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Morris, Minnesota: Creating a Sustainable College Campus and Local Jobs

August 16, 2012 - 11:46am


The second in a new video series about local clean energy projects is University of Minnesota Morris and their partnership with the town of Morris, Minnesota.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second video in an 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 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.