In April 2005, the Minnesota Legislature approved a bonding bill that allocated $6 million to construct a biomass gasification demonstration and research facility at the University of Minnesota, Morris. This plant-scale project would provide up to 80 percent of the campus heating and cooling needs. The gasification plant is one step toward UMM's goal of reaching energy self-sufficiency by 2010.
In addition to being a model for commercial application of biomass in heating and cooling systems, this facility also enables researchers and scientists to address important collection, processing, and storage issues, enable improved permitting, establish Best Management Practices to insure environmental sustainability of biomass systems, and provide valuable information on the economic impact of using biofuels on rural economies.
Biomass technology allows crops such as corn stover and other fibrous plants to be used as fuel sources. These biomass sources do not produce greenhouse gases and emit fewer pollutants than traditional fuel sources such as coal, oil and wood.
Local biomass feedstocks (corn stover and other agricultural-based plant materials) are to be used at the facility. UMM is eagerly working with the local agricultural community to rethink how we approach our energy resources. The West Central Research and Outreach Center and the USDA-ARS Soils Lab are conducting important biomass research to support and further the development of this new agricultural industry. The facility will serve as a platform for research partners to identify trade-offs and opportunities surrounding the gasification of a number of agricultural residues and other biomass.
As with all of our renewable energy projects, partnerships with a variety of groups insure that our project benefits from collaborative expertise. For the biomass gasification facility, we are very pleased to be working with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), USDA-ARS Soils Laboratory, and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. Funding for this project was provided in part by the United States Department of Agriculture under a grant to the University of Minnesota, Morris and West Central Research and Outreach Center.