Wind, Solar, Biomass Power UM-Morris

The University of Minnesota Morris is a small school—it has just shy of 2,000 students—but it’s making a big splash with its commitment to renewable energy.

The UM-Morris campus derives 70% of its electricity from two 1.65 megawatt wind turbines. The first one—operated by the West Central Research and Outreach Center—was built in 2005. The second turbine was built in 2011 and is operated by the university. This makes UM-Morris home to the first large-scale wind research turbines at a US public university. On windy days, these two turbines can provide enough electricity to power the entire campus. Just one of the turbines generates 5.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

In addition to wind power, the university relies on a biomass plant for heating and cooling. The plant is powered by 9,000 tons of corn cobs and prairie grass biofuels purchased from local farms—all within 20 miles of Morris—every year, adding $500,000 to the local economy and providing enough energy for at least 150 days of heating and cooling. The biomass plant cuts the university’s fossil fuel usage by 80% and eliminates 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

UM-Morris also generates solar power. The campus’s Regional Fitness Center is adorned with a 32-panel solar array, heating the building’s swimming pool. These panels alone prevent 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year. The campus’s science buildings also have solar panels converting sunlight into electricity.

Through the use of wind power, biomass, and solar, UM-Morris is approaching its goal of becoming a carbon neutral campus. It serves as a model for universities all over the world. Well done, UM-Morris!