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UMN Morris turbines along Pomme de Terre River

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Renewable Energy

In 2019, UMN Morris was ranked as the #1 campus in the United States for most renewable electricity generated on campus per full-time equivalent (FTE) student by Environment America.

(Enivronment America’s 2019 Report  “America’s Top Colleges for Renewable Energy”)

Morris is a unique location. A diverse and distributed renewable energy platform is a key part of our plans to achieve carbon neutrality. Within a mile of our campus you will find a biomass gasification facility, solar thermal and photovoltaic installations, green buildings, and conservation technologies, all of which contribute to our community goals to reduce our carbon footprint. 

On average, about 70% of electricity used on campus daily is generated by renewables. But annually, we produce more electricity than we need. Here’s how it works.

Wind Turbines

Two wind turbines tower above the Pomme de Terre River and may be the first thing you see as you arrive on campus. Some days, the turbines produce more electricity than we need. When this occurs, the excess is sold to the local power provider, reducing the amount of fossil fuels they use to service homes, schools, and businesses.

  • The University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center, our neighbor across the street, erected the first commercial-scale research wind turbine at a United States public university in 2005. 
  • The turbines generate more than 10 million kWh of electricity per year.
  • The turbine towers are about 230 feet high; each has three 135-foot blades.
  • The turbines can produce electricity at wind speeds as low as 7.8 mph. Maximum electricity output occurs at 29 mph wind speeds.
  • In the near future, UMN Morris hopes to invest in large-scale energy storage to increase the amount of electricity from the wind turbines that can be used directly on campus.

Biomass Gasification Facility

The UMN Morris biomass gasification facility displaces fossil fuels with locally obtained and grown biomass, like corn cobs. The gasifier currently provides a significant portion of campus heating and cooling needs.

  • The gasifier can consume about 9,000 tons of corn residue and prairie grass biofuels per year, harvested from farms within a 60-mile radius of Morris.
  • It can gasify a variety of agricultural fuels including wood, perennial grasses, and crop residues.
  • It displaces 8,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
  • The gasification plant can generate 19 million BTUs of heat energy per hour.
  • Fuel purchases for the gasifier put around $500,000 into the local economy annually.

Solar Arrays

There are multiple solar arrays at UMN Morris.

-Outside of the Green Prairie Community residence hall is a 20 kW array that generates around 20% of the building’s energy needs during the summer. 

-A solar thermal array, made from locally produced panels, heats the recreational pool at the Regional Fitness Center. The 32 flat panels prevent about 15 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere annually. 

-Behind the Science Building, half the solar arrays of the 3kW photovoltaic demonstration track the sun while the other 50% are fixed. 

The campus plans to purchase more solar arrays in the near future.