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Renewable Energy

The most obvious of our initiatives is probably our work with renewable energy. In fact, the two wind turbines, towering 230 feet above the Pomme de Terre Ridge, may be the first thing you see as you head into campus. Morris is a unique location, because within a mile or so of our campus you will find biomass gasification, solar thermal and PV installations, geothermal, methane digestion, green buildings, conservation techologies, and more, all part of our campus and community’s goal to reduce our carbon footprint.

A diverse and distributed renewable energy platform is a key part of our plans to achieve carbon neutrality.

Wind Turbines

The University of Minnesota wind turbines produce more electricity than we use on an annual basis, but because we cannot use all the electricity at the time it is generated, we return a significant portion of it to the grid. This helps keep electricity generated from fossil fuels off the grid.

The wind turbines generate on average 60 percent of our campus electricity usage annually and can generate up to 100 percent of our needs on windy days.

  • University of Minnesota, West Central Research and Outreach Center erected the first commercial-scale research wind turbine at a United States public university.
  • 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.

Biomass Gasifier

The Morris biomass gasifier displaces fossil fuel with locally obtained biomass, like corn cobs, that is grown locally.

Our goal was to displace our fossil fuel with biomass, so that 70 percent of our heating and cooling was with biomass by 2015. The gasifier currently provides a significant portion of campus heating and cooling needs.

  • The gasifier may 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.


A solar thermal array of locally produced panels heats the recreational pool at the Regional Fitness Center on campus. The 32 flat panels keep about 15 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere annually.

There is also a 3kW photovoltaic demonstration solar array on campus outside of Science. One of the arrays tracks the sun, the other is fixed.