful graphic with the words Energizing Rural Communities Prize American Made U.S. Department of Enerby

The Morris Model team submitted a detailed plan outlining the community clean energy demonstration projects being conducted by the various members of the partnership. The team created a 3-minute video describing the work plan.

This prize is part of OCED $1 billion Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) Program, which was created as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to demonstrate new ways to improve the resilience, reliability, safety, availability, and environmental performance of energy systems serving our nation’s rural or remote areas with populations of no more than 10,000 people.  

The Morris Model partners who participated in this competition include the city of Morris, University of Minnesota Morris (UMN Morris), Morris Area School District, and the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC). 

The prize application outlined several projects that the team is working on. UMN Morris highlighted energy storage projects, the planned expansion of on-campus solar PV, and community engagement, like the Morris Challenge. The city of Morris focused on the development of solar PV at the municipal freshwater and wastewater treatment plants. The school district is working with the State of Minnesota Solar for Schools program to install additional solar PV at the bus garage. And, WCROC highlighted their ongoing wind-to-hydrogen-to-ammonia work. UMN Morris and WCROC also highlighted the new UMN Center for Renewable Energy Storage Technology (CREST) initiative to grow energy storage solutions in Minnesota. 

The prize application was submitted by Griffin Peck ‘22, who is the sustainability coordinator for the city of Morris and also serves as Morris Model coordinator. “I am very excited that our already award-winning partnership was recognized for the good work we have already done – and for the aspirations we have for projects over this upcoming year. We have a great team of community partners. Morris is a model sustainability destination in Minnesota. Our team wants people to come to Morris and see the future of clean energy. I am excited to put my UMN Morris education to work for the Morris community!”